Exclusive: Calls to increase party discipline on agenda for 2016 SNP conference


Other policies on the SNP conference agenda include raising minumum wage for the young and legalising cannabis for medical use

THE SNP CONFERENCE AGENDA this year includes a motion calling for a "strengthening" of internal party discipline in the aftermath of almost 100,000 members joining the party since 2014.

The demand for greater discipline among members comes as part of a motion calling for a “wide ranging” consultation into changes in party structures.

CommonSpace has seen the final conference agenda, with the motion from the party’s national secretary, Patrick Grady, and the SNP’s political education convenor, Julie Hepburn, also calling for better representation of women and minorities on party boards.

The motion reads: “Conference welcomes the tens of thousands of members who have joined the SNP since the independence referendum in 2014.

“Conference notes that the last major review of the SNP’s internal and constitutional structures took place in 2004.

“Conference instructs the NEC to undertake a wide-ranging consultation with branches and the wider membership, with a view to bringing forward proposals to a Conference of the Party, which will include:

“1. Revising and updating Conference and policy-making procedures

“2. Encouraging flexible and engaging systems for campaigning and policy development, while reducing the amount and requirement of formal accounting units and local bureaucracy;

“3. Ensuring better gender, minority, and geographical representation on national bodies of the Party; and

“4. Strengthening and clarifying disciplinary procedures to ensure both the principles of natural justice are upheld and the values and standards of the Party are respected by all members.”

Background read: SNP rebels call for reform of "self-congratulatory" party conferences

The motion goes on to recognise that the changes would be taking place against the backdrop of “unprecedented” political turmoil, following the UK’s shock vote to leave the EU in June.

In the aftermath of the vote, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that a second referendum on Scottish independence was “highly likely”. She has since embarked on a diplomatic campaign to secure Scotland’s position within the EU.

The SNP’s ascendancy in Scottish politics has been marred by accusations of ill-discipline among some party members and representatives.

Several SNP branches have seen infighting in recent months, including the party’s Cumnock and District branch, which had to be suspended in October 2015. Alan Deans, the branch secretary for the party’s Ardrossan organisation, quit the SNP in April 2015 after allegations of sexism.

The SNP has suspended two of its 56 MPs. Michelle Thompson resigned the party whip in 2015 after it emerged her former solicitor was struck off for professional misconduct in 2014 in relation to property deals.

Natalie McGarry resigned the whip after allegations of mishandling the funds of the Women for Independence campaign. An investigation in to the claims are still on going. 

Pro-union opponents of the party have consistently complained about the online behaviour of some SNP members and independence supporters they have dubbed ‘cybernats’, who they claim harass opponents.

The SNP’s conference agenda includes 23 motions in all, with other changes in policy to include the raising of the minimum wage for under 25s to match the minimum for over 25s; a call for state schools to hold the same charitable status, and therefore qualify for tax exemptions as private schools; and the decriminalisation of cannabis for medical use.

Picture courtesy of Ewan McIntosh

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.