THE INSIDE STORY

CONTROL AND THE CONSTITUTION   

A guest post from Dot Jessiman.

Thoughts on a  Year on the NEC

I came to the NEC with high hopes .   I believed the initiative of introducing regional representatives to the NEC as a direct link between leadership and grassroots would input doorstep experience  directly into campaign strategy, producing different emphases in organising for rural and urban areas, supply appropriate campaign material , and improve the appalling communication between the campaign strategists, HQ and the constituencies which had cost the northeast almost all of its rural seats in the 2016 General Election.  

  I hoped I could contribute my experience as a Programmer to tackle the tardy organisation, particularly of candidate selection.   However, it never crossed my mind that more was needed than a thorough overhaul of campaign thinking to ensure we could supply the focus and efficiency required  by THE campaign we were assured was coming.     I was concerned, but not seriously, by the lack of a strategic framework for IndyRef2 which relied too heavily on our opponents’ mistakes to make our case and at the total lack of discussion of the Party’s main goal of independence. But I set aside the first Saturday of every month  and waited  for my papers to arrive.   And I waited.     And I waited.   No NEC  input to the General Election campaign apparently  required but, OK, on the basis of General Election now, Holyrood next and IndyRef in 2020 who cared?

Between January and March when Coronovirus understandably suspended all  meetings until the June Zoom, doubts were emerging.      The abandonment of IndyRef in 2020 (now we had produced a good Election result? surely not).   No honesty about the dangers of sole reliance on Section 30.    The Agenda confined to the Candidate Selection Timetable and Rules, dominated by dialogue between the Minority affiliated groups and the relevant Conveners on the terms required to produce  what they considered to be  adequate “equality mechanisms”.   The degree of central control the NEC should  exert on the Constituencies to ensure the application of their decisions including the right to instruct constituency officers arranging hustings to ignore obligation of organisational neutrality.   Significantly given past problems, no time slots were earmarked for the NEC preliminary decisions or for vetting, and no discussion of  campaign strategy and campaigning.  

  This Agenda, applied throughout the year, was clearly leading to a creeping centrality , concealed by the confidentiality rule, with power concentrated in the hands of those showing little signs of  recognising the needs of active campaigning while  ignoring the membership’s absolute priority of independence.   The dual mandate decision using unconstitutional voting procedures in a secret ballot with 5/6 potential candidates voting without declaring an Interest demonstrated that, where minority interests and central control  clashed with the Constitution, Standing Orders and even decent behaviour , it was the Constitution that went to the wall with the National Secretary, the guardian of the Constitution,   ignoring protests and denying guidance.

Political parties can attract some pretty ambitious and power hungry operators – particularly  spectacularly successful ones like the latter-day SNP.      The Constitution which lays down precisely how we conduct business to balance the democratic rights and priorities of members with the leadership requirements for political success; which reconciles the needs of individuals and the collective needs of the Party is not, quite definitely not, optional.     Erode it and you end with short term chaos and long term corruption for experience shows that  contraventions unchecked lead too often to another ,and then another with all the consequent division and lack of focus on the political priorities that division entails.       

 The operative word is “unchecked” .      Normally this would mean discussion at Conference.   But resolutions which Constituencies have sweated over  to suggest actions  to solve problems encountered  on the way to Indyref2 have been replaced by pages of flabby banalities for the delegates to sell to the activists,  to the wider Yes movement and  even more importantly to the Scottish electorate.      Resolutions  where the clear wishes of the membership to check the erosion I have described and reassert the old well-tried balance which has brought us thus far as a disciplined party,  have been met by Conference Committee interpreting its remit creatively  to decant not one or two motions but a whole large batch over to a long term body which , however useful, has unlike Conference, no binding authority and is due to reach its conclusions, conveniently for the centrists, post-Holyrood.   

Whether the delegates will decide to use the rules of debate to ensure a more constructive outcome to Conference remains to be seen .      But if they are determined to re-establish the Constitutional stability needed  for focus on effective campaigning the only route left to them `is the ballot box  and voting for those committed to certain principles. I believe they are:

1.  Re-establish IndyRef as the Party’s first priority through an NEC initiative to establish a working group to explore all potential and legitimate routes to independence with recommended strategies.

2.  Transparency and Accountability.    Open and recorded votes on all matters,  declaration of interests mandatory.   Minutes normally made available to Constituencies.   Recognition of regional members’   need to consult and inform.

3.  Strict adherence to the Constitution.    Support for the Deputy Leader’s  review of Governance with a recommendation that next year’s Conference be asked to agree transferring the seats for minority groups to a new advisory Committee.

 4.  Review the vetting and selection procedures to return powers to Constituencies to select candidates, arrange selection meetings and voting.  Reassert the requirement of organisational neutrality.   Reverse the dual mandate decision effectively barring MPs from contesting Holyrood.​

5. Set up a group under the Organisation Convener to liaise with regional committees to produce a campaign plan to achieve a majority SNP Parliament in May and for continuing to IndyRef2 .      ​​​​​​​​​​​

6. Ensure Elected Officers and HQ provide a first class service to members with rapid response to queries and requests.  

Independence is now within our grasp based on the work of thousands of activists  who were/are prepared to fight, the establishment, the media, the scepticism of their fellow Scots.   The Constitution, with its emphasis on democratic control by the membership, is strict but just rules for our behaviour in conduct and debate has always given us the stability and discipline needed to focus on the job in hand.       It is no coincidence that all of the signs of “divisiveness” now surfacing  revolve round erosion or contravention of the Constitution.      We must  re-impose uncompromising respect and use the stability that would give to the last major fight that faces us.  Its up to you!

