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We must make sure Europe is Scotland’s future, and Westminster is our past

Tomorrow, all SNP members will receive their ballot paper for the depute leadership election, either by email or by post. Polls will be open for three weeks, with the result announced at the start of Conference in Glasgow on October 13.


First published in The National, 20 September 2016

The campaign has been a mostly enjoyable experience, travelling up and down the country setting out my stall. I enjoy the out and about element of my role the most. We rank our MEPs in the same way as we rank the depute so this isn’t my first rodeo, and I’m proud of the campaign I have put forward and the way I have done so. I have not sought endorsements because they’re divisive, we’re all Team SNP and my loyalty above all else is to the party. I have made sure of protecting the impartiality of our leader. In our party, the depute is elected by the membership, not appointed by the leader, and should bring a different perspective to the team and support the leader in doing what the party needs to be done.

I have made sure to run a positive campaign based on real ideas for real change, using the wealth of talent we have in the party. My campaign has been focused on five points – Europe, Party, Yes, Equalities and Change – and you can find out more on my site.

I have discussed my ideas on reforming the party with others and am confident they would work. The party does need to change, but we don’t need to rip it up and start again. I am confident I have support, and the more hustings we do, the more confident I am: we all have track records we can be judged on.

I have put myself forward because we need to get the European question right, and prepare the ground across Europe for whatever is in Scotland’s future. We did not get it right in 2014. I have the time to do this, allowing the government to get on with governing and the Westminster team to do what they do. Ranking me first, now, will prove that we are putting the European question front and centre of how the party does business; that we are choosing Europe as our future and Westminster as our past.

We need to maintain focus on the European question at home and abroad, and how it is altering the prospects for independence, not allow it to descend into day-to-day point-scoring knockabout. I see signs of this happening already. At home, we must maintain a dialogue with Leave voters, many of whom voted Leave on explicit promises. They’ll be cruelly disappointed as details of Brexit emerge, and ready to look at our case anew. We must reach out to former No voters, who believed that staying with the UK was the safest way to guarantee EU status. I can have all those discussions, up and down the country.

I am not part of the Holyrood or Westminster teams, so not bound into either institution but supportive of both. My constituency is the whole of Scotland. I’m not tied to any one constituency or ward, and my constituency duties are to travel the country discussing Scotland in Europe. I’m not putting myself forward for just another title or perceived advancement, I can do something with the role I believe the party needs, now. I do, after all, have an uncertain future myself! But so long as I have a role, I am at the epicentre of the biggest issue of our times.

I also have 15 years’ front-line experience as an activist up and down the country, and where I’ve seen a lot of best practice I’ve seen a number of places where we need to do better. We need to reinvigorate training, sharing how we do things. We need to reinvigorate National Assembly to discuss policy, bringing in the talents, expertise and ideas of the wider membership. We need more party staff to organise and support our aims, to cohere the party. Our current office-bearers and staff are great, but hard pressed and need more support. As depute I can build support for change and am confident the ideas I have put forward will work.

We live in extraordinary times, and now is not the time for “politics as usual”. The role of depute is a job of work, not just a matter of another title, ceremonial speech at conference, or reward for performance. I can do something with it, now. I already, of course, have a role in representing Scotland in Europe, and in discussing the European question at home. But as depute I would have added authority, backing and focus to make sure that we get it right, and that we prepare the rest of Europe to support whatever is in Scotland’s future.