3 July 2016: Scottish Labour at war: Relations between Dugdale and her deputy have “completely broken down”
The relationship between Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and her deputy has completely broken down, according to a senior party source. Her friend’s claim that Alex Rowley has been undisciplined and cannot be relied on to support her.
But her deputy hit back robustly, saying: “I think it’s absolutely shocking. I am not going to get into the gutter. That’s where these people want to be. They are destroying the Labour party.”
The tensions may get worse this month when Dugdale flies to the US for a leadership programme, creating a potential power vacuum.
Labour at Westminster has undergone a traumatic week after dozens of Corbyn’s colleagues quit their ministerial posts and called on the left-winger to quit.
Dugdale and Rowley, who were elected leader and deputy leader of Scottish Labour last year, clashed on Corbyn’s future. The split became evident last week when the party’s sole MP, Ian Murray, quit as Corbyn’s shadow Scotland secretary. Despite Murray being a close ally of Dugdale, Rowley accused the MP of putting “self-interest before the needs of the country”.
Dugdale later said it would be “difficult” for Corbyn to continue in post – a clear indication she wants him to resign – but Rowley signed a letter backing the embattled left-wing leader.
One senior Scottish Labour source said: “Their relationship has completely broken down.”
About Alex Rowley
Alex Rowley Born in Dunfermline and raised in Kelty. He attended Edinburgh University, graduating with an MA Honours in Sociology and Politics, and an MSc in continuing education. He was a local councillor with Fife Regional Council between 1990 -2012. And was elected in 2012, to the post of first leader of the new Fife Council and served the Council until his election to the Scottish Parliament in 2014. He worked for five years as an assistant, election agent and constituency manager to Gordon Brown MP.
Alex Rowley – The Elephant in the Room
It is entirely possible there will be civil war in the Labour party in England if Corbyn is elected leader. The fallout will most likely spread rapidly to it’s branch office in Scotland where the newly appointed Scottish Labour front-bench team is predominately comprised of “Blairite” members including the leader Kezia Dugdale.
The 2016 Scottish elections are just a few months distant and it is likely Dugdale will insist (without much argument from London) on taking her party forward with a manifesto limited in vision, that will be firmly rejected by the Scottish electorate. In the event this scenario is enacted Dugdale will most likely resign together with many of her supporters. Alex Rowley is an obvious choice in this case, to take up the reins of power. He is an astute politician of conviction who has argued for many years for a fully autonomous Scottish Labour Party. He is, as her unwanted Deputy leader a very serious rival to Dugdale’s leadership. It is of note he is not a member of her Front-Bench team.
Donald DewerGordon Brown
20 May 1999 – Rowley Sacked by Labour Party Bosses in London
He was elected to the post of General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party (1 May 1998 – 31 May 1999). Outlining his vision for the future growth of the party in Scotland he expressed a view that having modernised Scotland’s political institutions and introduced a Scottish Parliament, the party needed to change it’s structure including proposals giving the Labour Party in Scotland freedom from London control. All hell broke loose and he was summoned to Millbank in London, where he was told the party had nowhere for him in its future planning. He was then invited to resign from his post as General Secretary of the Scottish Labour party a decision which provoked anger in Scotland.
Senior Labour sources in London denied that the general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party had been sacked on the instructions of London-based officials. They said that Alex Rowley had left the post of his own volition saying his task of helping the party win the Scottish Parliamentary elections had been completed and he wanted to move on to new challenges.
At interview Alex Rowley said “after the election there was a discussion about the future direction of the party. The “discussion” continued for a couple of weeks and I decided it was best for me to leave.” He added “I am not getting into a debate about this now. But there is a discussion for the Labour Party in Scotland to hold. If you modernise the political institutions it is only natural to see how the party organisation has to change. You ask yourself if the party is still in line with the political institutions. All I have ever said is that there needs to be far greater discussion about that.”
Saying it would be wrong to go into detail, he said “a number of factors” were involved in his departure from the party after only a year in the job. “I think the party has to change quite a lot. We have to have a good look at this and also at how policy is made. There must be a real partnership in power in Scotland. We have the Scottish Policy Forum and that can be seen as positive. But we also need to look at the membership and how it can have a greater say. “I point to the fact that 30,000 members is not something to be proud of. We need to increase the membership. “I flagged up at the Scottish conference that there should be a root and branch rethink about the party organisation in Scotland. But it became apparent in recent weeks and months that this was going to be difficult. I won’t go into the reasons, but I decided it was in my best interests to leave. “Now I have a number of things to consider and I have been having discussions with various people. There are several options for me to consider. But in the meantime I will be taking a well-earned rest.”
Rowley said Donald Dewar had been “very supportive”, but, asked about the role of John Rafferty, the strategist who accused of ousting him from the general secretaryship, replied: “I am not prepared to comment on this at all.” He said: “I don’t want any negativism attributed to me. I just want to move on and believe I can still play a part in Scottish Labour politics. I was brought up in the Labour Party and it is bigger than any one individual. The next few years will be a very exciting time of change and I want to play a role in that for the Scottish Labour Party.”
