The morning after Scotland’s independence referendum was a bleak one, and for a fleeting few hours many of us contemplated some very difficult times ahead for the SNP and the independence movement.

Yet something extraordinary happened that day – something that would give us hope. Across Scotland people were joining the SNP in their thousands.

The members who joined us that day saved the SNP, and saved the cause of independence. We were down, but not out. And the SNP would never be the same again.

We had gone from a pretty standard sized party to a mass movement for independence in a matter of hours.

That context is important when considering the debate almost six years later about the internal workings and governance of the SNP, which has been the subject of much scrutiny over the past few days.

It’s also important to consider the extraordinary number of elections that have taken place since 2014. As the SNP grappled with its phenomenal size, there was very little time to reflect as we headed straight into a Westminster election in 2015 – with the most staggering of results.

We then entered the Scottish Parliament election cycle for 2016 and had to deal with the EU referendum immediately afterwards. But there was no let up, as 2017 had not only the Council elections to contest but also a snap Westminster election thrown in to boot. 

As the process of internal reform started to take shape, along comes the EU election and another snap Westminster election.

Quite rightly, as you would expect of a political party, our focus has been on campaigning and winning elections, and not internal party reform.

That’s not to say there haven’t been party members like us advocating for internal reform throughout, and that there hasn’t been pretty significant constitutional and rule changes in the interim period.

In fact, we’re just starting to get to grips with how these changes operate in practice now. It’s fair to say that some changes have been more successful than others, and we need to consider how we can make further improvements.

We must always reflect on what we can do better and then act.

We believe that one area of party governance that needs further reform is that of the National Executive Committee (NEC).

The recent process of reform saw many positions added to the NEC, without reform of the Committee itself.

The result has been creation of a body that is simply too big to function as effectively as it should, and we need to rethink the structure of the NEC.

There are various reforms you could consider, and we would welcome a vibrant and constructive debate about how to make the NEC more effective, transparent and accountable.

One option might be to drastically reduce the size of NEC, and have more of our National Office Bearers directly elected by the entire membership, and not just Conference delegates.

We already do this to elect our Leader and Depute Leader. We would need to put in place internal campaign platforms for these elections to ensure, for example, that local activists are not ignored in favour of those who have made a name for themselves on social media.

Of course, democracy costs and even predominately electronic ballots will cost the party money – funds that we could be spending on campaigning. So perhaps we could ask people to serve two or three year terms on NEC.

A longer tenure would also allow members to build up knowledge and experience in their roles, and ultimately help them to positively shape decisions.

We don’t want to lose the input of regional representatives or affiliated organisations, so perhaps they could sit alongside a smaller NEC as an advisory body, and send a representative to NEC, with both committees coming together quarterly to discuss key strategic and policy issues in the party.

There may be flaws with the suggestions above, but let’s have the debate.

With a smaller, more focused governing body directly elected by members, NEC could be more effective and would definitely be more accountable to the wider membership. But it’s also vital to increase transparency.

Publishing an outcome of the decisions taken at each NEC meeting, on the internal SNP website and sending that to Branch and Constituency Association office bearers, would make a huge difference.

Members are entitled to be informed about NEC’s decisions, but it also prevents a vacuum of information, that invariably becomes filled with inaccurate speculation and even wilder conspiracy theories.

You can contribute your own thoughts to this process by contacting your own regional NEC representatives. As part of the most recent changes there are now two representatives from each of the eight Scottish Parliament regions.

For example, Alex is one of the Glasgow NEC representatives so his role is to take soundings from our members about their views and push for the change they want to see. Everyone will have representatives in their area. You can also get in touch directly with us.

The key thing is that these changes will go through a democratic process and be decided on after vigorous debate at our annual conferences. As it should always be, the members will decide.

As previous and current members of NEC, we can see the opportunity to reform the party’s governing body – one that retains the essence of what the SNP has always stood for and continues to do so.

And that’s democracy. It’s what we want for our country, and why we dedicate ourselves to securing independence. We must retain the soul of the party going forward, but nostalgia doesn’t deliver progress and we need a radical rethink about what the SNP of 2020 needs to deliver a winning independence campaign.

Julie Hepburn is a former member of the SNP's NEC.

Alex Kerr is a current member of the SNP's NEC.