Scottish Labour deputy: Summer to renew party “wasted” by leadership fight

Scottish Labour deputy leader welcomes greater party autonomy but believes necessary changes have been neglected for internal faction fight

SCOTTISH LABOUR deputy leader Alex Rowley has said that Scottish Labour’s summer has been “wasted” on internal issues in the wake of the moves to grant Scottish Labour greater autonomy.

The comments come after the party’s powerful national executive committee (NEC) agreed to grant the Scottish party autonomy over all internal issues short of finance. The changes need to be endorsed at Labour’s forthcoming conference.

Rowley has been at odds with party leader Kezia Dugdale over the leadership and direction of the UK party, with Rowley favouring leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn and Dugdale centre left challenger Owen Smith.

Speaking to CommonSpace, Rowley said that whilst the changes were important, they were internal, and said the party faced enormous external political questions.

He said: “The summer has been wasted in terms of the party looking inward.

“Whilst I’m delighted with what’s been achieved yesterday and hopefully through the conference in terms of rule changes for Scotland to be a stronger autonomous party, I would say to you it’s the internal workings of the party and it needs to be moved beyond.

“I’m not going to get over-excited about it,” Rowley added

“I wouldn’t put such emphasis on the internal workings of the Labour party. I think the bigger goal has got to be the constitution of the United Kingdom.” Alex Rowley

“I wouldn’t put such emphasis on the internal workings of the Labour party. I think the bigger goal has got to be the constitution of the United Kingdom, and to look towards a more federal type system of government across the UK.”

“After Saturday we need to move forward and address the constitutional issues, because those issues have not gone away.”

“We need a modern constitution.”

The came as the Labour leadership election closed. Corbyn has been forced to fight his second leadership campaign less than a year since he first won the Labour leadership in 2015. The long-time socialist MP was the subject of an attempted coup in the aftermath of the UK’s shock vote for to leave the EU in June.

Rowley criticised those who challenged Corbyn’s leadership, which was awarded by an overwhelming 59.5 per cent of the party membership, for blocking the party from political participation.

“When you see people criticising the leadership on not having enough to say on given issues, we’ll we’ve been a bit distracted over the summer.

“It’s unfair to say of Corbyn, ‘what have you got to say about brexit?’, he’s been around the country fighting a leadership campaign not of his own making.”

Background read: Scottish Labour deputy "would not oppose" second independence referendum

Outgoing leader Johann Lamont famously complained that the Scottish party was being run like a “branch office” of the UK party, when she left her position in October 2014.

The autonomy accrued to the Scottish party under the recent changes, which Dugdale has been working for since she became Scottish Labour leader in 2015 mean the Scottish party executive will have responsibility over local constituency parties and all candidate selection, but does not mean separate policy at the time of UK elections.

This means that differences between the Scottish and UK Labour parties over, for example, foreign policy and crucially Trident nuclear weapon renewal, will still be decided at a UK level.

“Trident is a matter that is reserved to the UK party, so ultimately the UK party will determine the policy on that.”

Scottish Labour made the historic decision to oppose Trident renewal in November 2015, which was endorsed by the Westminster Parliament in July, and the UK party currently has a policy of support for renewal, despite Corbyn being a long time opponent.

According to Rowley, the negotiation of such differences could be achieved by Labour to turning outwards and dealing with constitutional and other political issues.

Rowley said: “We need to mature as a party, we need to look to European countries where there is a more federal structure.”

Picture courtesy of Global Justice Now

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