MP Tommy Sheppard explains his decision to stand for the position of Depute Leader of the SNP.
Over the past few weeks I have been approached by a wide range of SNP members asking me to stand for the position of Depute Leader of our Party. After much thought I have decided to do so. Here’s why.
At this critical time in our nation’s history we have a window of opportunity, yet we still have much work to do in a short time. To be successful we need to use all of the talents of our party. I believe the job of Depute Leader is key to our success.
To achieve our goal of Independence our party needs to be even better at everything it does.
We’ve had some great election successes recently, but frankly our opponents have made it easy for us. We need to prepare for the challenges ahead, including IndyRef2 when it comes. That will be a far tougher test, and we need to be ready.
We need to revise how we do things, building on the massive increase in membership since 2014. Members are our biggest asset and we need structures that allow them to get more involved. They are central to our continuing success as a party and a movement.
We need to prepare as many people as possible to play an active role in campaigns. I believe we need to refocus our basic unit – the party branch – to include much more political discussion and action. We need to spend money on professional organisers – at HQ and in a regional network – to support branch activities and members’ training. We need to bring together all our elected representatives – MPs, MSPs and Councillors – in coherent teams providing political leadership to our communities. We need to rethink how we make policy – involving as many members as possible in a continuous process.
To work, change must come from the bottom up via a swift but inclusive and comprehensive review. Working with other party officers and the NEC I’d like to lead that process, starting as soon as possible.
We have a superb leadership team in the SNP, each with a different role to play and collectively embodying a wealth of talent and experience. And the team is being tested at this crucial time, with so much going on around us, not least in providing the real opposition to the Tories at Westminster and protecting Scotland’s position in Europe. As Depute Leader I would complement and bolster an already strong team.
The Depute Leader needs to have a primary focus on swiftly and effectively developing our capability as a campaigning organisation, to better prepare the grassroots for the demands of politics in the digital era of the 21st century, allowing others the time to focus on the key jobs they are asked to do.
Finally, to win Independence we need to speak to all of our potential supporters. Those who have been working on this cause for decades, those like me who joined the party in the aftermath of the independence referendum, and those who are still to make the journey to Yes.
We need to facilitate and lead a movement bigger than ourselves. We still have arguments to win. And they will be won by continually building alliances beyond the SNP.
I still have a lot to learn: although active in Scottish politics for nearly 40 years, I’ve only been in the SNP since 2014. This means I can bring a new perspective to our leadership team. I don’t claim to represent new members, but I am fairly typical of those who have made a political journey in recent years, particularly from the Labour movement. I spent several years working in the Yes campaign building alliances with people across all parties and none. That’s a role we may need to revive, sooner rather than later, and as Depute Leader I would drive that forward.
The discussion we will have on these key issues during this election will only strengthen the party, offering an exemplar of a healthy internal democracy in Scotland’s largest political organisation. And whoever wins will benefit from having the authority of the mandate an election offers.
I want to stress that I have every confidence in all the members of the current leadership of the party in their respective roles, and will continue to fully support all of the team no matter what the outcome of this election. That’s how we do things in the SNP.
My thanks to everyone who has encouraged me to stand. Your support is humbling and I confess I’m just a little daunted at the challenge. But I believe I am up to it. No person can achieve things by themselves. Winning independence for our country will need all our efforts. I hope that I can bring my skills and experience to the job and play a role inspiring and motivating our mass membership in the months and years ahead.
Tommy Sheppard is the SNP MP for Edinburgh East – http://tommysheppardmp.scot