ALYN Smith’s articles tend to consist mostly of vague platitudes with little of practical value and his Wednesday column is no different. Except for his comment on democracy in the SNP, which really shouldn’t be left unchallenged.

Alyn informs us that “The SNP is a brutally democratic party – we make policy by the wisdom of the membership deciding that we’re for, or against, something ... an individual wanting to change an existing policy or propose a new one simply has to bring a motion forward to their branch, and persuade them to put it forward”.

Well, it’s always nice to see a bit of light relief in these difficult times, but seriously?!?!?

READ MORE: Alyn Smith: How the Yes movement and SNP can best use this time

As someone who has attended the last five conferences, worked on resolutions and amendments and spoken a couple of times at conference, I can only assume that his autocorrect got out of hand, because what he clearly meant to say was that the SNP is a brutally autocratic party with ruthlessly stage-managed conferences.

Local branches can draft as many resolutions as they like but they all have to pass through the thoroughly undemocratic Standing Order and Agenda Committee (SOAC). Nothing even vaguely threatening to the leadership’s agenda will get through SOAC for discussion at a conference.

As an example, I was involved in two proposals to put some teeth into two resolutions that ended with a variation of the feeble “conference requests that the Westminster Government devolves this power to Scotland”, which we all know is simply not going to happen. This was the response from SOAC on one of them: “The proposal that the working party would examine the use of health legislation to bypass the fact that drug law remains reserved, was not found to be credible”.

There was, of course, no explanation of why it was not credible (and it had been drafted by people with relevant knowledge and experience). What the committee was actually doing was preventing the conference from discussing the leadership’s less than assertive approach to reserved matters and Westminster intransigence.

And even if a resolution is approved by the conference, nothing will happen because there is no mechanism to drive it forward. At the 2019 spring conference a resolution was approved to set up an independent Scottish Statistical Agency to provide a realistic alternative to GERS. And at the main 2019 Aberdeen conference a resolution was passed to set up a formal maritime development commission, given the importance to an independent Scotland of developing ports, trade routes, ship building and marine assets. But has anything been heard of either proposal since? No.

Alyn suggests that the new policy development committee exists to act behind the scenes, encouraging the development of policy across SNP branches. If this is true, it appears to be operating so far behind the scenes that it can’t even be seen with a telescope and, in any case, shouldn’t it be concentrating on pushing and implementing policies that the conference has already voted on?

So no. “Brutally democratic” is a nicely dramatic turn of words, but not the phrase that would spring to most people’s minds as an ideal description of what is, in reality, an authoritarian top-down driven organisation.

Gordon Millar

IT’S a pity the online discourse around Alyn Smith’s article on future policy development within the SNP was hijacked by other issues. I’m not saying that some of the other issues do not warrant discussion, they do, but some of them were somewhat tangential to the main thrust of Alyn’s article, that is a future independent Scotland’s place in the world.

The starting point in a discussion about SNP foreign policy should, in my view, be based upon some quite basic geopolitical characteristics – that is, quite literally, Scotland’s actual geographic place in the world.

Where a country is geographically placed on the surface of the planet invariable sets crucial parameters. We are told by politicians from across quite a wide range of the political spectrum that “the world is a dangerous and uncertain place”. It’s untrue, of course. A moment’s reflection reveals that some parts of the world are indeed quite dangerous, but others much less so.

Scotland (indeed the whole of the UK, if only it could shake off its post-imperial baggage) is in one of the most stable geopolitical regions of the world. This means that Scotland’s basic geopolitical determinants are quite propitious.

That Scotland finds itself, through good fortune rather than by design, in a region of geopolitical stability, is no reason to look this geopolitical good fortune in the mouth. It needs to be embraced and then promoted as part of the pro-independence narrative.

Moreover, this regional geopolitical stability afforded to Scotland will allow us, unlike some other states, to develop security policies where human security has primacy and issues of traditional national security are recognised, but rightly subordinated into a broader human security vision. That human security paradigm will be revealed to have real utility when we get around to addressing the big issue of the 21st-century: climate disruption.

Bill Ramsay
via email

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