20 May 1999 – Parliament: Scotland: Labour sacks Scots party chief
The Labour Party in Scotland launched a month-long review of its structures yesterday after the dismissal of Alex Rowley, its general secretary. His removal is said to have been engineered by John Rafferty, Labour’s Scottish campaigns director. The sacking, by the party’s London headquarters, provoked consternation in Scotland, where Labour is sensitive to claims that it is run from England.
There were also suggestions Mr Rowley had fallen foul of the continuing battle for power between factions loyal to Tony Blair and those backing the Chancellor, Gordon Brown. Earlier this week, the surprise appointment of “Bully-Boy” John Reid as Secretary of State for Scotland, over the expected candidate, Helen Liddell, was seen as confirmation of the party’s London headquarters strong grip on power in Scotland.
Dame Elizabeth Filkin
26 January 2001 – John Reid at centre of row over intimidation – new Northern Ireland minister “tried to frustrate standards inquiry”
Only four weeks ago John Reid, the new Northern Ireland secretary, was at the centre of a row for threatening and intimidating witnesses who gave evidence to an inquiry by Elizabeth Filkin, the parliamentary standards commissioner, into the illegal use of taxpayers’ cash for the benefit of the Labour party. She claimed that Mr Reid’s conduct amounted to “an attempt to frustrate my investigation”.
The report contained an extraordinary tape-recording showing an increasingly irascible Reid pressing witness Alex Rowley, the former general secretary of the Scottish Labour party, just before he was due to be interviewed by Ms Filkin on the scandal.
The inquiry began after a complaint by journalist Dean Nelson, then with the Observer. He reported that Reid, then Scottish secretary, and John Maxton, Labour MP for Glasgow Cathcart, had employed three researchers, paying their salaries from the MPs’ official allowances. He claimed that the three, contravening the rules governing publicly funded MPs’ researchers, were involved in Labour party campaigning. One was Reid’s son, Kevin.
The parliamentary commissioner upheld the complaint, but MPs on the standards and privileges committee overturned her findings. The money was about £16,000 to pay the salaries of the researchers; and not all their working time was spent on Labour party campaigning. There is no suggestion that Reid misused the money for any other purpose.
The main body of Ms Filkin’s report, however, concentrated on the way Reid and Maxton – who later apologised – had interfered with four witnesses to the inquiry. They were Alex Rowley, John Rafferty, former Scottish Labour party campaign co-ordinator, Paul McKinney, former Labour party director of communications in Scotland and Willie Sullivan, former Scottish development officer for the Scottish Labour party.
Ms Filkin said “the conduct of Reid caused serious and increasing concern” as her inquiries proceeded. “I was left with the impression that many witnesses felt under considerable pressure as to what they should, or should not, say to me and how far, if at all, they should co-operate with my inquiry.” In a strongly worded conclusion she found that loyal members of the Labour party had been put under enormous pressure not to provide her with evidence that could damage Reid’s explanation.
On Mr Rowley in particular, she said: “It is clear that Mr Rowley felt, and continues to feel, under pressure from Reid to say things to me which he does not wish to say and which he regards as not wholly accurate or even misleading. And so far as other witnesses are concerned, he has told me ‘I have to say to you that I find it quite astonishing that many young people such as Annmarie Whyte [Scottish Labour party office manager] are being put in the position by one of the most senior politicians in Scotland that they are having to give dishonest information to the parliamentary commissioner for standards. I have been told that others whom you have contacted have felt under immense pressure’.”
Ms Filkin commented in her report “I view this conduct by Reid as an attempt to frustrate my investigation.”
She went on “I have, for example, received evidence from Mr Rowley that, during two conversations shortly after my investigation began, Reid made threats of a particularly disturbing kind to Mr Rowley, the thrust of which was that if he “gave evidence which admitted doing wrong” he “could face criminal prosecution and risked not being adopted by the party as a parliamentary candidate.”
She reported “Mr Rowley was so concerned by Reid’s attitude that he decided, albeit reluctantly, to record their next conversation on tape. During these exchanges, which took place during a telephone call .. it is clear, both from his choice of words and the tone he adopts, that Reid is seeking to agree a line with Mr Rowley which falls short of a full and comprehensive account of the events of which they both have knowledge. Thus, at one point Dr Reid says to Mr Rowley “You don’t have to tell any lies. Do you know what I mean?” And later he adds “They cannot prove anything, Alex.” Towards the end of the conversation Reid strongly discourages Mr Rowley from giving evidence to my enquiry on oath.”
She reported “I would add that Mr Rowley’s protectiveness towards former colleagues and his continuing loyalty to the party made him initially unwilling to allow me to treat either his statement alleging threats to him by Reid or the transcript of his telephone conversation with Reid as evidence which I could quote in my report. But after it became clear to him that pressure was being applied both to him and other witnesses and that Reid had impugned his integrity as a witness, he decided reluctantly to change his mind.”
