WE are almost set for SNP Conference 2020 and it is going to be a strange one. It is important that the party’s accountability continues, so we are struggling on. The Conferences Committee, elected by the members, took the approach that we would do our usual sift of which motions should be on the agenda and would incorporate as much as possible into composite motions in order to allow a broad series of debates where there should, hopefully, be something for everyone.

The various motions about how best to pursue the routes to independence have been partially incorporated into the Composite Motion on Independence, but we have also arranged a National Assembly in January to do them proper justice.

This has been dismissed as small beer by some, to my mind wrongly. Some have even tried to present it as conspiracy, I’ll come to that later. I’m very open to a discussion of alternative strategies, I know well there’s a lot of passion and enthusiasm out there in our wider membership. But I’m also aware of how public opinion works and the plan we have is winning.

We are winning the argument now by being competent and caring about the issues the people of Scotland do, by using the powers we have and in doing so demonstrate why we need the full powers of independence. By engaging with a Westminster system that denigrates and ignores us because firstly we were sent there to do so and secondly that in so doing we prove to the people of Scotland why independence is a better path.

National Assembly, an internal, inwardly (deliberately) focussed session will allow us to chew over other tactics. National Conference is a showcase that will allow us to prove to the people of Scotland that we care about what they care about and help us persuade people to the cause of independence.

Another crucial function conference is voting on national office bearers and I am putting myself forward for another term as SNP policy development convener. Some people want me out, and that is their right. There is a couple of campaigns (and to be clear I don’t think my opponents are involved in them, they’re standing on their merits) and that’s democracy. I submit myself to the delegates on my record and commitment, and the fact I play for the SNP jersey and put nothing above independence.

I don’t like factions, never have. That is why those who would seek to build them want me gone. The SNP’s strength is that we’re a diverse crowd that has a good row then unites behind our agreed strategy. In my 24 years of party membership, 16 of them as a parliamentarian and member of the NEC, I have publicly argued against policy once – on Nato.

I argued before the conference that we needed to change our policy and that our previous policy was not as credible as we needed. There are plenty policies I want to see worked up but I’ll do that through the party and for the other members. Meantime I’ll defend it lock stock and barrel.

I have been appalled to see elected SNP members take a more self-indulgent a la carte view, particularly on rights for the transgender community, as if they were somehow not bound by our manifesto. I support Gender Recognition Act reform not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it was and remains party policy. External groups like the shadowy LGB Alliance have wilfully sought to misrepresent and undermine policy and have been vicious in their conduct on social media, claiming victimhood and bemoaning cancel culture. Putting SNP in front of something doesn’t make it an SNP thing, and the SNP Women’s Pledge has (deliberately in some cases) grievously misled people on what policy is and its implications. I’ll go to the barricades for the rights of women, and they’re not under threat from the SNP.

Talking of putting an SNP ribbon on things – it is worth reminding some folk that the SNP Common Weal Group, or more accurately the SNP Common Weal Group Ltd, company registration number SC652474, has zero standing with or connection to the party. Common Weal Ltd, founded by Robin McAlpine with a load of other Yessers on the board, has a solid track record of producing policy papers; I’ve read them all.

I’ve shared a number of platforms with Robin, agreeing on some things, disagreeing on others. But it is also not an SNP organisation and indeed Robin has been, as is his right, trenchantly critical of the SNP. I’m sceptical why anyone would think an external organisation endorsing, or not, candidates for internal roles is helpful to the SNP, we might as well ask the SSPCA or VisitScotland what they reckon.

And then there is the SNP’s answer to Voldemort, Wings over Scotland. Again, proudly not SNP, but pro-independence – and I welcome all fellow travellers but decry organised attempts to influence my party. There was a time when the Wings over Scotland site was a useful forum – when it actually wrote about independence.

The Wee Blue Book was a significant contribution to the 2014 campaign, I emulated it in the 2016 EU referendum with the Wee BlEU Book. But these days it is a sad busted flush, well past the point of utility. The site all but constantly berates us for obsession on trans rights but I see nowhere more obsessed with the issue than that site. It urged, in gruesome terms, the general public to not vote for me in Stirling in the December election.

I won Stirling with 51% of the vote. Again, we’re a free country and everyone is entitled to their views, but I hope SNP members are too wise to import other agendas.

So I say to all the frustrated would-be kingpins, all the bigots seeking to import their obsessions, and to all the yesterday’s men, stop it. The SNP is not your vehicle and we don’t need your leadership. Put up and set up your own party if you want. The SNP members will decide how we best organise ourselves and make our own decisions. We’ve a referendum to win.