SNP Conference: Making Members Matter

08_snp_g_wRory Steel (SNP Youth Vice Convener and SNP Socialists Convener) puts forward the case for transforming the Standing Orders and Agenda Committee (SOAC), and democratising the conference process.

SNP Conference can be an opportunity for members to discuss and decide on the big issues according to different communities across Scotland. That is why I am running for SOAC.

The main thing that attracts me to Commonweal’s IdeaSpace is the diversity of exhibitions on show. And with diversity, comes a diversity of ideas and perspectives. Every group has an opportunity to put forward what they are about – what they think – and be uncensored in raising issues important to them.

When it comes to Conference and policy, this should be our aim as members. We should be empowered to discuss and decide on the big issues of government and society, but our current arrangements limit us from doing so.

SOAC is not the most well known body within the SNP, but it carries great power. By setting the agenda for Conference and National Council, the 12 members of SOAC (6 directly elected; 6 from the party’s NEC) can hold a veto on certain issues before they are even heard by ordinary members.

Policy is turned into law which translates into action and then change. Policy is how we transform our nation and we must all take part in the policy process if we want to see the nation that we long for. We cannot achieve this with our current structures – we need reform.

“Policy is turned into law which translates into action and then change. Policy is how we transform our nation and we must all take part in the policy process if we want to see the nation that we long for. We cannot achieve this with our current structures – we need reform.”

We need to reform the makeup of SOAC. With only six members directly elected to and six coming from the NEC, SOAC is hardly the most open of bodies. The makeup of the body needs reformed so that all who sit on it are directly accountable to members.

We need to reform the purpose of SOAC. It should have less control over setting the agenda. There must be a shift of power from SOAC itself to the membership to choose which motions go before conference. Afterall, it is our party. Who best to choose an agenda than the members themselves?

Members are the ones who chap the doors; deliver the leaflets; brave the winds – it is only common sense that those who do the campaigning have real power in deciding what they are actually campaigning for.

This year’s agenda is thankfully braver than those of previous conferences. We have a motion on the Scottish voting system which can change the political makeup of any Parliament and can improve or hinder citizen representation. We have a motion on Medicinal Cannabis – tackling the drug taboo which can change people’s’ lives.

However, there are a number of motions which simply make a statement, reaffirm existing policy, or are common sense. Of course we reject the xenophobic fallout of Brexit. Of course we agree that littering is bad. Our MPs are already fighting for a real living wage. These are statements or operational decisions which could easily be made by our elected representatives or already have been.

The party structures have to respect that our members are now campaigning and political veterans having been through two referendums and two elections over the past two years and several before. The mass membership is engaged and must now organise to empower ourselves to control the agenda to vote on bolder and more radical policies that will fill the leaflets we post through letterboxes.

Let’s not minimise homelessness – let’s end it! Let’s not tinker with council tax – let’s stay true to our word and overhaul local taxation! Let’s discuss an Independent Scottish Currency! With 100,000 new members, let’s revisit the NATO question!

It may be the case that these policies have not even been submitted. But we cannot know if SOAC does not publish a full list of submissions made so that members can see which motions did not make it to conference and why.

We can transform our conference from a rally to a serious discussion of policy. We can begin to empower members by voting in candidates that have concrete proposals to make these changes. I believe I can do that for SOAC.

We can have bolder policy; we can have greater grassroots control; we can have motions calling for action rather than patting ourselves on the back; we can have civil debate; we can have a diversity of ideas and opinions like those offered at IdeaSpace and remain united and strong as the national party of Scotland.

We can make members matter.

Comments (11)

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  1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Rory makes some interesting points and I’m in a degree of sympathy with him having seen many fine and admirable Resolutions bite the dust of the SOAC floor. However having once been like Rory wanting to see everything happening yesterday but as you age you gain experience and an understanding of what is possible and what can be done in a timescale.

    If Rory’s idea was to be accepted then we would be lucky to arrive at a Conference Agenda once every six years instead of the current six months. Even before our Delegates return from Glasgow our Branch have already been considering an important Resolution on our Fishing Industry both catching and processing.

    Yes Rory it can be frustrating but sadly the Laws of Physics do not allow doing things at the speed of light. I would also counsel Rory to concentrate on 1) what is achievable under the current set-up and 2) how we can realistically achieve a socially just and more equal society without repeating the mistakes of extreme left-wing socialism. Bearing in mind that around 55% of Scots describe themselves as left of center and of that less than 10% would describe themselves as extreme ‘left-wing’.

