MORE than 50 young SNP activists are opposing plans being developed by the party’s defence spokesman for a volunteer “resilience force” to be established to help the NHS deal with any future pandemic or emergency situation such as a terror attack.

Some 52 members of Young Scots for Independence (YSI) have signed an open letter, published in today’s Sunday National, which raises concerns with Stewart McDonald’s proposals.

They believe the initiative runs counter to the SNP’s opposition to unpaid work trials and its support for a real living wage for all workers. They argue the most effective way to prepare for any future crisis is investment in the service and its paid staff.

Catriona MacDonald, a member of YSI who is among the signatories to the letter, appealed to McDonald, the SNP MP for Glasgow South, to withdraw the proposal which she believed resembled a national service style scheme for young people.

READ MORE: Here's the Young SNP activists' letter to Stewart McDonald in full

MacDonald, who is the secretary of the SNP’s Morningside branch, and was the general election candidate for Edinburgh South last year, said those opposed to the plan would reject it if it went to the SNP’s conference.

“We would urge him to drop it,” she told the Sunday National.

“Our response would depend very much on how it is taken forward. As it stands currently we would oppose the proposal if it came to conference.”

MacDonald said the signatories to the letter were writing as YSI members and it was not penned as a YSI initiative.

“Young SNP activists have historically been very against militarisation – particularly of young working class men,” she added.

“People also feel very strongly, particularly now, about protecting the NHS and the NHS’s professionalism ... and we need to make sure resources for the NHS and public services are protected. We are not happy with staffing our NHS with unpaid workers. Our NHS staff are very experienced, they’re skilled, have done considerable training and have a level of professionalism we would expect and require.”

MacDonald said she saw considerable benefit in community volunteering schemes and was taking part in the Scottish Government’s Ready Scotland initiative to help support vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “We certainly value the type of community solidarity in the Ready Scotland scheme, but our NHS is not a charity, people have to be fairly paid for the work they are doing.”

McDonald unveiled his proposal last week suggesting that under the plans school leavers, graduates, the retired and people taking career breaks would be offered incentives to sign up for the scheme. Volunteers would train for six months in exchange for tax incentives and UCAS points to help them get into universities.

Signatories to the open letter published in the Sunday National include prominent young SNP activists on the left of the party including Rory Steel, Jim Wyke, Craig Berry, Valentina Servera Clavell and Councillor Cameron McManus.

In an article in the Times last week McDonald said any comparison between his scheme and National Service, which was halted in the UK in 1960, was misplaced.

“The pandemic has shown us the need to rethink national security and human security,” he said. “The answer isn’t national service but a modern way of engaging our fellow citizens to deliver the resilience needed to meet modern threats and challenges.

“This is not about training people in weaponry or arms but improving our very good resilience network that exists in Scotland.”

He added: “If there’s a job for them at the end of that within the health service, the police or fire service then great ... However, if they want to go to university that year’s training could count for some UCAS points.

“If they are going into work you could give them a tax incentive of some kind. If you have someone who wants to take a career break they could leave their job for six months or a year and train them in national resilience and national security.”

McDonald said the open letter misunderstood his proposal and that its claims were not true.

He referred the paper to an article he had written in yesterday’s National.

Writing there he explained why he believed there was a need for a resilience force and that it could be developed from the Ready Scotland model.

“While we have been good as a party and as a movement at identifying the small, Northern European countries we want to emulate as a healthier, wealthier and fairer independent Scotland, security has not often played a part in that discussion. I’ve always found that odd, not least because they are amongst the most resilient populations on the planet,” he said.

“Ready Scotland, and the rest of our resilience infrastructure, is unique in the UK and has been the subject of much interest by many outside Scotland who appreciate the need for the UK Government to be similarly proactive.

He added: “The prospect of independence therefore, allows us to consider what we could do to build upon that, and the lessons from our Northern European neighbours point to a concept of security where everybody, not just a remote military establishment, plays their part.”