IF newspaper reports are accurate, two big controversies will dominate next week’s SNP conference: the report of the Sustainable Growth Commission and how to implement transgender rights.

As non-SNP member I have no influence over the direction of SNP policy. That’s rightly for the members to decide. As an active member of the broader national movement for independence, however, I have a great interest in the decisions of the party that leads that movement.

And let me be clear from the outset on two points. First, if we are to win independence there needs to be a multiplicity of voices on the Yes side. The SNP may be the dominant force, but there are tens of thousands of activists and potential activists who do not carry SNP membership cards.

READ MORE: The key issues as SNP counts down to Spring Conference

Some belong to other parties; many more, including myself, belong to none. Our loyalty is not to any single strand, but to the overarching cause. And we’d like to see a less aggressive tone, not just towards No voters and undecideds, but towards each other. We may prioritise different policies, we may not always see eye to eye on tactics, and we definitely have competing visions. But none of these visions are likely be transformed into reality unless and until we clear that first hurdle of independence.

Which brings me to the second point. Anyone who believes that we can win independence in the next few years, or indeed anytime in the foreseeable future without a strong SNP presence is daydreaming. The Scottish Greens can bring people on board that are more wary of traditional nationalism. The socialist left – Rise, the SSP, the Radical Independence Campaign, Common Weal, the Jimmy Reid Foundation and others can make independence credible to the younger and more left-wing sections of the working class. Women for Independence and other more focused groups have reached out and persuaded people who might otherwise have been hesitant.

But let’s be honest here – the SNP have credibility and authority among the mass of the population that the other groups just do not have. And their reach stretches across the social spectrum from the poorest housing schemes and the lowest-paid workers right to affluent professionals, small business people and even some elements in the highest income brackets. It’s an astonishing balancing act – and for the party to be able to win landslide victories in council by-elections in places such as working-class Leith after 12 years in power is impressive, especially at a time when local government budgets are being seriously squeezed.

Of the two big headline issues of next week’s conference, I don’t want to say anything about transgender rights other than to welcome the fact that the party is actually having a debate on this issue. There seems to be broad agreement within progressive parties across the UK in support of transgender equality – but there is an impassioned debate over how to ensure that equality for transgender people does not impact on the rights of women, including those from specific ethnic backgrounds and religious communities.

I hope the SNP can have a respectful debate that will set the tone for the wider debate in Scottish society.

The National:

Similarly, the debate over the Sustainable Growth Commission. Writing in The National at the weekend, the First Minister drew on all her powers of persuasion to robustly defend the broad principles set out by Andrew Wilson’s commission.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: This plan is ambitious AND credible – it can win us independence

Unlike some on the left I don’t interpret the report as a right-wing, neo-liberal manifesto. The term neo-liberalism is not clearly defined, but for most people it refers to the economic policies developed by Thatcher and Reagan in the 1980s which drove forward mass privatisation, deregulation of big business and financial markets, restrictions on trade union freedoms, social security cuts, reductions in corporation taxes and top rates of income tax, and a conscious dismantling of national and local government by slashing public spending.

None of these policies are explicitly advocated by the Sustainable Growth Commission. Whether a future SNP government chooses to go down that road remains to be seen. Given Scotland’s social-demographic and political history that seems to me highly unlikely. To be taken seriously the socialist left has to develop a rigorous and measured critique of the SNP’s economic priorities rather than indulge itself in invective that is at best meaningless and at worst seriously misleading.

I have my own criticisms of the report, not so much because of what it says but because of what it fails to say. It’s vague and, as Nicola Sturgeon says, “non-prescriptive” – in contrast to the White Paper, which, in my opinion was far too prescriptive. It’s also uninspiring. Yet as illustrated by the recent research on alternative ways of funding local government carried by Unison, the Jimmy Reid Foundation and two respected academic economists, there is a lot of imaginative and radical thinking going on. Some of the most thoughtful, cutting-edge research organisations developing new ideas were never consulted by the Sustainable Growth Commission.

A whole range of business-dominated organisations were invited to take part in the consultation, including CBI Scotland, the Institute of Directors, the Scottish Chamber of Commerce, Entrepreneurial Scotland, Scotland-IS, Scottish Engineering, Scottish Renewables, Scottish Food and Drink, the Scottish Property Federation, Business for Scotland and more.

But no trade unions? Even though there are 700,000 trade union members in Scotland? Why not women’s organisations? Why Business for Scotland but not Women for Independence?

And why no anti-poverty charities? Why no environmental or nature conservation organisations? Not even Scottish Environment Link, the respected umbrella body that brings together 35 organisations which have among them hundreds of thousands of members.

Rather than scrap the Sustainable Growth Commission, I’d constructively suggest that the SNP might want to establish a Social and Environmental Justice Commission, carrying the same status as the Growth Commission, with a different range of organisations contributing, who might look at Scotland’s future through a different prism and bring forward ideas that will galvanise and mobilise a far wider range of people.

Yes, some people need to be reassured that independence will mean continuity. But there are still many others who need to be inspired that independence will also be transformative.