This article was originally published on Wings Over Scotland. The NEC meets today to determine very important issues. NEC Members would do well to read Chris’s article before they do.

If voting made a difference they wouldn’t let you do it” is one of many quotes that are regularly misattributed to Mark Twain

However, the sentiment could very much be used to sum up the current management of the Scottish National Party. 


After much debate on the significance of last year’s NEC internal election results it appears that not much has changed. I was aghast to find out recently that in one of its first acts, the new NEC unilaterally approved swingeing changes to its standing orders. 

Now, I know that for many people, political parties’ standing orders may not be the most exciting topic you’ve read about but they’re a vital set of instructions paramount for the good governance of any internal functioning. 

As a universal general principle, no organisational entity can change its own standing orders – to allow it to do so would create the possibly that it could start to act outwith the remit it’s been delegated to carry out. 

In the case of the SNP, our supreme decision making body is our National Conference, not the NEC. Changing the standing orders of the party is at the prerogative of party members via the party conference. 

Of course, this isn’t normally controversial. Previously conference was asked to approve changes to the standing orders of the Westminster group, and did so. But importantly, the Westminster group didn’t just unilaterally approve the changes they desired, as they knew that to do so would have been ultra vires by the constitution of the party. 

Why does any of this matter? It matters because when a party faces allegations of nearly £600,000 of ring-fenced fundraiser money gone missing, claims that the party’s Chief Executive has perjured himself in front of a parliamentary inquiry (and ordinary members’ money is paying for the lawyers who are trying to get him out of it), and today’s Sky News exposé alleging serious and malicious corruption amongst senior party officials, ordinary members have to be more certain now than ever that the body we elect to run our party is upholding its duty of scrutiny. 

And the simple truth is that it isn’t. 

Last night we learned, via social media, that there’s to be an NEC meeting tomorrow to agree a new definition of transphobia. We also learned from social media that this was the first members of the NEC had heard about the meeting itself, never mind that this major new item was to be added to the agenda. 

Party standing orders dictate that NEC members must have no less than seven days notice of an agenda, and any late item can only be added to the agenda with the approval of two thirds of the membership.

It doesn’t appear that Kirsten Oswald and Keith Brown sought that approval before issuing a public statement on the matter yesterday.

It has been put to me that the likelihood is that the statement was drafted by Ian McCann, the party’s Corporate Compliance Manager, and the first Kirsten Oswald and Keith Brown would’ve seen of the statement was when they too read it on Twitter. It’s been common practice over the past five years that unelected party staff members have been acting on behalf of the party’s elected officials without their prior knowledge or approval. 

Party members have pointed out to me that the NEC simply doesn’t have the authority to agree to a new policy that will be used to take disciplinary action against people who believe in biological sex – that too is supposed to be a matter for conference to decide.

The SNP’s former Westminster depute leader has even told us that this new procedure will be applied retrospectively against party members who have expressed concerns about, or publicly discussed, issues such as the ill-advised gender reform policy.

I’d have thought that if nothing else we would have learned by now in the party that we should not be using retrospective procedures to try to falsely smear and censure people in our own party who have been adjudged in some way “problematic”. 

However, what we can be sure about is that anyone that has said, or believes that transwomen are not women, or that women are adult human females, would be censured under this new policy if the NEC approves it – and one of the new unilateral changes to their standing orders is that they’ve given themselves the authority to do so. 

And it doesn’t stop there. Readers will remember the farcical voting system that was used to block Joanna Cherry MP from contesting the Edinburgh Central seat, when the party of government used a SurveyMonkey poll to skew the results of a vote on dual mandates.

(Bizarrely, despite this online tool providing instant results – as anyone that’s ever been on a parent council and voted for the colour of next year’s PE kit will attest to – it reportedly took Mr McCann 45 minutes to “tally” the votes.)

But in yet another change to the standing orders, the Business Convener now has the unilateral power to determine the method and manner of voting. I can find no example of any other organisation where a convener can decide how a vote should be carried out. All other organisations set out exactly how votes should be conducted.

(Fundamentally, the NEC should mirror how party conference operates, but on an executive scale.)

This is a hugely significant change, made without any reference to the party’s proper decision-making procedures. Imagine for a moment Donald Trump had wanted to use voting systems that were different in Georgia than they were in Florida, based on the system he thought would best suit him? He would’ve won the election with that power. 

Kirsten Oswald can now choose, without any sort of oversight or challenge, whether crucial party matters should be decided by STV, FPTP, SurveyMonkey, Greco-Roman wrestling or a quick game of musical chairs. 

Considering that there only needs to be a one-third attendance of NEC members for a meeting to proceed, and that meetings are being called at weekends with less than 48 hours’ notice, and that the voting system used is now at the sole discretion of one individual, forgive me if I tell you that with my decade of experience of committees and standing orders, these are moves I do not trust to be an effective means of ensuring transparency and good governance.

Doubtless there will be those who’ll say that internal matters like these should be kept private within the party. But perhaps they should tell that to the Leader, the Depute Leader and the Business Convener of the party, all of whom have taken to social media in the last couple of days to talk about internal party business.

Democracy and fairness demand that those of us that do not agree with them must be able to debate them on the field they have chosen without fear of sanction. 

Today this is about a new definition on “transphobia” that I fear the party leadership wish to use to placate their base, selectively sanction or even expel certain internal rivals, and create a distraction from the elephant in the room that’s being completely ignored by our NEC – the shocking claims that the SNP’s most senior staff have been involved in a criminal conspiracy. Tomorrow, who knows what else?

I urge every member of our National Executive Committee this weekend to uphold our constitution, as they agreed to do when they were elected. 