    So Rory before we all go off the wall with some tried, some tested and many failed socialist policies, let us all concentrate on first winning Independence and leave the ‘it would be very nice to’ type of policies to the first Government of an Independent Scotland. Only then can we have the socially just and more equal society that we all crave.

    1. c rober says:

      With the near extinction of Slab , and the inability to change and see the winds of change , then many younger True Socialists have decided that the SNP may be the party that only party left for them – pun intended. However the grass roots dirt under finger nails socialists are becoming rare in politics en large , replaced by media savvy middle class , degree failed media studies from affluent homes wearing the t-shirt of affirmation with the poor and working class – One more of Che than of Reid.

      Younger people dont understand the speed of politics , versus the speed of mass radicalism , where regular radicalism is kept down by force of old , its now by MSM – Mass radicalism is of course the enemy of slow politics , and of course rare , bar the likes of Arab Spring. But unfortunately Scots are reluctant to mass anything , except heart disease and deep frying , perhaps we just dont have the weather for it.

      Socialism to me at least is still a political veneer for those looking for the x , a way for the SNP to grab the disenfranchised (now) Slabour mulit-generational voter. However Slab too are also a party of veneer , and until the last of Nulabour are ejected , rather than protected by the list , then no change there…. and hopefully continues as an accepted benefit for the party once dressed in tory tartan , at least with historical accusations. However the media , owned by the wealthy , in the case of the latter description , were perhaps the ones to cut that cloth , and be the tailors within the red tops in Scotland. Those same papers are , were , behind Project fear , and the new Generation are perhaps a little too savvy to accept the slop in the bucket given them.

      To continue to be taken seriously as Socialists , the SNP need to allow the younger generation to “adapt” in order to adopt the party , while staying away from the influx of wealthy , ie the degree educated landlords and solicitors – The hardcore Scottish Socialist in the vaccum that is Slab prefers their politicians a bit more like em. This may mean radicalism , you know the kind of stuff they once had with Trident , or the poll tax , but stopping shortly before terrorism , yes I did open that can of SNP history worms , and where the disenfranchised can also end up.

      The idea you say Charles of failed Socialist polices are indeed many , but when the rich are in control , from personal with the media , to banks generationally in the same family , then you can see that failure can and will be forced. However I do get your point , and can also add it is in some socialists interests to fail – Theres not many from Blairs original NuLabour that arent today multimillionaires , hardly the idea of socialists in the tenements of Scotland that helped get them there.

      Greece are a perfect example of that you speak of , and of course where I have highlighted the failure being of interest of the elected to become wealthy socialists , and at times through radicalism to boot.

      So could also be proof positive of calm heads working , long term politics are better , but then again it was calmer heads and long term politicians that got them there in the first place , of course with the aid of a Yank Bank with a creative caclulator.

      But this is not unique in the southern European states , Portugal , Spain , Greece , and even Italy offer a socialist , or even communist historical voting mindset , like Scotland of Slab – but change (fast or slow) hasnt made the slightest of difference and perhaps never will , that is until the true cause of failure is identified…. and that is greed , while those politicians claim to be grass roots for election , coming from dirt under the fingernails “ists” – they are soon after millionaires.

      The supposed biggest thing in Scottish politics in 300 years was the creation of Holyrood , and of course where DHondt addresses the status qou , radically – compared to FPTP. A system supposedly invented to prevent the powerful from forever keeping power , a thing thought up , or forced , on Scotland by Slab , a Socialist party that back then supposedly , that thought they would continue in generational voting. However in 14 years of power did they force the same on Westminster – No. So even Socialism fails , unless its used as a weapon for those claiming to be one for a personal or part goal.

      IS there still room for maneuver in SNP with radical Socialism? I hope so , and thats where policy direction as discussed actually matters. Heres just a few that should be up for policy direction as a political mandate.