This intimidation of the witnesses was carried out by both Maxton and Reid. Maxton told Filkin that three of the witnesses had been dismissed by the Labour party and alleged that “they apparently bear a grudge against Reid as a result” and he had become “the unlucky and unwilling victim of that grudge.” Reid accused Mr Rowley of only pursuing the case because he had talked to the Observer and that “he may feel he cannot back out from this serious attack on [my] probity.”
Filkin concluded “I have no reason to believe Reid’s explanation of Mr Rowley’s possible motives in giving evidence in support of the complaint. In any case, Reid’s theory begs the question as to why, if they are not true, Mr Rowley should have made the allegations to Mr Nelson in the first place.”
MP’s at Westminster later failed to uphold her complaint on the grounds that it was “not proven.” They said the tape contained no threats, and what Reid said could have had an innocent explanation.
19 December 2014 – MSP Alex Rowley MSP writes off travel expenses
The Scottish Parliament has released figures for MSPs’ parliamentary expenses for 2014/15, which has revealed that Cowdenbeath MSP Alex Rowley had not submitted any personal travel claims. Of his decision not to claim for travel expenses, he said “My place of work is in the constituency and in Edinburgh. I take the view that none of my constituents would be paid to get to their place of work. If people were travelling from Kelty to Glenrothes to work they wouldn’t get paid for that. I just take the view that many of my constituents work in the capital and have to pay the cost of getting there, so I will do likewise.”
His staff travel claims, totalled £334 – He explained it was for one Edinburgh-based member of staff travelling to Cowdenbeath during the summer recess. He continued, “I have two members of staff based in Cowdenbeath and the third is in Edinburgh. During the summer recess I spend most of my time working in the constituency and have him come over to work. The member of staff is being treated the same as in any other place of work – if you were based in Dunfermline and were asked to go to an office in Edinburgh, you would get expenses for that.”
Mr Rowley will be putting up the details of his expenses on his website. He said, “I have no personal expenses that come to me direct but we run up expenses because we’re there to provide a service for people. In terms of me personally gaining from expenses, I think that’s unacceptable. Politicians are viewed as being at it all the time and that they are greedy but I think I have a responsibility to explain to people where the money is going. The key thing for me is that I can look any constituent in the eye and explain any costs I incur doing my job and be sure that I am not expecting anything more or less than any person I represent. Most of all I think it is crucial that we bring about full transparency for all expenses claimed by politicians and that is why I am using the material published by the Scottish Parliament on expenses and giving more detail on this on my website.” A complete list of expenses can be found on the Scottish Parliament website at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk.
Elaine SmithJim Murphy
12 May 2015 – Alex Rowley and Elaine Smith warn – the Labour Party in Scotland is heading for “disappearance” in Scotland unless Jim Murphy resigns as leader to resign
Rowley, the MSP for Cowdenbeath, quit his role as Labour’s local government spokesman at Holyrood and urged Murphy to stand down. Another Labour MSP, Elaine Smith, backed his call saying the party needs “new direction.” Scotland’s only Labour MP Ian Murray accused those criticising Mr Murphy of “digging knives into the party”. Pressure has been growing on the Scottish Labour leader to step down following last week’s general election results.
Labour lost all but one of its 40 Scottish seats to the SNP in last Thursday’s election. Murphy’s once-safe majority in East Renfrewshire – a seat he had held for nearly 20 years – was eliminated by the SNP’s Kirsten Oswald.
Unison Scotland has also called for a “radical change in approach” from the Labour party in Scotland. The union said it was not its place “to initiate a change in leadership” but said if there was a wider movement proposing change it would “not oppose it.” The call comes after both the Unite union and the train drivers’ union, Aslef, also called on Murphy to resign.
Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor commented:
Alex Rowley is a Holyrood new boy, entering parliament via a by-election in January last year. But he is very far from a beginner in Labour politics. He has been at various times a council leader, the party’s general secretary in Scotland and a senior aide to Gordon Brown. So, when he says that Murphy should quit as Scottish Labour leader, he commands a degree of attention. Only a degree, mind. Among Labour at Holyrood, there are as many views about the future of the party as there are group members. By contrast, the Scottish Labour group at Westminster is entirely united. Rowley is adamant that he is not revisiting the leadership contest which followed the departure of Johann Lamont. (He backed Neil Findlay.) And he praised Murphy’s energy and application.
Rowley is a former general secretary of the Labour Party in Scotland and ran Neil Findlay’s campaign for the leadership against Murphy last year. At the weekend, Findlay also resigned from the Scottish shadow cabinet saying the election had been “a disaster.” Before being elected as an MSP, Rowley was a councillor in Fife and worked as an assistant, election agent and constituency manager to Gordon Brown. He was considered by some to be Brown’s “right-hand man and protégé”.
