Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The road to independence for Scotland - and the road to nowhere for Douglas Ross

So a couple of 'quick notes' for you tonight.  I have a new article on The National's website about whether Douglas Ross is likely to keep his promise to Michelle Ballantyne to be "Boris backing, Brexit positive, anti-Nat".  You can read it HERE.  Also, I'm quoted (along with John Curtice and Mark Diffley) in Chaminda Jayanetti's new piece for politics.co.uk entitled 'The road to independence: How Covid and Brexit pushed Scotland from the Union' - you can read that HERE.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

It's time to democratise the SNP's NEC

Earlier this evening, I had a brief but interesting Twitter exchange with the former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, who incidentally I voted for back in the day no fewer than four times - twice when he was the SNP candidate for Cumbernauld & Kilsyth in 1999 and 2003, and twice when he was a Central Scotland list candidate in the same years.  (He was elected on the list in 1999, but missed out in 2003 due to his ranking on the list being too low - ironically as the result of something of a stitch-up.)

Now, in fairness, what Andrew says about being unhappy with the NEC decision does check out - I had a look through some of his earlier tweets and he had made the same point before. So I'm happy to apologise to him for getting the wrong end of the stick. (I know some cynical souls will suggest that we may simply be seeing a tactical retreat after the NEC decision had already proved to be unsustainable. But we have to take what people say at face value in the absence of contrary evidence.)

Nevertheless, it's also reasonable to point out that I gave Andrew the opportunity to explain exactly what he did mean by the comments I misconstrued, and as you can see he very studiously avoided doing so. There presumably must be a reason for his reluctance to publicly explain what "placating the gallery" is getting at.  Off the top of my head, I can only really think of a small number of demands that people have been making on social media - one is that the decision to block James Dornan be overturned (that's already happened), one is that the decision to block Joanna Cherry be overturned (Andrew says he'd support that), and one is that people should think more carefully about who is placed on the NEC and the process by which they end up being placed there.  Is it the latter demand that Andrew is concerned about?  This is not an attempt to "cast aspersions", but when an explanation isn't forthcoming, all that can fill that gap is a process of logical deduction, and I'm struggling to think of any other possibilities.

If I'm right, it's little wonder that Andrew is unwilling to spell out what he means, because the calls to reform the NEC are a simple matter of democratic accountability.  To the limited extent that the NEC is elected at all, it's elected by an indirect method, and that's bound to cause great concern if the end result is a body taking decisions that are alien to the wishes of the wider party membership.  As for the observation that those who do have the opportunity to elect NEC members should take the process more seriously in future, that's an affirmation of a democratic principle too.  If you feel that any person you've helped to elect has let you down or acted inappropriately, of course you should reflect on that before you cast your next vote.

In the overall scheme of things, it wasn't all that long ago that even the SNP leader wasn't directly elected - there was election-by-delegate instead.  That wouldn't be considered acceptable now, and an unelected NEC really ought to be seen in exactly the same way as an anachronism.  And it can no longer even be said that it's an "anachronism that works".

Incidentally, none of this should be seen as a criticism of Angus Robertson, who would be an excellent MSP for Edinburgh Central, every bit as much as Joanna Cherry would.  (I regard Robertson and Cherry as two of the four most likely successors to Nicola Sturgeon, along with Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes.)  But we must have a fair process, and an end to factional control of the SNP's internal structures.