ON Saturday, the First Minister did an interview with the BBC in which she called for SNP members to put aside internal disputes and “focus on what matters to people” ahead of next year’s Holyrood election. She added that if voters ever thought the SNP were “focusing on their own agendas and engaging in infighting” it would be disastrous for the movement.

Of course, the FM is right. If internal division subsumes the movement – any movement – we are doomed. However, that does not mean the manifest differences over strategy and tactics inside the SNP have been invented or can be wished away by moral injunction.

A better course would be to seek some practical compromises that allow the movement to unite and move forward. In that spirit, let me offer some proposals.


THE party’s NEC has caused a right stooshie by (effectively) banning dual electoral mandates. This has prevented MP Joanna Cherry from seeking the nomination for the Edinburgh Central seat at next year’s Scottish Parliament election.

Alyn Smith, an NEC member himself, then caused uproar by suggesting the national executive needs reforming – again! He suggested the NEC had been “captured” by special interests – namely BAME, disability and other minority groups. Smith recommended reducing minority representation on the NEC and creating a separate “equalities commission”.

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The current version of the NEC is quite new, is probably too large, and lacks experience. However, the problem is not the NEC itself.

Recent changes to the party’s internal architecture were designed to involve the newly enlarged membership more effectively. They include regional forums and a national equalities forum representing minorities.

However, for one reason or another, the party leadership has failed to get these new bodies functioning. The pandemic is one explanation, or it could be there are those at HQ who worry that regional aggregates might provide a platform for dissent. Which leaves the NEC as the only functioning body representing the grassroots.

It’s an NEC probably more to the left of the party leadership than we have seen in recent times. I am told by members that they have struggled to get HQ to call the executive into session, and that recent meetings were ill-prepared. Indeed, there was a long gap between the two meetings of the NEC which dealt with dual mandates. All of which may explain the latest rows – cock-up rather than conspiracy.

There is a simple solution here which should be acceptable to all factions. These days, we all know how to use Zoom. Which means online regional assemblies can begin meeting regularly to discuss party policy.

Plus, the equalities forum should start functioning immediately. That might take some of the heat out of the trans debate. Alyn Smith’s suggestion for a new “equalities commission” (doubtless appointed rather than elected) is redundant. Also, the NEC has to start meeting regularly.

Of course, these proposals mean political debate – to which some at the top seem averse, because they can’t control the outcome.

But different opinions will out, regardless. So why not structure the party’s debate through regular channels and we can all agree to live with the democratic consequences.


MANY in the party (from all political factions) have lost confidence in the current national secretary, Angus MacLeod.

He should fall on his sword and allow a new person to take office in October.

The national secretary oversees the party’s constitution, nominations to party bodies and discipline issues. The holder must be above party faction. But since he was elected to the job in 2016, Mr MacLeod has happily made pronouncements on contentious political matters. In particular, he has used his position to rubbish calls for an indyref2 Plan B, should Boris and Co refuse a Section 30 order facilitating an agreed, second referendum.

Ambitious Mr MacLeod is seen as the leadership’s man rather than a neutral figure. Of course, policing the internal machinery of any party is never easy, even if the national secretary is a paragon. However MacLeod has been cack-handed as well as partisan.

His instant over-ruling of the NEC decision to impose an all-female list on James Dornan’s Cathcart constituency managed to annoy everyone and anyway was of dubious legality. If MacLeod sees the light, I suggest a retired party elder takes the job and brings some dignity to the national secretary’s role.


THE SNP now has more than 120,000 members making it one of the largest political parties in Europe, never mind the UK or Scotland. Yet the party’s HQ staff remains tiny and utterly incapable of servicing the needs of the members. This is a well-known failing at which everybody at the grassroots grumbles continuously.

When the party had its great burst of new members joining, in the wake of the 2014 referendum, most of us thought the extra dues would support the creation of a decent-sized party apparatus. Sadly, this never happened.

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Suspicious minds worry that chief executive Peter Murrell does not want to lose control and prefers to keep things tight – even if it leads to a glacial response to branch needs. Others explain HQ inertia as mere cock-up. In any event, it is imperative the HQ machine is overhauled and enlarged, even if this runs the risk of entrenching the bureaucracy.

The SNP is a membership organisation and members deserve attention. Much internal frustration and bickering would dissipate if the FM and Peter Murrell were proactive in this regard.


BENNY Higgins, the former Tesco banker turned chair of Buccleuch Estates, has become a go-to adviser to the FM. He advised on creating the new National Investment Bank and chaired the FM’s recent Economic Recovery Group.

Last week, Mr Higgins launched a blistering public attack on the environmental movement which angered many SNP members. He has also used his position close to the FM to advocate the dumping of a major policy decision of the SNP conference, to set up a National Infrastructure Company to spearhead building social housing and renewable energy.

I understand the FM’s desire to persuade Scottish business of the benefits of independence.

I understand her bringing Mr Higgins and his like into the fold as a tactical move. However, the FM must reassure party members that SNP conference decisions are not subject to veto by business interests.

Equally, she needs to reassure us that Mr Higgins speaks only for himself when attacking the green movement. Plus the FM should issue a statement confirming the paramountcy of conference decisions and reaffirm the decision to create a National Infrastructure Company.

On that basis, there is a prospect that different wings of the party with different social visions can maintain a united front to secure independence.


FINALLY, but only when it is safe to congregate again, the FM should commit to march at the head of an All Under One Banner indy demonstration. Her refusal to join any of the AUOB marches has disappointed many in the movement. It would be a healing gesture if she would take part.

Then we can all march arm-in-arm towards independence.