Rowley said Labour needs “a fundamental change in direction and strategy” but he told the BBC Murphy and his aides had focused instead on loyalty to the leadership. He warned that if Murphy remained leader, Labour would be heading for another big defeat at the Holyrood elections in 2016. The MSP’s resignation letter said he thought Mr Murphy’s post-election result speech, in which he vowed to stay on as leader, was “a mistake.” Rowley wrote “I sincerely hold the view that you continuing as leader whilst not in the Scottish Parliament, and not in an elected position holding a democratic mandate, means you will become an unhelpful distraction from the real issues that Scottish Labour must focus on.”
Murphy met Labour MSPs on Monday to discuss the party’s disastrous election performance. Speaking after losing his East Renfrewshire seat, Jim Murphy said the Labour party would “fight on.” Rowley added “It is clear from the discussion yesterday that dissent in public from the leadership view is perceived as disloyalty, but I am convinced we need a fundamental change in direction and strategy and therefore cannot sign up to your leadership as one of your shadow team.” A spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party said “It’s disappointing that Alex chose to resign. The task for the Scottish Labour Party going forward is to work together to rebuild our movement and regain the trust of the people of Scotland.”
Elaine Smith, Labour MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston, praised her colleagues, Rowley and Findlay, for resigning as party spokesmen. She said “They are putting loyalty to the Labour Party ahead of personal career or position and I think Jim Murphy should do likewise and step down as leader. In the face of the worst result for Labour since 1918 we do need a new direction.” She is a member of the Campaign for Socialism which has already called on Mr Murphy to “stand aside.”
Ian Murray, Scotland’s only Labour MP, hit out at those “digging knives into the party.” The shadow Scottish secretary said the last thing any party should do after a heavy election defeat is make “knee jerk reactions and turn in on themselves.” He said: “Everyone who is looking for a camera and a TV studio to dig knives into the Scottish Labour party should go home, sit in a darkened room, reflect how the election was lost and work together.”
A statement from Unison Scotland’s Labour Link said: “It is unprecedented for a party leader not to stand down after such a defeat, particularly when he loses his own seat. The campaign may have been energetic, but it lacked focus and clearly voters do not regard Jim Murphy as a credible messenger of Scottish Labour values. Scottish Labour has a limited period of time to reorganise itself to provide a credible challenge in the Scottish Parliament elections next year.”
At the weekend, the Unite union said the Labour leader should go “without delay” and warned that, otherwise, “extinction looms” for the party.
After Monday’s three-hour meeting of Labour MSPs, finance spokeswoman Jackie Baillie told the BBC that the “overwhelming majority of MSPs were very clear, they want Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale to lead us forward into the future.”
and her new Blairite Front Bench Team
22 May 2015 – Alex Rowley: Labour in Scotland must become the party of Home Rule or Labour will not survive
AS I watched the General Election results come in on the television in the early hours of May 8, I was not shocked there was a move away from Labour and we were getting beaten, but shocked by the scale of the defeat.
It is clear we need a fundamental review of both strategy and practice. To me, it was obvious this defeat was not just a question about leadership, although the strategy which had been followed by the leadership was an issue that did need to be reviewed. I questioned what had happened after the major review led by Jim Murphy in 2011. We could not say the strategy there was sound. We bounced from focus group to focus group making policies up as we went along with no real clarity of what Labour in Scotland actually stood for. We needed then, as we need now, a proper analysis of where we are and what went wrong.
If the General Election result is to be applied to the 2016 Scottish election, the outcome could lead to Labour losing every constituency seat and seven MSPs and the return of a SNP Government with an overwhelming majority. Even with a disastrous low of 24 per cent of the vote, the PR system would be kinder to us than first past the post and we would get somewhere in the region of 31 list seats while the SNP would have around 74 seats.
However, that does not take into account the fact the Greens and others may do better. Thirty-one seats for Labour may well be very ambitious. The prospect means many in Labour who have their sights set on Holyrood are keen to get onto Labour’s list. But this is a short-sighted strategy which will solve nothing in the longer term.
If it is the case that by May 2016 we have been unable to progress from the current all-time low, my view is we will just sink even lower. Some may well save their careers for a wee bit longer, but the party will not survive.
So what to do? Some were rather annoyed about Johann Lamont’s comment last year about the UK party leadership treating Scottish Labour as the branch office. I have heard many say this is not a description they recognise. However, I am afraid I do and believe it must be addressed in order for Labour in Scotland to move forward with a more progressive approach that sets the future agenda.
We need to move beyond tinkering with party rules and learn the lessons from sister parties across Europe where there is a strong federal system. It is crucial we take a far greater degree of control of the policy and decision-making while remaining committed to being part of a wider UK party where appropriate.
We need to become the party of Scottish Home Rule and our opening salvo to Westminster and the UK Labour Party must be that the current relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK is untenable and will require radical change.
Defining what Labour in Scotland stands for is key. Labour exists to advance the social and economic case of working people across the country through an agenda that puts fairness and equality at its heart.
