Labour Leader in Scotland Johann Lamont's party is deeply divided
Scottish news: Scottish Labour General Secretary announces resignation
by Jamie Mann
Scottish Labour’s General Secretary Colin Smyth has today announced his resignation from the role allowing the forthcoming party conference in October to select a new general secretary.
Mr Smyth’s departure comes after almost a decade of working for the party. Smyth cited the departure as necessary to allow him to concentrate on his role as a Dumfries councillor following his re-election in May.
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Commenting on his decision, Smyth said, "Working with the members and the staff of the Scottish Labour Party is a real privilege.
“However, after successfully being re-elected as Councillor in May, I decided to inform Johann that I wanted to take on new challenges that would give me more time to focus on that role. “
His resignation is the second change to major figures Scottish Labour has seen in the past few days. Rami Okasha, the party's head of strategy, communications and policy was last week suspended and faces a disciplinary investigation bringing to light a deep divide in Scotland’s main opposition party.
Commenting on Mr Smyth’s departure from the role, an SNP Spokesperson said: “Mr Smyth’s sudden departure comes following a weekend of reports about Labour factionalism and infighting in Scotland, and the suspension of a senior party official.
“It is ironic that Labour - which is following a Tory-led campaign trying to convince us that we are better with a Tory-led government in London taking decisons for Scotland - cannot even get its Scottish and Westminster groups to work together.”
Following a devastating defeat in the 2011 Scottish election, the party vowed to reconnect with voters by revamping its image, operations and hierarchy. The shake-up led to the election of Glasgow Pollok MSP Johann Lamont as leader of the entire party in Scotland instead of only party leader at Holyrood.
However, according to reports, Miss Lamont’s leadership appears tenuous, with a turf-war now engulfing the party.
Whilst the new leader was believed to benefit from a new structure with authority over MPs, MSPs and councillors an anonymous Labour source told the Herald newspaper: “Although the party has been reformed, the staffing structure has not. This has caused problems.”
According to a second source the headquarters, located in Glasgow, has apparently been at loggerheads with Labour at Holyrood:
"There is a perception that the top priority for John Smith House is the MPs, followed by Glasgow City Council, and then the Scottish Parliament.
"A lot of senior people after 2011 wanted a total clear-out of John Smith House. Some people wanted to relocate it to Edinburgh."
This tale of two cities has allegedly spawned internecine conflict with two distinct Labour camps:
- One group based at Holyrood, led by Ms Lamont, her spin doctor Paul Sinclair and party business manager Paul Martin.
- The other faction consisted of spin doctor Rami Okasha, who was sacked last week, and Scottish Labour general secretary Colin Smyth, who announced his resignation today.
Staff in the Glasgow headquarters are employed by the UK organisation whilst Miss Lamont is leader in Scotland.
Unlike the other major Scottish parties, Labour do not have their headquarters in Edinburgh, however this is expected to change with Miss Lamont hoping to up the party’s profile in the Scottish parliament.
Speaking in light of Mr Smyth’s departure, Ms Lamont said: "Colin Smyth has been and remains a dedicated servant of the Scottish Labour Party. I, on behalf of all the party, thank him for all he has done.
"I understand his reasons for deciding to move on but we will miss him in John Smith House.”
Commenting on the news of their rival party, an SNP spokesman said:
“Much of the focus is still on Johann Lamont. After a year in charge, Labour have fallen even further behind the SNP than in their disastrous election showing of 2011. If Miss Lamont cannot even lead her own party properly, she can never seriously aspire to lead the country.”
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