Category: Campaigns

Martin Hartley

Scottish Labour Party - 2024 Conference Report

Four men stand outside the Scottish Event Campus during the 2024 Scottish Labour Party Conference

Prepared by Martin Hartley Executive Committee Member:

Scottish TSSA members were proud to attend the Scottish Labour Party Conference at the Scottish Event Campus, Glasgow over the weekend from the 16th to 18th February.

I would like to congratulate TSSA Member Katrina Faccenda, who is a Labour Party local councillor for Edinburgh North and Leith for being on the Conference Arrangements Committee and the great work her team did over the weekend. I would like to extend those congratulations to Katrina, as she has been elected onto the Scottish Executive Committee of the Labour Party as the TSSA representative and the only transport union representing on that group. This is a great opportunity for us to drive transport policy in Scotland.

I was delegate with Daniel Stewart, and Katrina Faccenda attending in her own right, along with Stephen Lawrence attending as a Labour Party Member who gave us much welcomed support.

The theme of this year’s conference was The Change Scotland Needs. Conference congratulated the recent wins in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West By-Election and the win in Kingswood.

The first debate was the change we need for a fairer, greener Scotland. We heard speeches on motions noting that governments around the world including Scotland weren’t doing enough to hit climate targets, conference called for national investment for council house building and the retrofitting of existing homes and buildings in every community, tackling fuel poverty and creating much needed skilled and unionised jobs. Conference also heard how we welcomed Scottish Labour’s plan to establish a publicly owned, not for profit energy company, GB Energy which will have its headquarters right here in Scotland. Additionally, during the debate, a motion was passed calling for Scottish Labour to campaign for a proper windfall tax on energy giants, and to work towards a plan to quickly insulate and improve energy efficiency in Scottish homes. All motions were passed.

Anas Sarwar, leader of the Scottish Labour Party made a sixty-minute speech at the start of the afternoon session. Anas told us “It falls to us - and only us - the Labour Party - to bring back hope for the country. And the sooner we get rid of this entire shower of Tories, the better.” He went on to say, “I don’t care how you voted in the past, I don’t care how you voted in either referendum. While we may disagree on the final destination for Scotland, I believe we can all agree we need change right now.”

His speech went onto say “Across Scotland today there are 410,000 adults in in-work poverty. More than 109,000 people in Scotland are on a zero-hours contract. So we must finally bring the world of work into the 21st century – strengthening workers’ rights, and strengthening our economy too.” “That means ending the scandal of fire and rehire, extending employment rights from day one, delivering a real living wage, and banning exploitative zero-hour contracts once and for all.”

The leader went on to speak about the child poverty in Scotland, and the failings of the SNP and Westminster in creating and allowing the failures in the NHS. Anas told us that it was time to get the Tories out of Downing Street once and for all, and to bring the much needed power back to Scotland by getting the SNP out.

The next debate session was The Change we need to deliver for working people. We heard some harrowing stories of child poverty and speakers gave examples of how children living in poverty affects their lives. Speeches were made by delegates welcoming Scottish Labour’s plans to abolish zero hours contracts, enhancements to workers’ rights and repealing the minimum service levels.

Daniel and I attended a fringe event in the evening, held by The Railway Industry Alliance, Alex Rowley MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife region was among speakers with an executive officer from QTS Rail and Siemens, and chaired by the chair of the RIA, Devon Scobie. A discussion took place on the problem of skills shortage particularly in the industry technical and permanent way structures. I spoke and commented on the fact that the railway sometimes felt like a bubble, with Network Rail and the TOC’s promoting within and people only moving within those sectors. I also highlighted the need for the industry to invest in the railway to promote public transport and to re-establish confidence in the railway system, following numerous closures in Scotland due to inclement weather affecting the infrastructure of the railway. ASLEF delegates were concerned with the lack of investment and renewals, and the aging railway stock following two significant accidents involving HST’s.

On Saturday morning, conference heard an address from Ben Proctor PPC for Stirlinghsire and recently elected chair of the Co-Operative party. The next debating session was The Change we need to strengthen Scotland in the UK and across the world.