Labour must fundamentally move its approach to one that focuses on issues and solutions that we represent, as opposed to focusing on what other parties do. The party should exist not to oppose the SNP but to address the issues in our communities and bring about a more inclusive and prosperous country. The attack-style politics is not working.
Where we can work with the SNP, such as finding a long-term solution to funding local government, then we should, and where we think their approach will be damaging, such as ending the Barnett formula, then we should make the case. Where we believe the SNP is not delivering, we must put forward our alternative, not simply attack their failure.
On the constitution, we must move away from the politics of fear to the politics of hope and ambition through pressing the case for further devolution and setting out how we will use the powers, both in Edinburgh and in London, to deliver our vision.
We must build a radical and progressive movement for change in Scotland that embraces devolution, progresses localism and delivers fairness. We must also encourage open debate, whether that is over the renewal of Trident or over the role of the welfare state. Labour in Scotland must reflect the views of members and the communities we seek to serve.
7 June 2015 – Rowley backs Scottish Labour ‘autonomy’
A Senior Labour MSP has called yet again for the party in Scotland to become autonomous to help it to rebuild after last month’s SNP landslide. Speaking at a conference of Labour members in Fife, Alex Rowley called for support for “a transformation of Labour and how it functions within the UK with the party in Scotland becoming an autonomous political party in its own right.”
Kezia Dugdale, favourite to be elected to the post of Scottish leader, contradicted his call and warned against separating Scottish Labour from the UK party. She argued that the independence referendum had been won on the basis of pooling and sharing resources across the whole of the UK and that the same logic applied to the Labour party.
Unsurprisingly the SNP welcomed Rowley’s comments, calling on Labour to have an “open discussion” about full fiscal autonomy. This followed last night’s votes on the Scotland Bill in the House of Commons where Labour twice failed to vote on full fiscal autonomy, abstaining on both votes.
Commenting, Stewart Maxwell MSP, said “Alex Rowley’s comments on the merits of Scotland being in control of its own finances are to be welcomed – now the other candidates to form the next Labour leadership in Scotland should follow his lead. At Westminster last night, Labour twice failed to vote against full fiscal autonomy – despite attacking it week in and week out in the Scottish Parliament. That is the sort of incoherence that has landed them in their present crisis, and it begs the question – what are Labour now for?
“Labour are all over the place on more powers for Scotland – they are facing an identity crisis, but they should use this confusion as an opportunity for change. In the aftermath of Rowley’s comments – and the bizarre performance of Labour MPs in the House of Commons failing to vote against something they continually attack – Kezia Dugdale should now commit, at the very least to Labour having a full and open debate the merits of full fiscal autonomy, which is about growing the economy and delivering better policies. The alternative is leaving George Osborne and the Tories in charge of Scotland’s resources.”
8 June 2015 – Kezia Dugdale rejects calls for a separate Scottish Labour party
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has dismissed calls for a separate Scottish party. Her comments were in response to Cowdenbeath Labour MSP Alex Rowley saying the best way to rebuild after May’s election defeat was to free the party from the “constraints” of UK Labour. Dugdale said: “I’d like to see us on more regular occasions have a slightly different, a more nuanced position on the issues in Scotland, standing up for Scotland’s interests. We can do that with greater party autonomy, that doesn’t mean we are an independent party, that would mean completely separating ourselves off from our UK colleagues and I don’t want to do that, I don’t think that’s right.” Dugdale, further said she believed a separate party would go against the logic of the result of the independence referendum.
Dugdale accepted responsibility for her role in the general election debacle that saw Labour lose all but one Scottish seat, and admitted that Scottish Labour’s problems can not be fixed overnight. But she believed she is the best qualified person to turn Scottish Labour’s fortunes around.
At a UK Labour leadership hustings at the weekend, candidate Andy Burnham agreed with Dugdale position despite saying last month there was a case to be made for two separate parties. This position was also backed by deputy leader hopeful Tom Watson.
At the same hustings Jeremy Corbyn was the only leadership candidate not to dismiss the notion of a separate party, pointing out many Labour supporters had voted yes in the referendum and for the SNP in the general election.
Dugdale and Gray
16 June 2015 – Labour Scotland’ should be open to full fiscal autonomy, says Alex Rowley
Scottish Labour deputy leader front runner threw down a challenge to his opponents that the party must fully embrace devolution and be open to discussions about full fiscal autonomy. Alex Rowley, MSP for Cowdenbeath and former shadow spokesman for local government, said Labour needed to turn the political debate around and focus on what powers should stay at Westminster, rather than on what powers should come to Holyrood. The powers that come with Smith need to be delivered to the letter and we need to make sure that happens, and post-Smith – as I don’t see Smith as the end of devolution – we need to take that agenda forward. Rather than arguing for what powers should come from Westminster to Scotland, we should instead be arguing what powers should be kept at Westminster.”
