Kindly reproduced with the permission of Robin McAlpine. It highlights the debt SNP members owe to those they elected to sort out the NEC but who then found the rules and procedures changed. Worse the appointed Business Convener sat by while they were verbally assaulted and abused by other ”appointed members” who resented that they had replaced their colleagues who the Conference had voted out. if you ever wondered why Alba was formed this had a lot to do with it.

SNP HQ’s counter-revolution

by Robin McAlpine | 26 Nov 2021As the SNP conference approaches, what happened to last years vote to reform the party? The answer is simple; the leadership didn’t want it.

As the SNP conference approaches, it’s hard not to dwell on what has happened in the last year as a result of last years’ conference. The picture is unedifying – to say the least.

Since 2008 the SNP has been undergoing a process of relentless centralisation, de-democratisation of the Party and accrual of power by HQ and the Leader’s Office. This has been something of a culture shock to long-term SNP members, because the SNP had traditionally been a highly democratic and member-driven party. So there was some pushback.

The form that the pushback took was that the SNP’s Common Weal Group put forward a slate of reform candidates at last year’s conference. The SNP CWG is simply a group of party members who want to encourage the Party to look at Common Weal policies and is (or rather was) entirely independent of the think tank Common Weal (though with good relationships).

The SNP CWG became the home of many of the Party’s independently-minded members and it was them who drove the idea of a ‘democratising slate’. All on the slate stood on the basis that they were going to work to reform the Party – return power to members, increase transparency, reduce control by HQ, make the Party’s complaints procedure work properly and so on.

They won overwhelmingly – the person elected to the NEC with by far the most votes was on the CWG slate. It was a stunning victory for Party democracy – and it caught the SNP hierarchy completely by surprise. The ill-natured response from perma-insider Alyn Smith was indicative of their attitude.

But the surprise didn’t last long. Within days of the outcome of the vote I was told reliably that there had been emergency summit meetings at Party HQ to work out how to undo the vote and make sure that it could never happen again. I discussed this with people at the time. Some said ‘I’m sure they’ll calm down’. But they didn’t.

A combination of procedural obstruction, rule-breaking, rule-changing and intense bullying has been pursued with vigour

Over the last year a combination of procedural obstruction, rule-breaking, rule-changing and intense bullying has been pursued with vigour by the SNP hierarchy. The shenanigans were endless – new members of committees were told that they were not allowed to call meetings of the Committee, only HQ could. But then HQ refused to (in contravention of the constitution) so meetings couldn’t happen formally.

When the members of the committee tried to meet informally they were told this was against the constitution and would not be recognised. People were refused crucial information they needed and were entitled to have. Decisions made by Committees were ignored. Committees that wanted to make proposals to the NEC which the leadership didn’t like were simply prevented from giving reports to meetings.

Senior figures would turn up at NEC meetings and, if there were agenda items they didn’t want to discuss, would have them put at the end of the agenda and then would ‘time out’ the meeting with long, sprawling presentations so the agenda item was never reached.

And the bullying was intense. Terms such as ‘terf’ or ‘white supremacist’ were thrown around at meeting. This is clearly against the members’ code of conduct, but complaints were simply ignored. The online bullying was relentless, all organised via the same ‘affiliated organisations’ who had been used to pack the NEC and prevent members from getting a majority say on the party.

At times the media jumped in on the attacks, referring to the feminists and socialists who’d just been elected as ‘reactionaries’ or worse. A number of those targetted (who were largely women) received direct confrontation in the street where they lived. Complaints to HQ about this were studiously ignored.

One resigned because she’d been forced to accept a decision against legal advice and feared liability. One resigned because her committee could not meet. A whole group of people resigned because of being prevented from seeing the financial information crucial for them to enact the role they were elected to. Others simply resigned because they couldn’t take the relentless attacks any more.

There was almost total attrition, with the people elected by conference largely replaced by the people they were elected to replace. There is no route of appeal, line of recourse or means of reviewing what happened to them because the people who were doing it were also the people in control of the entire party machinery.

To list exhaustively what happened is virtually impossible. The cynicism of the manipulation and ferocity of the bullying was so blatant – but who cares when the media seems little interested and there is no-one to stop you.

A year of total obstruction and punishment beatings has done its job – anyone not in the leadership clique is scared to step forward

Some of those involved swear they will never be involved in politics like this again. Some are simply so shaken by events that they are scared to put their heads up and say anything about it. And of course the people behind the ‘counter-revolution’ in the party are now trying to rewrite the rules once again to reduce the power of members such that member-led reform of the Party is simply impossible in future.