      LDP , failed socialism tests and is geared towards wealth creation not homes.(and due to increase that output after external review findings).
      AGR may address the above , as well as adopting AH sites where councils part fund Social as a result – rather than continue to empower developers , banks and landowners.
      Land Reform , not radical enough , see Agr as also being that solution.
      Law reform t0 tackle Westminster – especially in benefits atrocities , and I dont use that word lightly , has not happened. The law making powers of Holyrood can hardly be described as anything other than wealth creation for lawyers , unsurprising really given how many of them came from the career.
      Fuel poverty- I wont go the whole fracking thing here , but under the Forth and the Clyde are perfect areas where at least this could be tested , thus making energy cheaper for production.
      Co2 reduction – Norway and Germany have a mandate for the cessation of the ICE in vehicle manufacture , Scotland using the above can also harness this.
      Co2 reduction II , back to coal , and open cast. Yep I said it , hardly green , but a better option than coal imports , safeguarding the creation process and keeping wealth within the borders. Using Plasma treated exhaust this would and could serve as a means to an end in an independent Scotland.
      Co2 III , housing at passive hause standards , combined with whole roof solar and Hydrogen creation and fuel cells.
      Work to benefits , again someone has to say it , where it is used to train those in the assembly and manufacture of “off the shelf” housing. This could be expanded further to create a better version of open prisons , where OO are used to benefit the communites they have blighted.
      Councils returned as house builders , private bought AH and social rented – Where the USE of LDP is for communities not developers , and should be preventing the councils selling off land to developers. Examples for radical changes are Dumfries building plots for selfbuilders and of course Maryhill – thus self built and social rented on the same site , where one partly funds the site work cost of the other. This can and should be expanded further to the creation of shared amenity housing , private bought downsizers , keen on on site care , thus reducing costs in gated retirement communities – freeing up the under-occupied council and private bought supply.

      But one has to ask why the above are important , wealth creation for the few is the reason why poverty is for the many….. and that means working poverty.

      In Scotland that reform is Housing , then fuel , both being the biggest outgoings of every home income.

      In the reduction of that personal cost it means more spending on GDP , perhaps with shortened mortgage lives , or indeed where retirement is earlier as a result – This in a country where retirement age is increasing , thus assuming your typical scot lives long enough , can mean lower unemployment as a result of choice , rather than the predicted financial crisis of aged care needs predicted over the next 20 years , which is importantly something that may well bankrupt any independent Scotland.

      So tomorrows mandates need deciding on today , not horse and bolt.And importantly before it becomes a political ransom need offered by the wealthy few , which means getting in to bed with them.

      1. Jeff says:

        We’re about to embark on a second independence referendum campaign, and no matter what we do we will still be demonised by the Unionist parties and their media. But that’s all the more reason why that as a movement we must be self-disciplined and united. Self-disciplined and united doesn’t mean we all sing from the same song sheet. It certainly doesn’t mean we all subscribe to the SNP’s view of an independent Scotland, or the Greens’, or Rise’s, or anyone else’s. Our diversity is one of our strengths.
        What it means is that we refrain from attacking one another, we concentrate on making the case for an independent Scotland. We don’t allow our opponents to portray us as divided. What it means is that we put into action the aspirations that we have for an independent Scotland, that we demonstrate the tolerance and acceptance and good grace that characterises our vision of this country. What it means is that we don’t provide the Unionist media with ammunition to use against us, because then when they do attempt to demonise and delegitimise the independence movement and its supporters it will be easier to unmask them as the kind of divisive, manipulative fantastists who populate the likes of the Daily Mail and the Express. It means we can occupy the moral high ground. And that it turn makes it easier for us to discredit them. And then we will win.

      2. John B Dick says:

        The idea that d’Hondt was chosen in the 1990’s to disadvantage the SNP is an anachronistic and innumerate myth attributed to Jack McConnell as reported in Brian Taylor’s book.

        The teenage3Donald Dewar told me of the real democratic reasons 1954-57 and emphatically denied that any of it was his idea. It was, he said, ‘official Labour party policy’ and ‘to be enacted by the next Labour government’. There was nothing that I learned about the Scottish Parliament at the point of its creation that I hadn’t heard 44 years before: not the voting system, the seating arrangements in the chamber, petitions or much else.

        Do you realise the strength of the SNP c 1950? A party of cultural romantics and lost deposits less successful than SGP today. It would be daft to gerrymander the voting system against them when the Torys had half of the popular vote.

        Donald didn’t mention the use the parliament would make of the internet, though he had clear ideas about immediate publication of the official record. and what we now know as SPICe.

  2. Alf Baird says:

    Two quite elderly gentlemen were today prevented from making their points at the SNP conference by some party jobsworth sitting on the stage. Such a pathetic and regrettable event fits with the theme of this article, that the leadership is heavy handed, and not really interested in the perspective or the abilities of the mass membership. Like most political organisations, weel-peyed leadership cliques set and follow their own narrow and often ignorant agendas, while ordinary members are just an inconvenient number.

    1. c rober says:

      I have often said that the SNP are a party of blame others for failure , supply the minimum to beat the failure of others in their own supply , and fudge the maths to do so , and lastly have no real interest to offer indy at all – rather its solely to be in employment.

      The treatment of those members may well be their undoing , but its not like those members are alone.

