I 100% agree with Alyn Smith, our common cause is independence and nothing should ever distract us from that uniting principle (We must call out tactics that are out to disrupt indy cause, November 11) .

Each of us, wherever we are in the spectrum of participants in this great enterprise, whether we are parliamentarians, party members, Yes activists or journalists, need to bear in mind at all times how our behaviour is impacting the progress of that cause.

Appearances are important in politics. It does not matter if something actually is true, only that any significant number of people believe it to be true.

READ MORE: Alyn Smith: We must call out tactics that are out to disrupt independence cause

Over the course of the last few years a perception has grown that the NEC and the committees that surround it have attempted to put their thumb on the policy scales. Conference agendas seem to be mere opportunities to pat ourselves on the back or to whine about the failures of Westminster. Policy ideas that members want to discuss seem to be very, very hard to get on an agenda without overwhelming support. Controversial ideas like Dignity in Dying stand zero chance of ever seeing a conference debate. My Citizens’ Assembly proposal took a year of dedicated work and getting elected to the relevant committee to get on the agenda.

When you don’t talk to people and adequately explain your reasoning, it starts to look like there is a clique of people in the party’s leadership that are centralising power and shutting out the members. And that’s all it takes, it just has to look that way for the inevitable response to occur.

The groups that Alyn is worried about are not the problem, they are the response to the problem. Like the fever and inflammation that occurs in your body in response to a perceived invader. There doesn’t even need to really be an invasion to trigger the response, a vaccine can do exactly the same thing.

READ MORE: Yes in the lead in two new Scottish independence polls

There is a perception, rightly or wrongly, that the NEC and other ruling bodies of the SNP have been taken over by a group with a policy agenda.

Members, quite rightly, perceive that as a threat. Policy agendas have no place on the NEC. Any suggestion that members of the NEC might be engaged in purging potential candidates that disagree with their policy preferences is met with righteous anger.

We must as a matter of urgency dispel that illusion. There should be no hint of corruption at any level of our party. No governing body can be permitted to author the rules that limit its powers.

The job of the NEC is to implement policy. Writing it is the job of the members.

Alyn fears that expanding the NEC last year was a mistake; actually I think it was inspired. It put grassroots members in a much stronger position and the deadlock and dispute that broke out in the wake of that change was evidence of that change being effective. Delegates sleep-walked into the last conference and chose NEC representatives with no idea what was to come.

We should populate the NEC with people we can trust to be selfless and put the cause above their own petty concerns, and trust Keith Brown’s Governance Review Group to tweak how the party is run to smooth these issues out.

As to the coming conference, I disagree with a lot of what has been done, I think we could do much better, but it is what it is at this point and we as delegates will just have to make the best of it and vote to do better next time.

We can and must vaccinate our party against the disease that destroyed the Labour party.

Chris Hanlon
Potential nominee for the role of SNP Policy Development Convener;
Elected member on Member Conduct, Policy Development, and Conference Committees