I WAS less than impressed by the article by Julie Hepburn and Alex Kerr (The SNP’s NEC needs to be more effective, transparent and accountable, August 7). It seems to be driven by a desire to give the appearance of taking change seriously, but in a way which preserves the current hierarchy’s powers and distracts people from the real point at issue.

For example, what have the 2014 referendum, the 2015 election and the increase in membership really got to do with the NEC being secretive, cliquey and driving its own agendas?

Even when we get to the substance of the article, we don’t get off to a very impressive start, with the claim that “our focus has been on campaigning and winning elections, and not internal party reform”.

READ MORE: The SNP's NEC needs to be more effective, transparent and accountable

Except that the SNP spent about a year-and-a-half and the bulk of two conferences focusing on the writing of the current constitution, which was eventually adopted at the October 2018 conference.

It was just a piece of luck that nothing important was happening in UK politics at the time. Well, apart from Brexit. And the 2017 election for which the SNP was, mysteriously unprepared.

If you’re going to make excuses, please at least make them credible.

But let’s move on to the actual proposals. People would tend to agree instinctively that 42 members is too many, especially if everyone has to be heard. So the proposal to reduce the size appears uncontroversial. But, in practice, not everyone speaks, or wants to, on every proposal and electronic voting can speed things up. The real problem, especially in light of the revelations about the last NEC meeting, is the make up of the NEC, not its numbers.

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This suspicion is confirmed by the suggestion that, as well as reducing the numbers, “more of our national office bearers” should be directly elected by the entire membership. Why “more”? Why not all? 42 members directly elected by the entire membership is maybe just what we need to keep the leadership honest. It doesn’t take much imagination to envisage a situation where “more” members are directly elected without being in a position to actually influence anything.

And finally, we come to the comedy relief of “it’s also vital to increase transparency”!

Maybe the authors could explain how this ties in with NEC member Alyn Smith’s claim in this paper on August 5 that “what is discussed in the NEC remains confidential”. And indeed, Mr Smith spends an entire 800-word article not discussing transparency at all, seeming to think that a focus on moving on and an admission that some recent NEC decisions “have been controversial in some parts” would distract everybody from what appears to have been a blatantly corrupt process.

So you’ll forgive me if I’m a bit cynical about the article’s final suggestion that the solution is to publish “the decisions taken at each NEC meeting – and send that to branch and constituency association office bearers” because “members are entitled to be informed about NEC’s decisions”.

How does this aid transparency? This is effectively what happens now and could accurately describe the outcome of the last, notorious NEC meeting! Telling people the results of a meeting is not transparent. Transparency would involve publishing the minutes of the meeting and the voting record of the attendees.

So what we have here is the usual response of any establishment or hierarchy which has been caught out – pretend to accept the need for change and come up with a lot of positive sounding flim-flam which, when looked at closely, is designed to produce no real change and to preserve the status quo.

Gordon Millar