We heard a very important composite motion on Israel and Palestine, calling for an immediate ceasefire, which Anas Sarwar backs and as we heard from Kier Starmer in his speech on Sunday, the party now backs a long lasting ceasefire formally.

Other motions in this debate were, the abolishment of the House of Lords, which would be replaced with an elected second chamber designed to represent each nation of the UK. A motion and speeches were heard on the minimum recruitment age of army recruits being raised to 18. A motion fighting for real terms increases for Scotland’s arts and culture was heard during this debate, all motions were carried.

The next debate this morning, was the change we need to grow our economy. I was pleased to second and speak in support of Edinburgh Western CLP’s motion on extending the Borders Railway from Tweedbank to Carlisle. I told the conference that the anti-railway Tory policy during the 1960’s closed this important community link, and the Tories attacked the railway again in the 1980s and 1990s with privatisation. I reminded conference that the Tories were attacking railway jobs again by closing ticket offices. I asked conference to support the motion for a fully staffed railway including drivers, guards, and staffed ticket offices from Tweedbank to Carlisle. Other motions we heard in this debate were the despicable behaviour of the Post Office and government on the recent post office scandal. A debate was heard on improving skills development and working on improving digital illiteracy in Scotland’s schools. We heard a motion on local community energy schemes and a motion calling on the Labour Party to explore options for local communities to develop local energy projects and empower local communities to manage low-cost energy schemes. Again, all motions were carried.

Saturday’s afternoon session was led by a speech from Ian Murray MP for Edinburgh South. This was followed by an address by Jackie Baillie on how the Labour Party will reshape the NHS for today’s needs.

This was followed by the debate session of The Change we need to rebuild our NHS.

Composite motion on the National Care Service alarmed conference that the SNP will delay the introduction of this important service until 2028/29 three years later than planned. Conference called on Scottish Labour to develop plans for real national care service before attempting to legislate, and to campaign for immediate action to implement the Independent Review of Adult Social Care recommendations, including reversing the rationing of care, delivering the removal of non-residential care fees, and setting out a plan for the implementation of £15 per hour as a minimum for care workers.

Other motions heard were NHS and Social Care workforce - Conference recommended that Scottish Labour commits to develop new career pathways into health & social care, and makes staff retention a key target, and continues to call for immediate action to improve conditions for social care workers and for a plan for a pay uplift to social care workers of £15 per hour. Speeches were heard on protecting neonatal services, NHS workforce planning and mental health services. Debates were also taken on improving oral health and NHS waiting times.

The next debating session was entitled The Change we need for stronger, safer communities. We heard a motion on Sub-Postmasters calling for the wrongful convictions of sub-postmasters to be overturned and all affected individuals are compensated, and that all potential criminal behaviour by The Post Office in Scotland is fully investigated.

A composite motion was presented on the housing emergency, highlighting the excessive rents, and affordable housing.

A composite motion was heard on Women’s rights. “Conference urges Scottish Labour to acknowledge the principle of women’s sex-based rights, as well as those conferred upon them by other protected characteristics. Conference notes that the Equality Act 2010 has single sex spaces for women in a state of physical or emotional vulnerability including, but not exclusive to, toilets, changing rooms, healthcare facilities, prisons, refuges, most sports, and trauma counselling.” “Conference calls on Scottish Labour to encourage positive debate within the Labour Party. Conference also calls on Scottish Labour to take account of the primacy of the Equality Act 2010 in policy development and to take the steps required to end inequality and protect women and girls from violence, discrimination, and exploitation.” This was the only vote to be taken by a card vote. The motion fell.

Sunday morning, I spent some time with Katrina discussing the need for a political steering group within our union and policy advice which was much needed now that we have a liaison on the Scottish Executive Committee, and the National Executive Committee.

Kier Starmer spoke later on Sunday morning, underpinning Anas Sarwar’s speech on the Labour Party’s visions and reinforced the position of The Labour Party in wanting an immediate ceasefire on both sides in the Israel Palestine conflict that is long lasting and recognition of a proper two state solution.

I thank our members and delegates for attending conference which was a good weekend.

TSSA members attending a rally

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