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Scottish Labour's top official will answer to the UK party

SCOTTISH Labour has been accused of being controlled by Westminster after it emerged that the party's new general secretary would be line-managed by the UK party's top official.

Johann Lamont leads Labour in Scotland
Johann Lamont leads Labour in Scotland

Labour's crushing defeat at last year's Holyrood election prompted a full review of its operations in Scotland. As well as creating the post of Scottish leader – a role that put Johann Lamont in charge of the whole party north of the Border – recommendations on fundraising and candidate selection were also pushed through.

However, party insiders believe Lamont should also use her authority to push through radical reform of Scottish Labour's headquarters in Glasgow – MSPs have long believed the party's HQ was more sensitive to the needs of Westminster than Holyrood.

The recent departure of general secretary Colin Smyth, who was Scottish Labour's lead official, was seen as an opportunity for Lamont to assert her control. However, the Sunday Herald can reveal that Smyth's successor will be formally accountable to Labour UK's general secretary, Iain McNicol.

The successful applicant will also be employed by the UK party, as contractual issues for staff are not devolved to Scottish Labour.

The job description states that one of the new boss's functions will be "undertaking any other reasonable tasks - as may be required by the [UK] general secretary".

Whoever gets the job will have to present a "quarterly report" to Lamont and McNicol on implementation of the reform agenda.

One party source said the interview panel for selecting a new general secretary would be chaired by a Lamont nominee. However, another insider said the crucial decision was whether a majority of panel members would be from the Scottish or UK party executive.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour chiefs have met to discuss the process of selecting a candidate for a seat held by an MSP facing a criminal trial.

The party has drawn up a contingency plan in case there is a by-election in Bill Walker's Dunfermline constituency.

Walker, who was elected on an SNP ticket at the 2011 Holyrood election, was expelled from the Nationalists earlier this year amid accusations of violence against his former wives. The revelations prompted a police investigation and led to Walker being arrested.

He appeared in court in June, but has continued his MSP duties and sits as an Independent.

However, Labour bosses have agreed that, if there was a snap poll, local members would pick the winning candidate from an all-women shortlist.

SNP MSP Sandra White said: "After the civil war among senior Labour staff in Scotland that has marred Johann Lamont's first year in charge, it is little surprise that Labour party bosses in Westminster want to maintain control of the party in Scotland.

"[But] people in Scotland expect their representatives to be answerable only to them, not to the agendas of Westminster parties."

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "The closing date for the post of general secretary passed on Friday and we will look to make an appointment in the coming weeks."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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