A JOURNALIST pal of mine once gave me some unprompted advice – “if you’re contextualising, you’re losing” and it certainly felt like it over the weekend. I proposed, internally, some changes to the SNP National Executive Committee because I (and others) are concerned about its focus and direction, which were brought into sharp relief lately with a few decisions.

In an effort to be transparent and accountable to my members in Stirling, I copied it to all 1600 of them, whereupon persons unknown leaked it and had it on Twitter within half an hour. I regret the leak. It was done to cause trouble and to an extent it did but it was me who sent it and I should have thought more defensively.

I have already apologised to Kirsten Oswald, our business convener. For the avoidance of doubt it assuredly did not come from me. Leaks corrode trust, make discussions more difficult and they are not my style, I’ve been around long enough to know that what goes around comes around and they’re a bad way to do business.

In my 16 years in elected public office, 15 in Brussels, then now at Westminster, I have always promoted, voted for and advocated the equalities agenda at home, across the EU and internationally. Look at my record and you’ll not find a single time I voted the other way. I was the SNP’s first parliamentarian to come out (if not the first gay parliamentarian) and equalities are close to my heart, full stop. But to read some of the attacks the leak has caused, one would think I was attempting to shut equalities down, when in fact I’m seeking to boost them.

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My fundamental point is that the SNP NEC has a whopping 42 members. Let that sink in. While I supported the additions, I think we need to recognise when something isn’t working as intended, especially when there are other ways to organise ourselves.

Broadening the NEC to bring in a wider range of voices, while a laudable aim, has to my mind diluted discussion of the interests of the whole of Scotland and building the case for independence. We are the Scottish National Party – we must reflect and work upon the priorities of the people of Scotland, not our own projects.

So I have proposed the creation of a new forum for regional reps, and a boost to the status of the existing Equalities Forum. I’ll bring forward amendments to conference and if the members support it, then I think they will be useful changes that will focus our NEC, boost the equalities discussion by focusing it on holding the NEC to account, and likewise boost the regional agenda.

Other reforms are possible, of course, and I’m open to them, too. Just last week Julie Hepburn and Alex Kerr wrote in this paper about some worthy ideas, and we’re not short of reform proposals.

Because we need to be match-fit for the battles ahead, and I think we need to refocus urgently, uniting around what unites us – independence.

The people of Scotland are anxious about Covid-19 and the economy and are appalled at what the Tories we rejected are doing to us with Brexit, a power grab against Holyrood and who knows what with future trade deals.

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They trust us on these real issues, and expect us to be working flat out on them. We are, but it would sometimes be easy to imagine otherwise.

A cautionary tale – Donald Trump won Wisconsin in the last US presidential election because, in part, he was able to attack the local Democrats as being out of touch, spending all their time debating gender neutral bathrooms while the economy was going to the dogs.

It was probably untrue, but impressions matter. Likewise, Labour in the 1980s was able to be portrayed as “Loony Left” and out of touch precisely because some of its leading members were.

We are the Scottish National Party. We are in touch, and must not make the same mistake.

Independence is nothing unless everyone matters. Equality is at the heart of our proposition for a better Scotland, it is not either/or. A boosted, properly resourced Equalities Forum will better focus our internal discussion on how to build that case. I’m open, of course, to a discussion about other ideas, but I am firm in my view reform is necessary.