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20 thoughts on “THE INSIDE STORY

  1. Absolutely spot on Dot. The constitution has been neglected in favour of the view of !minority groups within the NEC and by their own admission, by some, their first goal is promoting their own vested interests not independence.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Hear hear.
    Of course people in Scotland have a spectrum of opinion on everything, as do people elsewhere in the UK.
    However I have no doubt that the distributions of these opinions are differently shaped.
    The first and most important thing to do is to secure independence so that the governance of the country can reflect this.
    Then we can argue about the details. It’s maddening to see the SNP turning into the People’s Front of Judea.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I remain perplexed by Nicola Sturgeon’s silence. It would not take much for her to to tactfully say to the membership there are a few problems and she is addressing them. The fact she does not, makes me wonder if the woke brigade have something on her?

    Nicola’s speech at conference may serve as a directional catalyst.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Let’s get out of this corrupt union . Focus on that everything else is a wast of time and energy

    Like

  5. The current power grab has all the hallmarks of Labour of old. The size of the NEC is ridiculous and needs addressing as a matter of urgency. Far too many vested interests are exerting undue influence.
    Its important that the Party has input from all sectors within Society but these can be exercised through advisory sub committees. Whose construct should be through elected representation either from Local or Regional Branches. Appoint an elected NEC member to act as liaison between the sub committees, establish a joint coordinating committee made up of the convenors/chairs of these sub committees to ensure areas of commonality are able to be addressed and prosecuted.
    Conference should be the sovereign body of the Party, with NEC charged with executing the agreed policy of Conference and day to day management of the Party. No changes to electoral procedures should be made unless Conference has agreed it and only then for the coming year.
    All interests should be declared where the NEC member voting has one and it should be openly recorded within the minutes ahead of a vote.
    No vote should be secret and must be minuted. As with parliamentary voting a record of who voted FOR/AGAINST should be recorded. This provides transparency and accountability.
    Labour is being destroyed by the in fighting through factional influences, the fact Labour in Scotland has lost its influence has seen the shift of these factions into the SNP and if allowed to continue on this path of unregulated influence it will bring the Party down and destroy the aim of an Independent Scotland.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Scotbruce@ 9.48
    I think the point is the current leadership along with the NEC are NOT focused on getting out of this corrupt union, as Dot highlights. Too many cliques and factions pursuing their own agenda with Independence way down the list.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Thank you Dot for taking the time to draft this thoughtful, informative and timely blog that sets out the areas that all democratic members need to bear in mind as we push forward to secure the desperately needed change.

    This conference is the starting gun for that change.

    So let us all question assiduously of those who would report before us.

    And in our voting this weekend, let us make our voice loud and clear in our choices.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. There is a private group ‘Conference 2020 Chat’ on Messenger. See this post 10/11/20 from Chris Hanlon on SNP Members for Independence FB page –

    [Further Update, I’ve started a chat for everyone that has clearly indicated they want to take part. If you’ve not seen it can you check in ‘Message Requests’ in Messenger as you may have to accept my request before you see that chat.]

    [Update, if you want to be included in a group chat to talk about Conference out of the public eye just edit your post to say so.]

    I wonder if, in preparation for party Conference, we could all post in this thread if we have registered to attend as voting delegates?

    It would be really useful to know just how big a voting block the members of this group represent.

    We really need to make a concerted effort to coordinate our efforts this time around if we are to achieve our objectives.

    (Running total: 80 BS)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Interesting post from Dot Jessiman. The NEC needs to rid itself of all hangers-on who put other issues above Scotland’s independence.

    And what about Westminster-appointed civil servants in Holyrood? It’s likely they are all pro-union. Can the Holyrood government dismiss any of them if it’s proved they have deliberately undermined any Holyrood government policy?

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I like many others believe in the rule of law and proper process. We abandon them at our peril. We as a party are failing the basic tenets of good governance. We must change and that can only come through the election of a competent and ‘professional’ NEC. Delegates bear a heavy responsibility to do their homework and vote accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Good zoom chat with Corri Wilson tonight. Her take is much the same as Dot’s re the problems and solutions, especially the constitution. Other contributors identified lack of delegate homework and unquestioning trust. Well its quite reasonable to trust folk on your side, hence the sharp exit of so many on realisation their trust was betrayed. Wont get us anywhere though. Stay and put it right by voting the indy-focused back in. Make sure your branch delegates are well informed. Again, here’s the list that Alyn hates:

    Allison Graham
    Amanda Burgauer
    Brian Lawson
    Caroline Keenan
    Caroline McAllister
    Catriona MacDonald
    Chris McEleny
    Chris Hanlon
    Ciaran McRae
    Corri Wilson
    Cynthia Guthrie
    David Henry
    Delia Henry
    Dot Jessiman
    Douglas Chapman
    Dylan Roberts
    Ellen McMaster
    Frank Anderson
    Gordon Miller
    Graeme McCormick
    Joan Hutcheson
    Joanna Cherry
    John Green
    Kate Monaghan
    Kenny McLaren
    Kirsteen Currie
    Laura Mitchell
    Lynne Anderson
    Morgwn Davies
    Munro Ross
    Neale Hanvey
    Robert de Bold
    Robert Thomson
    Roger Mullin
    Rory Steel
    Sameeha Rehman
    Susan Katherine Sanders
    William Mills

    Liked by 1 person

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