I am using this week’s column to reach out to SNP members, and indeed Yes supporters, to confirm the worst kept secret in Scottish politics. On Thursday I will launch my campaign for Depute leader of the SNP. The event will be at 1100 at Summerhall in Edinburgh, introduced by Ricky Demarco, a chap who knows the importance of internationalism and Scotland’s place on the world stage. Register on Facebook, come along!
First published in The National, 19 July 2016
We’re also crowdsourcing my nomination, the process whereby 100 SNP members from 20 branches support a nomination. The form is available on my Twitter or Facebook, if you’re minded to sign my papers I would be most grateful, I’ve been blown away by the support so far.
It is a pretty daunting prospect, but I’m up for it and I’m up to it. The SNP is an utterly democratic bunch, we’ll have a contest, the members will choose and we’ll all shake hands afterwards. So far I’ve heard four confirmed names, and four strong, distinct, propositions. Contests are good, because they allow the Party to have a discussion about where we are and what we need to change to go forward. We have had the privilege to live through a period in Scotland’s history that books will be written about. In barely four years we’ve had indyref, the membership surge, the Westminster wipeout, the Holyrood success and then the EUref, with Scotland’s European status at risk because of a campaign we overwhelmingly rejected.
Politics has changed utterly. My campaign boils down to five words: role, Europe, yes, equalities and time. Obviously, the role of Depute is whatever Nicola as Leader requires, but the main formal role is over policy formulation, and I’d suggest the European Question is now top of that list. Nicola also already has a political Deputy, our world class Deputy First Minister John Swinney in Holyrood. We also have a formidable team at Westminster. While I’m close to both, I’m independent of both, with a nationwide constituency I’ve proven I get about in and Holyrood the centre of my universe.
We need to put Europe at the heart of independence and the SNP at the heart of the independence movement.
I can help do that. I’m internationalist to my fingertips. I grew up in Saudi Arabia, I’ve studied in Germany, France and Poland, and worked in London, India, the US, Spain and of course Belgium and France. I speak fluent bad French and fluent bad German. I’m a qualified corporate lawyer, albeit I’ve been off the tools as an MEP for 12 years, re-elected twice in winning campaigns. I’ve put in a shift for the SNP and Scotland while we made Scotland change. For the better. In the EURef I provided real leadership, publishing the Wee Bleu Book, and doing over 40 public or party meetings taking on the argument from all fronts in the communities where the discussion was.
We need to do Europe in Europe. We need to talk to the world, and we should learn lessons of indyref and not just do that via London. Brussels is a far bigger more objective audience, and we can use it to reach far further. We also need someone to go and sell Scotland in the member state capitals. Ljubljana, Tallinn, Lisbon, Bratislava and the rest will all have votes on our eventual EU status, whatever it might be. We need to go tell them what we’re about, they’ll like what they see.
And the SNP has been the instigator of Scotland’s change. The Yes movement is far bigger than the SNP, but the SNP is the organisational core of it. We need to organise the SNP to take account of the membership surge, to share the load among the many thousands of willing hands we now have. We need to look seriously at how well cohered the different parts of the party (local, council, MSP and MP) are, and whether paid organisers will better co-ordinate our efforts. We need to increase our excellent but few in number HQ team, with a greater focus on reaching out and supporting the various elements of the Yes movement. And encouraging dynamic policy discussion, new ideas are good, and Scotland is not short of them. All European political parties have foundations attached to them to create a space to think about new ideas without it automatically being seen as government policy. Let’s learn some lessons there.
On equalities, I’ve shown some real leadership there too, getting involved in the campaign for equal marriage and contributing to real results. I’m a trustee of LGBTYouth Scotland as a way of giving something back, and because there weren’t many role models visible when I was growing up myself. Scotland is now a great place for equalities, but we can’t take it for granted, and we can be an example to the world. My boyfriend also 100 per cent supports me in the challenge ahead, because I’m conscious what the pressure can do to family life.
And time. I have the time to do this. My workload has just massively changed. My main, indeed my only, job is making some sort of sense out of Brexit, and engaging nationwide with those who remain unpersuaded. I can do that, and engage with the wider world and let them know just how much Scotland is a good news story for Europe. Now’s the time.