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National Secretary - first thoughts

We have just had a very successful SNP National Conference. Technology fought us from time to time, in an entirely non-discriminatory way as far as I could see, but we largely fought back pretty effectively.

The big success, and the greatest enjoyment that comes from our conferences has always been gossip. Bumping into people you haven't seen for a year. Questions about matters which one has given no previous consideration to.

The Hopin technology platform that has replaced a physical conference centre this year has, it seems to be me, attracted its greatest plaudits for its Blether function. Randomly pairing people for 5 minutes chat; people you have probably never listened to before. And I certainly heard some comments on matters where I have limited knowledge. Good stuff.

The debates were further away from our traditional structures and decision-making processes. But we did debate, We did vote, We did decide. But for future conferences we need to make sure that our Members, Branches, Associations and Affiliates know how their proposals will be dealt with. That way they can prepare appropriately.

The re-activation of National Assembly as a tool to develop and test our present and future policies started before the pandemic. But is now a critical way in which a wider range of our members can directly contribute, and it can work in the online world. Every member can attend. They can just register and turn up.

Having a range of policy "in the bank" is not an abstract idea. When I became a Minister in 2007 almost my first thought was, "What should I be doing?". I read nearly ten years of Conference and National Council decisions and extracted those that related to my Ministerial portfolio. That ended up as about 60 pages and when I left office my personal "exit review" of my activity suggested I had done all but a couple of things on the list. So policy making must be a key part of what engages us in all parts of the Party.

So after four days as National Secretary what have I been up to?

Top of the list was thinking about the first National Executive Committee meeting post-conference. The first paragraph in the rules for NEC says, "Ordinary meetings of the Committee shall normally be held on the second Saturday of the month and shall terminate at 1pm." That means a meeting on 12th December although one may note the word "normally". The rules also require that the agenda is issued a week in advance. And drawing up the Agenda lies with National Secretary.

But holding meetings, any meeting, is a means to an end, not an end in itself. So immediate decisions at our first meeting include, getting the selection and ranking of regaional list candidates for 2021 completed, checking arrangements for a National Assembly to debate the arrangements for indyref2 as manadated by National Conference.

We also need as a group to act in a - give me another word if you can - "corporate" manner. We should test and debate in our meetings, but when we decide we must know what we have decided and how to ensure delivery of our decisions. And support the decisions, even those we argued against, when we leave the meeting.

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