Rowley, former general secretary of the Scottish Labour party, sensationally quit his front bench role last month following Murphy’s failure to stand down after the devastating General Election defeat. He has since drawn up a strategy for the future of the party, arguing for it to become independent from UK Labour. He has also written a discussion paper on the subject, calling for a new “Labour Scotland” to become the party of Home Rule. “Labour Scotland needs to lead the agenda in terms of devolution and we can’t lead the agenda when we continually have to check with UK Labour about what we can or cannot say. An autonomous Scottish Labour party would be driving the agenda in Scotland,” he said.
“Our focus should be on what powers we need for success as a nation, and then argue for those based on that premise. We need to set that out in our 2016 manifesto agenda. We should not be talking Scotland down and telling Scotland what it can’t have. Post-Smith we need to have an open discussion, including about full fiscal autonomy. However, Rowley denied his position amounted to a split from the UK party. He said: “I want to work in a devolved country in a strong Scottish Parliament but remain in the UK and have an autonomous Scottish Labour party which is setting the agenda in Scotland for Scotland. There is a big difference in that and breaking away from the Labour party in the UK. I am not arguing for a breakaway party and I think people who interpret my position in that way are trying to muddy the waters.”
Rowley’s views are likely to be popular among grass roots Labour members – many of whom were opposed to the party standing alongside the Conservatives in the Better Together alliance. Last night party members welcomed Rowley’s stance. “Alex is a serious politician and deep thinker who recognises the serious trouble the party is in and is giving some clear answers about how it should move forward,” said one. Another added “I like what Alex Rowley is saying. His views may alienate some, but get the support of others. He is also the only politician who appears to be coming up with something fresh, something apart from ‘we need to listen to what people are saying’.”
Meanwhile, in the party’s leadership contest almost three-quarters of Scottish Labour’s parliamentarians have backed Kezia Dugdale to be their next leader. Dugdale, now has the support of 27 MSPs as well as Labour’s only Scottish MP Ian Murray and the party’s two MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler.
Rowley is among a group of MSPs throwing their weight behind Dugdale. Dugdale said: “Politics in Scotland has changed fundamentally and the Scottish Labour Party have only one chance to get it right. But this leadership election isn’t just about transforming Scottish Labour, it is about stepping up and regaining the trust of the people of Scotland.”
It was recently yesterday that the party had around 13,000 members north of the Border, about a tenth the size of the SNP membership.
13 July 2015 – Alex Rowley – Scottish Labour deputy leadership candidate condemned Labour leadership for abandoning commitment to tax credits.
The announcement by Harriet Harman that Labour will not oppose the Tory attack on Tax Credits left many Labour members confused and angry. Alex Rowley said “We must unite in our condemnation of her stance which as so many are now saying #notinmyname.”
For many, being in work is not a safeguard against poverty. A recent report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed of the 920,000 people living in poverty in Scotland on average in the three years up to 2012/13, 41 per cent were working-age adults or children from working families.
The report highlighted the scale of low pay in Scotland – 600,000 were paid below the Living Wage in 2013/14; 250,000 men and 350,000 women. These numbers represent 23 per cent of male employees, 31 per cent of female employees and 27 per cent of employees overall.
In Scotland today under employment is also a real issue with substantial numbers of Scots who are in work but who would prefer to work more hours than they do. Over 215,000 (216,500) people in Scotland in 2014 were deemed ‘underemployed’, and although the rate slightly decreased from the previous year it still effected 8.6% of the workforce.
And although the Scottish Government hold no official records on the numbers of people employed on zero-hour contracts, it is estimated that there are currently 80,000 workers in Scotland suffering these insecure working conditions.
It is vital that we continue to focus on the issue of in-work poverty, alongside tackling unemployment and the associated poverty. Tax credits – now under threat from a Tory Government committed to ending them – are key to fighting in-work and child poverty.
Tax credits, introduced by Gordon Brown when Chancellor of the Exchequer, played a major part in one of the biggest improvements in poverty alleviation seen in Britain since the war. Child poverty had rocketed between 1979 and 1997. When Labour came into office in 1997, 33 per cent of Scottish children lived in relative poverty, after housing costs.
This had fallen to 21 per cent by 2010, which represented a fall of over 30 per cent. After housing costs, relative child poverty in Scotland fell from affecting 360,000 children in 1996-1997 to 210,000 in 2010-11. Since 2010, as recent figures confirm, the gains made in tackling child poverty have stalled and the number of children in poverty has remained at 210,000.
Overall in 2013/14, 18 per cent of people in Scotland were living in relative poverty after housing costs. This equates to almost 1 million Scots (940,000) living in poverty and is at a higher level than in 2010/11.
Today in Scotland, 350,000 people receive tax credits, 71 per cent of whom – 250,000 – are in work. So make no mistake, the majority of those who receive tax credits are on low paid work.
When the financial crash came, tax credits were what enabled families to get by, and now they persist at a time when the working poor outnumber, for the first time, those out of work who are living in poverty.