This year I had a brief conversation with someone who was thinking about standing for office this year. I was asked what I thought. I could only reply that I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. It proved impossible to get anything at all done and the toll it took on people’s wellbeing means I could never again encourage anyone in good faith to try and take on this machine from inside. It isn’t possible.

The results of this year of aggressive suppression of dissent is easy to see. For a party which supposedly has 120,000 members, they could only get 500 to their last conference. At this conference there are no nominations for 12 of the elected positions because there is only one candidate – people are afraid to step forward and challenge the chosen faces.

Another two positions on the NEC will not be balloted on at this conference because they received no nominations at all. Not a single member of the entire of Mid Scotland and Fife or South of Scotland region wants to stand for these positions. Another two places on committees are also not being voted on as there are no candidates.

This must surely be unprecedented in the history of the SNP. A year of total obstruction and punishment beatings has done its job – anyone not in the leadership clique is scared to step forward, afraid of the consequences or aware that they will be totally powerless.

This is the modern SNP, in the form it has been beaten into by the current regime. If this is the start of a new country or a ‘new politics’, god help us.


  1. Basically, the SNP has become a professional party with professional, managerial types in charge.

    “… The ill-natured response from perma-insider Alyn Smith was indicative of their attitude… ” Alyn Smith, along with several others, has been the most baleful influence on the SNP structure. He and his cohort occupy much of the space beneath the FM and her cohort, of which he is also a member, and he fancies himself as a successor to her, I’d imagine.

    In the end, how they managed to turn the party on its head is of lesser importance than stopping them in their tracks and preventing them from doing any more harm by turning back the clock, if possible. These monstrous egos are destroying Scotland from within, and, albeit it would be unwise to accuse any of them of being in the pay of Whitehall and the Thames Embankment, at least one or two of them must be, all things being equal.

    They appear to be a mix of gradualists par excellence, reality deniers and ruthless careerists, so close to the Labour model, you’d be hard-pressed to place a thin sheet of paper between them. Why is it that Labour, the Lib Dems and everyone else, including the SNP, have torn themselves asunder but the Tories never come close to losing hold of the party, although they might lose a few of the more decent types.

    Robin MacAlpine and Common Weal did a great job, but were ignored, by and large, and others have followed them with detailed and worked-out policy, to no avail either. It can only be that the leadership and much of the second and third tier, the civil servants, the SPADS and so on, are in thrall to the Union. It has gone way beyond any kind of caution and being wary of making costly mistakes into the realm of deliberate and very public takeover of the party reins to such an extent that no member really matters any more except as a conduit for cash – cash that is not spent in furthering Scotland’s independence.

    The truth must lie in the fact that the SNP hierarchy and its various arms have simply given up on independence and opted for devolution – although, even that is now under threat as the Tory one state/one nation concept takes hold – so, in the end, amalgamation into the Union must be the ultimate goal, as Scots disappear from the history books, their land and seas, and all the wealth therein, pass into the hands of the British State aka the UK aka England. Only a simpleton, or band of simpletons, could believe that leaving the Cambo oil in the sea bed is sane because England won’t leave it there. Needs must when the Devil drives, Nicola: you have brilliance all around you in people like Robin MacAlpine and his Common Weal, in Andy Wightman and many, many others; yet, you spit in their faces and tell them that the pandemic governs everything, while everyone else struggles against the pandemic and gets on with everything else, as well. When you were elected after your original succession, you were elected to take us to independence, that being the party’s core policy, not to create a totalitarian state.

    Liked by 19 people

    1. I was on the executive committee of London Branch when Alyn Smith (who at that time was working in London) joined. I (and I think everybody else) thought he was just what we needed. Personable, polite, hard-working, keen, well-versed in policy and procedural matters, quite the paragon. For many years I considered him a friend.

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Having looked back at this time in the light of subsequent developments, and having discussed this with the then convener, the best way to put this is, if you were an agent of the British state setting out to infiltrate a party of dissenters, this is exactly what you would look like.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “The truth must lie in the fact that the SNP hierarchy and its various arms have simply given up on independence and opted for devolution”

    I think that is what you can at least infer from what they say, Lorna. I would go forward and say these people currently in control of the SNP never sought independence in the first place and have been fooling us for 7 years pretending they were, in order to get our votes and remain in power.

