KENNY MacAskill has called for members of the SNP to set up political organisations inside the party as he pressed the case for greater internal discussion.

The former Justice Secretary, pictured, below, said such groups were needed to facilitate debate particularly following the publication of the Growth Commission Report which set out on a new economic blueprint for independence.

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The SNP has not had any internal political groups since the early 1980s when they were outlawed under the leadership of the late Gordon Wilson. The ban was later lifted.

The party does have external facing organisations such as the SNP Trade Union Group and SNP CND but these are not designed as forums for internal policy discussion.

The National: Kenny MacAskill, former justice secretary

Labour has a raft of political groups inside the party including the Fabians, Compass and Progress, while the influential European Research Group is the best known Tory faction.

MacAskill along with Alex Salmond and Roseanna Cunningham was a member of the SNP’s 79 Group set up following the loss of nine of the party’s 11 MPs in the 1979 general election. It wanted the party to move to the left, arguing it would allow it to win more support.

But its existence was difficult for the party’s leadership under Wilson and its members were expelled. They were later readmitted but the group was disbanded and Wilson proscribed all such internal political groups.

“What the party needs is some debate, the Growth Commission is a clear example of that. How do you debate it? Do you debate it among thousands at a conference or hundreds at a National Assembly or do you allow groups to operate within the party,” MacAskill said. “The party shouldn’t be afraid of this, it should embrace it.”

He said the move would allow the party to channel debate positively. “It would be up to members to see what groups they wanted but you could have an array of groups. They could discuss where the party stands on the wider political spectrum, what does it mean to be socially democratic, how is that defined, should it be socialist, how does Scotland operate in a globalised world?”

He added any group seeking to “infiltrate or destabilise” would be precluded. Writing in The National, he also criticised the SNP headquarters operation saying it should be “doing more to step up door step campaigning including in Yes supporting areas”.SNP HQ has seemed incapable though of directing or channelling energies, leaving it to local branches,” he wrote.

“Strategically important door knocking with direct engagement has been lacking... It might hurt some to hear this but putting up a trestle table isn’t direct engagement as contact tends to be with the already converted.” He said improvements had been made since Keith Brown’s election as depute.

A SNP spokesman said it was not correct to suggest internal political groups are still proscribed and the party had been through variations of its constitution since Wilson was leader. He added there was provision in the rulebook for how associated organisations should be constituted.