      Just ask about LDP being applied ON many communities – This while being portrayed as community empowerment , sure is – until they object. Yet the Holyrood internal docs on LDP state “to aid developers” , and perversely the recent private review of the LDP itself states it should be expanded to further enable the developer , through removing VALID further objection criteria from communities.

      Where this drive for absolute power is proven , is that the SNP are keen on employment creation sure , but for the few like them , ie now its an EU office , or even the much complained about upper house in Westminster and wishing to have one now in Holyrood. But where is the creation of a state bank , well thats back of the queue.

      As many have said before me they are the only option to get over the line and independent , however there is no other viable option , RiSE what about them some may say , your having a laff , a few joints , some pino and a webcam with a media/arts degree does not somehow beam into the mass electorate by magic.

      So this is where SLAB , or should that be a new old Slab should be concentrating on expanding their user base , the genie is out of the bottle , it cant be put back in , but like Darwinian theory in action there is no adapt to survive. Even the dodo Broon now advocates a home rule , the very man that once took the silver on many occasions over empowering Scotland , whom promised devo max and failed to deliver is now simpatico …. thus proving or ensuring that Nulabour is dead in Scotland. However the bones that are the left in Scotland still call the tunes , right down to the pseudo socialists in the councils , whom are the last bulwark that could well see the party wiped out in MAY…. and of course further as a result rises in Tory bums on seats in strategic 2nd choice voting from the unionists.

      However there is an option here for the SNP , in that come MAY , they stand in every council on a INDY II mandate as the sole reason to elect or re elect them…. But do they have the bravery to put our money where their mouth is? Nope , and importantly will the members , whom are now comfy in their council chambers accept this , I highly doubt it , Turkeys and xmas.

      It would be Very Hard for Westminster to ignore such a precedent , elect the SNP into councils on an INDY II mandate is that one sure fire way for the SNP to know if it is indeed winnable – thus can fire the starting pistol.

    2. Dr. James Ellison says:

      Hopefully Rory will have his day. Charitable status of schools is a major example. (Pace “Common Space”)
      The commodification of schools by charitable status undermines the driving principle of free education asa universal right. By design or default going down the crypto-Tory Academy road with this marketisation is a vote loser for the SNP. Charitable status is a devisive utilitarian anomaly, serving only one section of society hallowed with the pungent smell of elitism. Fully funded and staffed schools covering all subjects should be the norm. With the removal of the State’s charitable funding of private schools, such action would go some way to reduce inequality and improve attainment.

      1. c rober says:

        Dr. James Ellison

        I would like to see all schools benefit from charitable status , vat reclaim etc , just like the emergency services argument . And to boot a lock in of teachers , Doctors back into the communities they serve , and many still do serve . its not just for waged work , so should be rewarded as valid contributors – beyond just being our kids nannies , and through reduced housing costs or rent.

        Through going back to Council building , then perhaps we can have them back among us , even to the point of the very Councillors we elect also next door to them. PILLARS once again.

        Many of todays politicians at grass roots level are or were teachers , and I still today get shivers when one of my retired teacher neighbous looks my direction wondering if a strap is coming my direction for using the scots in conversation when offering a mornings greeting , its those eyes rolling back – I tell you its like every word is grating their brain…. only then by increasing the incentives for our pillars we can see where we are going wrong – in not just education , but in community itself.

        When I was Growing up I banged heads with sub par teachers often , and as a result of couple of them was pigeon holed as going to amount to nothing , C.H.A.V , but those two were wrong , and other teachers took a different route to my education as a result. This was before the words ADHD , Dyslexia , and autistic spectrum existed as middle class excuses handbooks for failing parenting and teaching being applied with a wide brush , and where kids were instead cast to remedial , or excluded , and where the only medication was nit shampoo.

        For all of them I am extremely grateful regardless.

        Especially so with those teachers that originally came from the same streets that helped see something like them .One of whom being an original cigar smoking working class socialist SNP Councillor (pre modern veneer), the others well they were of the mortgage variety Scottish Tory , and had a manual to educate forged in Westminster , and where Scots school history books were all post 1706…. but thankfully libraries were the google of the day.

  3. c rober says:

    Having seen more of the delegation on the views of cannabis for medicinal use , and asking for the power to be devolved , it just gets even more confusing to see if the SNP are listening to the electorate and even their own members – But I see this motion has at least been carried.

    I had once contacted Margo McDonald , a sufferer herself about putting forward an independent motion on this. She was adamant that she would not , on only one reason – the community blight , and of course mentioned the psychosis non link . Where this is tragic is that she could have benefited , but chose to suffer as a result of her conviction , perhaps having seen such situations in her wards of non medicinal use.She has to be commended on her conviction at least.