    Did you take a look at Swinney’s pathetic speech during the conference?

    This bit is quite telling:

    “While the world’s eyes were on Glasgow looking for leadership on the climate emergency, what they saw instead was a Prime Minister repeatedly forced to deny that the UK is a corrupt country”

    The UK is not a country. Scotland is a country. The UK is a multicountry political union.

    If the SNP leadership see the UK as a country, they what exactly do they see Scotland as? England’s backyard?

    Liked by 16 people

    1. Yes, I tend to agree, Mia, that, from the referendum onwards, there has been no real appetite in the SNP hierarchy for independence, but I do think it was present before that. Even those who were still optimistic gave themselves over the GRA stuff. It has been one huge disaster for Scotland. I really don’t know that they thought they’d accomplish except the destruction of their party and their country. This is what I keep coming back to: if we could all see it, why couldn’t they, unless they just didn’t want to see it.

      Liked by 12 people

      1. I cannot say I noticed it before, in fact I am 100% sure that if Alex had not stood down we would now be independent and, unless and until, we get rid of the present hierarchy there will most definitely be no Independence, which is sad when you consider how long the true believers have been fighting

        Liked by 1 person

      2. orcadia 19: yes, I agree. I think that Brexit would have been the breaking point in that situation. However, the wholesale takeover of the party wouldn’t have happened either, I think. Nicola Sturgeon’s succession was the signal.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Iain,

    Thank you for continuing to publish articles by folk, SNP members many of them, describing and explaining what’s been happening in the higher (and often paid rather than voluntary) echelons of the SNP over the past few years which help to explain how the party has put its primary aim on the back boiler to pursue policies and propose legislation which have never received any mandate from members, branches and CAs.

    I should like to throw in an observation and suggestion for consideration by yourself and those with whom you campaign.

    Your readership has a good understanding of those who are referred in your posts as the “Woke” or “Wokerati” but most of us are getting on a bit and such a broad brush label risks alienating many folk under forty who are not active in organisations and who have no problems with half of the “Woke” agenda – like its environmentalism, anti racism, and promotion of equality, openness and accountability so criticism of the “woke” is not being fully appreciated and understood by GenX, Millennials and those younger in relation to what’s happening to democracy within the SNP.

    I mind when SWP entryists were active in the CND and a few other single issue campaigns of which I was a member in the eighties and I found the then SNP a safe haven from such mono causal determinism. In the Labour Party they were known as the Militant Tendency – a party within a party.

    Back in the day we never imagined that the elected office holders, paid party staff, councillors and MPs would form a party within a party ….. but in the case of the SNP that’s what is happening.

    Calling them the “Woke” or “Wokerati” might highlight their preference for identity politics over independence but as I said those labels include agendas with which most younger folk are comfortable.

    The unique selling proposition of those who are destroying the SNP and its goal of independence is not their identity politics but their ANTI-DEMOCRATIC TENDENCY so I diffidently suggest that such a moniker is always used, initially, with the word “Woke” and that in due course the word “Woke” be dropped and we just call them out for what they are ….. unless you believe that Angus Roberston is a true believer in identity politics rather than just an anti democratic professional politician.

    Another benefit of referring to the Anti Democratic Tendency of the SNP as such is that older journalists and columnists will remember the Militant Tendency from back in the day / from their hot youths and they might get what we are talking about and may start to use the phrase.

    Let me know what you and fellow campaigners for independence think.

    With best wishes from,

    Yours aye,

    Stuart Swanston

    7 Sciennes House Place Edinburgh EH9 1NN

    0131 668 3602

    PS BTW Whatever did happen to Simon Dee … sorry, I meant Tony Cliff?

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 7 people

    1. I would agree that many of those in the higher echelons of the SNP are probably cynically using the trans rights movement and of course,I would include Sturgeon in that. They realise that they can use the fanatical single-mindedness of that movement as support for their single issue and enlist that cult-like devotion. Likewise they can depend on many of the dewy-eyed youth voters who believe unthinkingly that trans rights are indivisible from the other worthwhile causes they wish to advance ( while seemingly oblivious to the encroachment on the rights of women.)