So we must recognise the importance of tax credits in supporting low paid workers and whilst I agree that our ultimate goal must be to end poverty low pay, that will not happen immediately but removing tax credits or elements of the entitlement will hurt children and drive people out of work.
18 August 2015 – Alex Rowley will push for more “devolution” for Scottish Labour to set own agenda
Alex Rowley will continue to fight for a more autonomous Scottish Labour in his new role as deputy leader of the party north of the Border. Rowley, (who significantly has no role in Keiza Dugdale’s newly appointed front bench team), believes shaking off the perception of the party in Scotland being ‘‘branch office’’ of the UK Labour Party is necessary after its disastrous General Election. That would mean the party’s MP Ian Murray and any future MPs would take direction from north of the Border, even if this contradicted stances taken on those issues at the UK level.
Launching his deputy leadership campaign message in The National in June, Rowley said: “We must build a radical and progressive movement for change in Scotland that embraces devolutions, progresses localism and delivers fairness. We must also encourage open debate and discussion, whether that is the renewal of Trident, the role of the welfare state and how to build a fairer more equal society. Labour in Scotland must reflect the views of members and the communities we seek to serve and we will do that by engaging in an open and transparent approach rebuilding the trust that once made Labour the workers’ party and put us at the heart of every community.”
Last night a source close to Rowley said in his new role he would be pushing for a more autonomous Scottish party. “He very much believes that policy for Scotland has to come from Scotland and the party needs to be completely run by the leadership in Scotland. In terms of MPs, he is very much of the view that they should be taking their direction from the party in Scotland. It might take time, but he knows that is the direction the party has to move in and there is no going back from that. The branch office label will not be acceptable any-more. Alex will be saying ‘yes, we are united with our Labour comrades across the UK, but if the party members in Scotland are thinking a certain way that is the approach MSPs and MPs should take’.”
Rowley, MSP for Cowdenbeath and a former aide to ex-prime minister Gordon Brown, defeated fellow MSP Richard Baker and Glasgow city council leader Gordon Matheson to win the deputy leadership race on Saturday, while Dugdale beat Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh to become leader. The contest followed former leader Jim Murphy’s resignation in June, following the loss of 40 of the party’s 41 MPs at the General Election. Rowley quit Murphy’s front-bench team in protest at the leader continuing in his post for several weeks after the defeat.
Murphy’s predecessor Johann Lamont resigned following last September’s referendum, accusing her London bosses of treating the party in Scotland like a “branch office”. Rowley said “Some were rather annoyed about Johann Lamont’s comment last year about UK party leadership treating Scottish Labour as the branch office. I have heard many say this is not a description they recognise.” However, I recognise it and believe it must be addressed in order for Labour in Scotland to move forward with a more progressive approach. We need to become the party of Scottish home rule and our opening salvo to Westminster and the UK Labour Party must be that the current relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK is untenable and will require radical change.”
Scottish Front Bench Team August 2015
19 August 2015 – Kezia Dugdale unveils new Scottish Labour frontbench
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has unveiled her new “Blairite” gender-balanced team – but there are no front bench seats for any of the party’s MSPs who are backing Jeremy Corbyn in the race to be UK party leader.
Prior to choosing her cabinet, Ms Dugdale said: “I want a Scotland where power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few. I want a country where a young person’s ability to get on in life is determined by their potential, work rate and ambition, not by their background. The idea of simply shadowing government ministers is outdated. Of course we must hold the SNP government to account for its failings on schools, our NHS and policing – and we will do that. But I want to shake things up and have a fresh start. We need to be out and about across Scotland. The key focus of every single member of my front bench team will be setting out a positive Labour vision of transforming Scotland.”
22 August 2015 – Scottish Labour deputy backs Trident referendum and says Corbyn would make “first class” leader
Scottish Labour’s new deputy leader, Alex Rowley has called for a referendum to decide whether Britain renews the Trident nuclear deterrent and said left winger Jeremy Corbyn would make a “first class” boss of the UK party. Rowley, who became party number two last weekend, also revealed that he is putting his political career on the line at next year’s Holyrood election by pledging to quit his new job if he is not re-elected in his Cowdenbeath constituency.
In his first major interview since winning the deputy contest, the former Fife Council leader warned that it was “obvious” that his party must change and regain trust or face annihilation in Scotland. On Trident, he said he did not believe the case had been made for renewal, potentially signalling a split at the top of the party. Party leader Kezia Dugdale has said a debate over Trident at October’s party conference is “not impossible”, but is known to favour multilateral disarmament meaning international agreements would be struck before Britain’s nuclear arsenal is reduced or eliminated.
While Labour has not supported unilateral disarmament since 1987, Rowley said party members should have their say over renewal of the Clyde-based weapons system, believing the decision is so significant it should be put to a national vote. “It’s a massive issue, and there’s been no debate within Labour, or within the country. It is a military issue, with serious question marks over whether it is the best way to defend the country, but it’s also a moral issue. On such a massive issue, there should be debate across the party, the country, and a referendum. I have not seen the case made as to why we would renew, but the most striking thing is a complete lack of debate.”
