SOCIAL democracy in the 21st century faces as many complex challenges as at its emergence as a political philosophy in the early 19th century, both at home here in Scotland and across the globe. Nevertheless, the main tenants of social democracy still hold true and that is a clear and unashamed support for a more democratic state at each and every level of society.

From branch meetings to the floor of Holyrood, the SNP must challenge any lack of democratic oversight and even challenge itself to maintain and at all times improve the process of democracy in the party and in society. It is clear today that democratisation still needs to be applied to each and every aspect of the body politic, even more so in the age where we seem to spend more time in the virtual world in which capital and individualism seek to undermine the gains we have made in the real world.

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While we should not become Luddites, we must challenge ourselves in the real world to act in solidarity to maintain and build upon the gains brought about by historical collective action and social solidarity. In the words of Olof Palme our duty in this age is to ensure we do not become “defenceless victims of technological development, the free market, anonymous powers that seek to direct our future”.

Now more than ever, the party and those who wish to lead our party – and indeed the national endeavour of political emancipation – must be questioned on their understanding of social democracy.

They must also be questioned on how they'd seek to ensure their policies would ensure a social democratic government, dedicated to equality and enhancing the lives of all – the fundamental building blocks of an independent nation. 

It is as clear today as it was in 2014 that Scotland, in seeking to create a more equal system of government, is unable to meet the demands of society. Our very democracy is limited by the power of another and, with its vetos on social policy now clear, Westminster will seek to undermine the social democratic policies implemented since the advent of the devolved parliament in 1999.

While Holyrood is unable to direct industrial policy that should not limit the party to plan for it. Holyrood is limited in tax policy but that should not limit a social democratic party from setting out its vision for and where possible implementation of radical tax reform. Holyrood has no powers over monetary policy, yet as social democrats, we should be unequivocal in setting out our vision for how through independence Scotland can utilise a monetary policy based on our society's needs as opposed to a Westminster system based on the needs of capital.

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The three candidates for leader and first minister, and the party, must ensure that the great debates of the day are at the heart of our deliberations in the weeks and months ahead. These are debates no social democrat should shy away from, from drug policy to housing, from radical tax reform to the continued democratisation of our economic life, policies to invigorate education at all levels, and a vision for full employment through an industrial policy befitting an independent nation which can – and must – be a global giant of green energy.

It is only befitting that these great challenges must be an essential deliberative discussion which informs the direction of travel for the party, which enhances our social democratic traditions and deal head-on with the immense challenges of our times.