Originally published in the National.
I LIKE Alyn Smith. He’s a great and eloquent debater.
As one of those members also seeking nomination for SNP Policy Development Convener, I think Alyn’s article on Wednesday (We must call out tactics that are out to disrupt indy cause, November 11) paints a picture which disparages those who disagree with him.
The SNP has never been a single canvas but a tapestry of ideas radiating from the left, right and centre … and somewhere else for the many of us, like me, who are political misfits in the conventional sense. That has and should be the strength of the SNP, and we should all rejoice in it.
The SNP has a lot of activists, and it is natural and indeed uplifting that social media affords an endless opportunity to celebrate our democracy and question those whom we oppose and equally those in whom we have put our trust to deliver independence.
There are idiots who malign others with whom they disagree. I have no truck with them, and indeed would suggest that part of the involvement of many SNP members in individually or collectively raising issues with candidate selection, NEC election and the forthcoming conference agenda, is because the NEC leadership has failed to root out the bad behaviour and self-interest. Instead it looks as if the NEC has turned its ire on individuals who legitimately questioned some of its decisions. Most of us turn the other cheek but our activist friends are outraged for us.
The real issue is one of meaningful communication at an individual and branch level. The NEC and headquarters are not very good at it. Silence is not an answer.
There is a wealth of expertise in all walks of life within this party which most political movements envy. In all my years in the SNP I’ve learned a new and beneficial nugget from every branch meeting I’ve ever attended. Yet as our member base has expanded it appears that the opportunity to debate branch ideas and resolutions at conference has been distilled into a bland spirit by those who alone know the recipe. To be able to question these resolutions at conference is a rare right which our delegates enjoy and one which we should cherish and nurture.
This year, the NEC request for resolutions to be followed by a rejection of them all without adequate explanation, to be replaced with topics which take longer to read than the time a delegate will be allocated to speak to it, takes us to a new and unnecessary and frankly daft place. A cynic would suggest it is designed to thwart a groundswell for fundamental policy change.
The most successful and enduring political movements are those that take their members with them. Nicola Sturgeon’s admirable commitment to explain to Scotland virtually every day the Scottish Government’s actions during the pandemic is an object lesson in keeping your electorate on side. The NEC should take a lesson out of our First Minister’s book and remember that all members of it are the servants of all our members and are answerable to them.
If I’m elected as Policy Development Convener the only distillation required is that policy must advance us to and through the door of independence and appeal to the widest possible SNP membership and Scottish electorate.
ALYN Smith acted brilliantly for us when in the EU Parliament and, I think, would have served us better than as one of the ignored MPs in Westminster if he had instead become our main, continuing link with that institution.
However, instead of criticising Common Weal for standing supportive candidates, he should have realised that what these folk are working for IS in fact the “big stuff”, the things questions on the doorstep will be asked about and to which our representatives must have answers.
Moreover, the only way these issues will receive their due consideration in Holyrood, and be acted on, is by having MSPs committed to taking them forward, and at the moment there are important areas where that is not happening. In any case, is selecting candidates who support your views not the essence of democracy, as well as the basis of all campaigning?
YOUR article about the views of Alyn Smith worries me. Is he suggesting that only folk who agree with him should be allowed to stand as candidates? He seems concerned that there are groups who cross his mythical divide.
At times I think the biggest threat to independence is our own National Executive Committee.
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