Mr Rowley is to push ahead with plans to create a far more autonomous party north of the border, saying he recognised the stinging criticisms of former leader Johann Lamont when she described Scottish Labour as being run like a “branch office” from London, with previous attempts by Jim Murphy to emphasise Scottish Labour’s independence seen as “a gimmick”. He will move to give members a greater say over policy, in line with a pledge from Ms Dugdale, saying one of the “tragedies” of the New Labour era was that internal debate had been “shut down.”
He would not publicly reveal who he is backing for the UK leadership, saying he would work with whoever won. However, he strongly hinted that he supported Mr Corbyn, despite Ms Dugdale warning that a victory for the MP risked leaving the party “carping on the sidelines”. He added “All I would say is that I’m very encouraged by the type of debate taking place within the Labour Party at grass-roots level… I want to see a progressive Labour Party, and we need change. On the question of Jeremy Corbyn and attacks that have come his way in terms of electability, I have no fears whatsoever that if the Labour membership elect him, he [wouldn’t be] be a first class leader. I have read his policy agenda and there is not a lot in there I would disagree with.”
Mr Rowley has already promised not to take the automatic place at the top of the party list he is entitled to, which would guarantee a Holyrood seat. But he went further by revealing he has no intention of seeking a list slot at all, saying it would be “defeatist” and that his position signalled his determination to win back trust. He said Labour would set out a clear policy platform to address unacceptable levels of poverty and inequality in the months ahead, with homelessness, housing, health and social care and youth unemployment key concerns. He did not rule out proposing to use new powers for Holyrood to increase taxes on the rich to fund better public services.
Mr Rowley added that he was unconcerned at reports that Ms Dugdale privately backed Richard Baker for the deputy leadership, saying she had his complete support. The 51-year-old dismissed suggestions that a poor performance next year would lead to pressure for her to resign, saying Ms Dugdale would remain leader for “many, many years” meaning he would be too old to stand for the leadership when she eventually stood down.
On the issue of further devolution, he said measures set out in the Scotland Bill would not be “the end of the journey”, and called for a “friendlier, open discussion” about what should remain under Westminster control. He added: “I campaigned for a No vote because I believed it was in Scotland’s best interest to have significant devolved power. Whether it’s full fiscal autonomy or other powers, if it can be demonstrated it’s in Scotland’s best interest to go down that road then that’s what I’ll support. We can’t keep closing the debate down, and end up with a country divided.”
Nicola SturgeonBill Kidd
22 August 2015 – Scottish Labour deputy leader calls for referendum on Trident renewal
On Friday, the First Minister became the latest high-profile figure to sign a statement calling for plans to replace Trident to be cancelled. Nicola Sturgeon added her name to the “Rethink Trident” statement, which is organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Compass. The statement says the country can “ill-afford to be spending in excess of £100 billion on replacing Trident with a new generation of nuclear weapons.” Labour leadership front runner Jeremy Corbyn and Deputy Leader of the labour Party in Scotland Alex Rowley also supported the aims of the “Rethink Trident” statement. Rowley also said the veteran left winger would make a “first class” boss of the UK party. He said “I have no fears whatsoever that if the Labour membership elect him, he wouldn’t be a first class leader.”
SNP MSP Bill Kidd, co-president of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, said “I very much welcome Alex’s rethink on Trident – he joins a coalition of voices from across politics, civic Scotland and military experts calling on the UK Government to abandon its plan to waste £100 billion replacing these morally abhorrent nuclear weapons. I hope now that Alex will join the First Minister in signing CND’s “Rethink Trident” statement. With Labour’s support, Scotland could speak with one voice on this issue and form a powerful collective voice against spending billions on obscene weapons of mass destruction.”
25 August 2015 – Dugdale’s cringe-worthy interview. Clearly Alex Rowley has hit a nerve
It’s beyond belief that she’s the party leader in Holyrood, another startling selection. It’s so disheartening that in the UK system we have a party that has completely abandoned the people they continuously lie about representing. It’s shameful. I want full nuclear disarmament, I want jobs, I want investment into the NHS, not a new class of nuclear submarines.
Jim Murphy’s pro renewal answer was insulting, Labour want ‘unilateral disarmament of nuclear weapons around the world’ but seek the renewal of our own weapons of mass destruction.
Kezia Dugdale’s going to ‘create more space’ for a debate around the issue. It sounds like, ‘she’s buying time’, because our better together, red Tory labour branch office is in disarray about the idea of Jeremy Corbyn becoming the new leader.
Dugdale has no credibility left, she’s a career politician, she says only plans to stay in politics for 10 years. She’s already passively vilified the campaign of Jeremy Corbyn. I hope he’s elected and gets shot of her right away.
Dudgale is a Red Tory, shamelessly discrediting her own father. Ultimately, she’s leading labour to another wipe-out in Holyrood next year, a split party with the Tory’s being elected again in 5 years time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6USg9mxfdQ