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Paid organisers are needed to co-ordinate the good work of local SNP groups

We launched my campaign for the deputy leadership of the SNP this week in Edinburgh, with force of nature Richard Demarco introducing me, and it went really well. I’ve been blown away by the kind words, the offers of support and the recognition that the SNP is going to have a great discussion with four strong propositions to choose from. I’ve launched the campaign website with more campaign information, and to keep in touch.


First published in The National, 26 July 2016

So in the coming weeks I’m going to use this column to outline some of the ideas I have about what I want to do with the role and invite people from the SNP, but especially from outwith the party, to join the conversation. This week: my proposal that we should create a network of paid SNP organisers around the country to better co-ordinate SNP campaigning and cohere the different parts of the party and the wider Yes movement.

Promises are easy to make but, if they involve spending money, difficult to make happen. Every party pound is quite rightly always going to be a prisoner. So I think the establishment of the network should be demand-led and each place should make its own bid for what it needs. But I’d propose a clear and pressing need exists in Glasgow, the city of my birth. We have a glittering opportunity in the coming weeks and months to make the Yes capital of Scotland an SNP city too. For a lot of people, the SNP taking control of Glasgow City Chambers will be psychologically more important than even being the national government. Proof, forever, that Scotland has changed. It is also the most prominent local authority in Scotland, in a great city with some real challenges. There is a national strategic need to assist the local campaign.

We already have a great bunch of MPs and MSPs, and great councillors, and we need to join those dots up into a campaign like Glasgow has never seen. The council election is looming and the risk of reinventing the wheel across the city is something we should avoid. Having a single election agent, and single co-ordinator – not a controller but a co-ordinator – of the city-wide campaign will allow us to be greater than the sum of our parts. I think there is a risk that otherwise we’ll see folk working locally, and the opportunities to share the load missed. The formidable Susan Aitken, our Group Leader in Glasgow City Council, has a plan good to go. The party should swing in behind her and support it; it will deliver results for all of us everywhere.

In other parts of the country I’m up for the discussion, and there is no shortage of ideas and enthusiasm. There needs to be a clear need and identified role, in a clear area. We have great folk working hard already, but too much of our organisational backbone is still provided by too few people, usually volunteers making incredible personal sacrifice to keep it all happening. We can and should share the load, and where there is a need for party investment in personnel then we should be open to that discussion.

But the local elections are our next fixed point on the horizon, and we need to get ourselves organised for them. These local elections will be the most important since 1999. Our challenges in reforming Scotland, delivering services and improving education will be focussed on local government. We need to make sure we have a strong team of councillors in place to win and run local authorities. We are putting together our candidate vetting. If you’re thinking of standing, get in touch, if I can encourage I surely will, especially women, minority and disabled candidates. We need a group of candidates who reflect all of Scotland.

And let’s not forget community councils too. If one in 38 adults in Scotland is an SNP member, we should be everywhere, vocal, visible and persuasive. 

We’ll not win by sitting in branch meetings, we need to engage with each and every part of the communities we live in and the communities we serve. Where community councils exist, we should be encouraging folk to join in and make them work. To persuade people to independence we need to be where they are, care about the things they care about and get results. I’ve seen myself in the 13 years I’ve had the privilege to serve all of Scotland, the conversation with people starts most persuasively with the things they want to talk about. 

Independence is about making Scotland better – we’re all talking the same language.