Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Advice to the new MSPs

A contribution made to Portland PR 's weekly briefing on Holyrood A new job is a time to look in the mirror and undertake a self-assessment about what one can contribute in a new role. And what weaknesses one may have that could inhibit success. Being elected an MSP is no different in that respect. But very different in many others. One has become public property and every action, or action thought to be by you, will be open to public comment, often unfairly. Silence is often your best response. When one comments on criticism one lengthens the “war” and widens the knowledge of it. Set your own agenda rather than respond to that of others. Who can you trust among your fellow Parliamentarians? Make contact with as many as you can as quickly as you can. And make it a priority to interact with political opponents. The first substantive decision in the new Parliament is the election of a new Presiding Officer and it will be a secret ballot. Understanding the dynamic of other partie

Impenetrable as nights

It's so warm out there that it's almost a relief to be able to sit indoors behind the thick insulating stone walls of our house. I am on a sofa at the end of our sitting room furthermost from the TV. That is not, however, giving me all the peace that will assist in detaching keystrokes from my fingers into the computer on my lap. Donald Ruirh, our elderly gentleman cat, is abjuring his morning snooze in favour of "throw and fetch". He has a wee toy made by our neighbour which is simply a knot tied in a small piece of material. But at the heart of it is some catnip. One sniff of that and cats rise from the most profound slumber to draw its intoxicating fumes into their lungs The pupils of his eyes are wide as he hops up beside me with this between his teeth and a continuous purr is amplified by his partially open mouth. Should I ignore his presence, and the newly deposited toy, a paw will engage my arm. On the second occasion, it will be augmented by the full armo

End of an Era 2016-2021

Written for  Holyrood magazine's "The End of an era 2016-2021"  published 07 April 2021.    Neil Findlay is the man who loves you to hate him. As he rises from his habitual place in a distant corner of the Parliamentary Chamber, a snarl as firmly attached to his face as he is disconnected to any symbol of middle-class values such as a tie, tension flows as he selects his target for the day. Is it dapper John Scott? The record-holder for the shortest time between his being sworn in and making his first speech in Parliament; a mere twenty hours. Does Willie Rennie attract his ire? Confession; we went to the same school. Almost anything liberal is bound to attract this Labour very-back-bencher’s contumely. Greens rarely attract his attention but he should remember that John Finnie, another member of this year’s escape committee, can efficiently direct a canine arrest. Now of course, I have sought to avoid any engagement with the fellow. I never, just never, even acknow