      Similarly, these youthful idealists seem unaware of the fact that Sturgeon and her loyalists have done little to advance social justice. The incongruity of supporting the SNP for its ‘wokeness’ regarding trans-rights while blind to the fact that the SNP has transmogrified itself into a right-wing careerist party that does nothing for Scotland, is dispiriting. What is probably happening is that gradually, youthful voters might be becoming quietly aware of the lack of genuine interest in social justice and are drifting away from politics just as happened with Labour. They might vote half-heartedly for them for the sake of the distant vision of ‘independence some time’ or for their one remaining belief in trans-rights.

      Unfortunately, as far as the young are concerned, other parties do not attract them, since they have become convinced by the propaganda and the ubiquity of the trans-rights illusion, that trans rights is the very quintessence of progressiveness. This will turn their face from such as Alba as, for them, it is contaminated by being on the wrong side of that iconic argument. Until they realise that the promotion of this belief system and its methodology is the very antithesis of democracy, then the SNP and its anti-democracy propagandists can keep the tide from turning against them.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. I am familiar with this argument but those who I criticise self describe themselves as Woke, then complain when they are called that. No doubt they do this in the hope people are intimidated to criticise them and they remain camouflaged.I hear what you say but within the SNP it is well known who is being targeted thanks to their own self description I would be concerned, at this stage of altering any term might lead to confusion and a loss of momentum.

      Liked by 11 people

    3. The woke agenda has become a pejorative term because it has been hi-jacked by a bunch of fraudsters. The environmentalism and anti-racism are a given with most folks who are even mildly liberal and progressive. The gender-obsessed element has, on the other hand, shown itself to be aggressive and dangerous, especially to women. These are the people who dominate the New SNP these days and they are the ones who we must resist.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The SNP’s 2021 independence campaign comprised of sending an ex-politician out for a day with a horsebox. It’s as incompetent as anything else they do.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. The ‘anything else they do’ involves running Scottish public-sector governance. Like hospitals and schools. They’re getting pretty scary.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Given that the counter-revolution shows all the signs of having been consolidated, were sufficiently large groups of angry ex-SNP, pro-democracy dissidents to show up outside Bute House, or indeed, at any of her public appearances shouting: Sturgeon, Sturgeon, Sturgeon—OUT! OUT! OUT!, could her media friends ignore such demonstrations forever? It’s doubtful. Given that she’s chosen and been allowed to publicly and presidentially personify the party for so long, has she not by her own efforts, made her self a legitimate target of protest?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. People need to start doing something like that. It would likely draw the attention of some of the media.


  7. It’s simply amazing the number of times that Sturgeon or one of her inner group make big promises and then quietly drop them without any explanation. It’s as if their grandiose commitments never happened. There’s never any explanation. Indyref, Brexit, Scottish Energy Company, the list just goes on and on. That they do this over and over and act as if that’s normal is just incredible. Fool me once stuff you’d think with voters.

    Now politicians lie a lot, but the SNP act as if tomorrow isn’t related to today in any way. It does make you wonder about the mental stability of people who can do that repeatedly without looking in any way ashamed. Lying as a political tool is hardly new. Machiavelli, writing in the 16th century, recommended that a leader should try to be honest, but lie when telling the truth “would place them at a disadvantage”.

    He also noted that people don’t like being lied to, but that a leader “who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.” That there are so many of them, seems to be the crux of the issue in Scotland right now.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. It seems to me that the equating of dissent with treason in any democratic system must itself be a form of treason. The SNP leadership’s actions make it clear that they don’t consider democratic systems to be worth supporting if they get in the way of the acquisition and exercise of power.

    From A C Grayling’s Democracy and its Crisis:

    “Machiavelli’s way of putting the point about lively debate, disagreement, and clashes of views and policies, together resulting in the health of the state, is a partial description of what a democratic order needs. Democracy is not just elections, and can sometimes even exist de facto without them; but essential to anything worthy of the name is the possibility of debate, freedom of expression and assembly, and a due process of law which protects people from arbitrary arrest and punishment, most especially in connection with matters of opinion.”

    The SNP leadership and its enthusiastic acolytes have been very busy in subverting its democratic systems along with the checks and balances that the party used to have, not to mention breaking the law and ignoring its own rules, and it simply isn’t possible that that leadership does not know that what they are doing is utterly unacceptable to any democrat ‘worthy of the name’. The only other party I know of currently suppressing or subverting or gerrymandering all forms of debate and dissension, restricting and/or banning marches and demonstrations, particularly near Parliaments, and breaking the law and ignoring its own rules, is the current Tory party running the UK Government.

    Thus we can now legitimately equate the SNP and the Tory Party as kith and kin.

    Liked by 5 people

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