    Westminster will never devolve drug classification , and definitely not ever for medicinal use. It simply is too lucrative to continue the “over the barrel , over the counter ” use of expensive other big pharma meds , so perhaps this is only to have that cost reduced , through a ploy if you will with the suppliers. One only needs to google what Mp;s and ex politicos are on the payroll of pharma and med companies to see why.

    Which is ironic because of the work done by Dundee sciences companies and the University – which led to the creation of Sativex , and just like the Scottish Parliament creation it too is knobbled in its use , though the use of petrochemical alcohol as the suspension agent , which makes patients feel sick , and of course the reluctance of doctors to prescribe due to the cost.

    However the strains used/selected by those chemists and researchers – are proven to be of medicinal benefit…. specifically the CBD’s , and many of the more than 300 compounds are yet to be researched in full against other uses – even cures for reducing the size of at least 4 kinds of tumours has bore fruit.

    For far too long many Govts have relied on the Chinese whispers of the link to psychosis from cannabis smoking , which is probably a contributory factor if only to many of the delegates negative reaction to suggestion of decriminalizing and medicinal use , and then combined with the community blight they no doubt have seen , but this is like comparing shandy with buckfast on the other community blight in Scotland.

    I wont go into here exactly why that single report has had such weight on the psychosis link , there are many papers out there on exactly why it was flawed and of course why Govts like America wished to keep it that way – seeing as how their elected are bank rolled by big pharma. Even prior to the report from a single psych ward , America had a campaign to destroy cannabis use in order to protect big industry – wood pulp over hemp , and hemp dear readers is not even cannabis sativa.

    As mentioned at the delegation many know of the open secret of self treatment using high Strain CBD for MS parkinsons and other motor neuron illnesses and diseases.

    However it doesnt just stop there , FM , ME , Diabetes , addiction treatment , yep you read that right , and even Cancer and chemo recovery – the list is expansive , the costs though inexpensive comparatively. This is why further research needs done , and a state controlled scheme through supply being strain focused on CBD , led by our Universities and their proven research can be advantageous – instead of patients self growing whatever they can get ie THC , or indeed resorting to dodgy dealers and soap bar.

    Where this is important is that this is not some “schemey” situation.

    This home grown , pun intended , is within the middle class educated , from those that used to blame the same cannabis for Jnr failing his GSCES and his psychosis (most likely at the genetic level being triggered) , and are now where possible doing the research on strains to maximise the benefit among their own peers – So its not about getting High and replacing the pino , CBD doesnt get you high – thats the THC component which is to be avoided by choice.

    If anything in the selection of strains , the ones that do get the user high are completely avoided in order to remain and function at high capacity , prolonging work life thus gdp. In other words an improvement in their quality of life is in all our interests , not instead a chemical cosh unlike legal drugs like Amytrip to simply shut them up and remove them from society , its not just that of their own life that is improved as a result , but also of their family through having some more of the one they love returned to them.

    Some more faith has been restored in the SNP to me today , that is if it isnt just mere talk , and their further fail to supply based on blaming others like Westminster. And in the process it has shown just who in the party are open minded enough to consider it , thus open minded for Scotlands future , and of course those whom would block it.

    What we have here then is a prime situation to ask for a pilot study , through the likes of Dundee Uni , and see if for the last 50 years many in the know have been right all along.

  4. Yan says:

    Sticky politics, so much of the SNP agenda is becoming strangely reminiscent of early days nuLabour.

    1. Jeff says:

      We’re about to embark on a second independence referendum campaign, and no matter what we do we will still be demonised by the Unionist parties and their media. But that’s all the more reason why that as a movement we must be self-disciplined and united. Self-disciplined and united doesn’t mean we all sing from the same song sheet. It certainly doesn’t mean we all subscribe to the SNP’s view of an independent Scotland, or the Greens’, or Rise’s, or anyone else’s. Our diversity is one of our strengths.
      What it means is that we refrain from attacking one another, we concentrate on making the case for an independent Scotland. We don’t allow our opponents to portray us as divided. What it means is that we put into action the aspirations that we have for an independent Scotland, that we demonstrate the tolerance and acceptance and good grace that characterises our vision of this country. What it means is that we don’t provide the Unionist media with ammunition to use against us, because then when they do attempt to demonise and delegitimise the independence movement and its supporters it will be easier to unmask them as the kind of divisive, manipulative fantastists who populate the likes of the Daily Mail and the Express. It means we can occupy the moral high ground. And that it turn makes it easier for us to discredit them. And then we will win.

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