What can we expect from Scottish Labour conference?

In the first of a series previewing Scottish Labour conference 2018, The Red Robin gives a brief overview of what to expect.

The Scottish Labour party is holding its first conference since Richard Leonard’s victory in the party’s leadership election this weekend in Dundee, offering him a chance to set out his radical and transformative policy vision for Scottish politics.

The atmosphere at this year’s conference promises to be improved on previous years, with a new Leader and new policy focus, as well as the recovery of several parliamentary seats after last year’s Westminster election. Scottish Labour also has reasons to be cheerful after an uptick in it’s membership figures after the leadership election, recovering from a long term decline in Labour party membership Scotland, and now standing at over 20,000.

Notable guest speakers this year include both the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, and Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell.

New policy announcements

Richard Leonard’s team will be keen to build on the popularity of his leadership campaign’s series of policy ideas, centring around housing and land ownership in Scotland.

These are outlined in the Party’s comprehensive policy document “Real Change”, setting out what policies Richard Leonard’s team seeks to gain a mandate from conference to pursue.

Unlike previous years, conference itself will be debating and voting on these proposals, further democratising Scottish Labour’s conference, which had in previous years developed a reputation for stage management, but little in the way of concrete political debate.

Potential flashpoint

The debate around Britain’s future relationship with the European Union continues, centring around proposals by the new campaign group “Scottish Labour for the Single Market”, co-founded by MP for Edinburgh South Ian Murray and former party leader and MSP Kezia Dugdale, for Scottish Labour to take a stance on retaining membership of the Single Market after Brexit.

This goes further than Labour policy to retain the benefits of the Customs Union after the end of the transition period, but also throws up problems where the Single Market’s membership requirements come into conflict with Labour’s current economic policies, specifically around the nationalisation of certain industries and services.

Rule changes

In January the Scottish Executive Committee, the ruling body of Scottish Labour, proposed a rule change to this year’s conference giving conference the ability to refer parts of Scottish Policy Forum documents back to the Forum, without outright rejecting the entire proposal, a change from previous form where Scottish Policy Forum proposals must either be endorsed or rejected in full.



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