And to those in the party leadership who are turning a blind eye to behaviour that would’ve made Shakespeare blush when he wrote Hamlet, let me remind you of a quote Mark Twain actually did say: 

“In America we have a privilege other countries don’t have.When a thing gets unbearable people can get rid of it at the ballot box”

Christopher McEleny is a SNP constitutional expert. 

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I wish to make only one comment in response to Chris’s article and that is to highlight the absolute folly of making decisions like these at a meeting that is clearly in breach of the Party rules and therefore unconstitutional. This is hugely dangerous both for the Party and the individual NEC members which could result in them, both the Party and individuals being legally open to challenge, should anyone be expelled for instance. As I understand it there is no guarantee in place that protects individual liability in these circumstances. Folk would be wise to be very careful what they do today.


  1. I am in despair! Where has my party gone? It seems to have been hijacked by people I thought I knew but obviously don’t. I joined to gain independence and I find that we are embroiled in matters that would have been better served by waiting until Scotland is independent. These arguments and the Fabbiani inquiry may indeed see us lose our chance of independence. If that happens, I for one will be out of the Party as there will be no cause to fight for.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. If something massive doesn’t happen before the election then we’re in serious trouble, I’m praying a certain person makes a comeback leading one of the indy parties or that the SNP announce the election will be a plebiscite, that at least would focus the disenfranchised. if neither of these happen then I see the SNP winning the election but with a minority which I suspect would be the preferable outcome for them, but indy will be lost at least for a decade.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Iain

        Its hard not to despair of our party when reading this. It was good of Chris to highlight it. Surely the majority of SNP MPs, MSPs etc, don’t want this! It is time for them to fight back! The ordinary members can only do so much and that ends with leaving the party.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Iain are there no mechanisms within the SNP constitution to force an emergency conference or special meeting. Also when is the new treasurer goung to speak out on the finances?


  2. Reblogged this on Ramblings of a now 60+ Female and commented:
    I’m more positive than ever that the State is behind all of what’s happening in the SNP. 2014 gave them a real scare and that fear has only increased. Their divide and conquer strategy is in full view now.


  3. Not by me Iain, I cancelled my membership yesterday. My leaving won’t affect Scottish Independence either way. There are two reasons I left. The first is that I didn’t want to be a party to the re-running of a playbook where contemporary themes, namely MeToo and Transphobia are exploited for political purposes. Secondly it simply isn’t worth the risk even for ordinary members of no importance like myself to be in an organisation where you cannot speak freely.

    The complaints process signed off by the first minister in 2017 is tainting absolutely everything the SNP Government do and it needs to be resolved.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I will probably remain a member and take stock after May. Certainly not going to be donating until I know the finances.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tbh I’ve remained a member thus far, no longer primarily to campaign for people to:
    – vote for independence (can do that outside the SNP)
    – vote for the SNP (at present? Really?)
    But to campaign against the take over of Scotland, from many directions, by criminal mafia.

    I don’t care, and will likely never know, to what degree they’re ‘in it together’. And to what degree acting alone or in small cliques, probably both.

    We’re responsibile for our OWN actions, and inactions.

    Any NEC member going along with unconstitutional processes, is colluding.

    Any elected rep or paid staff member aware, and not putting in a recorded complaint & whistleblowing, is colluding.

    As an individual member in poor health I am limited in my energy. I read up before conference. I voted the new NEC. I didn’t doze off in complacency. I expect rescue, repairs and recovery to take time and cost ‘reputational damage’, embarrassment and loss of some prominent personnel. I cannot email numerous complaints to every elected rep or official.

    But several issues must be bringing the party close to a point of being de-listed by the electoral commission, let alone investigated by the police for alleged fraud?
    – CEO, and some others, unsuspended in current criminal suspicion
    – Lack of proof that strongly suspected financial fraud has been addressed
    – Constitution of the organisation not adhered to by governing body (NEC),
    OR governing body (Conference) failing to address such non-adherence by their delegated committee (NEC). To the potential(!) detriment of the wider mass membership – AND THE ELECTORATE – which the electoral commission is supposed to protect.


  6. The attacks on democracy continue by people who might be certifiably insane. My branch of the SNP has scheduled a Both Votes SNP. At the moment they would have difficulty in persuading me to cast either vote for the SNP.


  7. The insanity and illegality of the NEC will make 2016 ‘safe’ majorities melt like snow off a dyke. Whilst circling the wagons they’re tightening the noose. Their own.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I should hope that at least one member of the NEC seeks an immediate interim interdict to prevent the new rule being enforced upon the NEC until its competence and constitutionality has been decided by Judicial Review and then referred to the National Conference of the SNP..

    Liked by 3 people

  9. With each new revelation the SNP under Sturgeon is being revealed as ever more Stalinist. The “vetting” of candidates to weed out party rivals, the expulsion of members and MPs on trumped-up grounds, the rigging of votes, Party HQ control over communications to members and between branches …… it goes on and on. Time for the ordinary SNP members to revolt a new topple this poisonous clique.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The silence from the vast majority of members along with MSPs and MPs suggest that they approve of these shenanigans.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Unless the MSM report the shenanigans most of the membership won’t know about them. Most members are probably not aware of Wings, Craig Murray and the other bloggers who’ve been covering this scandal. As for the MPs and MSPs I think the Sturrells have created such a climate of fear that they’re all reluctant to be the first to speak up unless they can be sure of the others’ support.

        At the 1956 Conference of the Soviet Communist Party Khrushchev denounced the crimes of the deceased Stalin. After Khrushchev read out a lengthy list of Stalin’s crimes there was a shout from the audience of Party delegates:
        Anonymous voice: What were you doing during all this?
        Khrushchev angrily: Who said that?
        Khrushchev: That’s what I was doing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They should be ashamed of themselves, they betray all the real Independence supporters and the huge number of patriots who have passed on. They must be birling in their graves. Shameful.


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