Exclusive: Drugs decriminalisation on the agenda at #SNP19, but no indyref2 motions

Ben Wray

Drugs decriminalisation, a Scottish Energy Development Agency and “reserved positions” for minority groups in party candidate selection on the agenda

THE SNP’s annual conference from 13-15 October in Aberdeen comes at a time of flux in British politics, with a General Election now highly likely either at the end of this year or the start of next.

CommonSpace has seen the agenda for the conference – we highlight some of the key motions to be debated, and what’s missing from the agenda.

No #indyref2 motions

Perhaps surprisingly, the SNP conference committee has not allowed any motion to the conference floor on a second independence referendum. While there is a motion on state pension policy in an independent Scotland, some delegates will be left frustrated that strategy on the timing and mechanism for pursuing independence in the amidst of Britain’s biggest crisis since the second world war will be left to keynote speeches from leading party figures to address. 

A ‘Plan B’ motion had been proposed by SNP MP Angus MacNeil and council leader Chris McEleny, which made the case for the SNP fighting the next Scottish elections for mandate to directly negotiate independence, if the UK Government refused to deliver a section 30 order before then for a legally binding independence referendum. The pair were left angered by the motions rejection, with McEleny stating: “If we don’t stand for vibrant policy debates, what type of policy debates do we stand for?”

Neither have motions been selected on an independent Scotland’s currency, a policy position that is ambiguous after a leadership motion was backed by the SNP’s conference in April proposing a transition to a Scottish currency only if six tests were passed, but with an amendment calling for a Scottish currency to be introduced “as soon as is practicable”. The proposers of the amendment argued that it was “incompatible” with the six tests.

Drugs decriminalisation

A motion on drugs-related deaths by SNP MPs describes record drugs deaths this year as a “public health emergency” and demands drug legislation is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This is likely to be carried unanimously in the conference hall, but the amendment to the motion could cause debate. The Leith and Portobello & Craigmillar branches of the party have sought to amend the motion to state that government should “allow for decriminalisation of possession and consumption of controlled drugs so that health services are not prevented from giving treatment to those that need it”.

While there is some evidence that “de facto decriminalisation” is already a reality in Scotland, a clear policy commitment in favour of decriminalisation would be a step change for the party.

Tackling “racism and unconscious bias” and investigating “reserved positions” for minority communities

A motion backed by Young Scots for Independence and Humza Yousaf MSP says that while gender balancing mechanisms have improved representation of women in the Scottish Parliament, “BAME, disabled people, and other minority communities continue to be under-represented”.

The motion calls for “reserved positions” in the selection process of candidates to be investigated by the national executive committee to improve the diversity of representation in the SNP. 

A separate motion notes “that whilst issues of xenophobic abuse towards Europeans has increased, it is the case that racism towards non European Black and Minority Ethnic citizens has also grown” and calls on governments to “to review ways of raising the level of understanding of unconscious bias against the many different cultures practised on these islands”. An amendment to the motion, from the SNP’s BAME members network, calls for the party to provide political education “on racism and unconscious bias”. 

A Scottish Energy Development Agency

An intriguing motion from the Greenock and Inverclyde branch and backed by Ronnie Cowan MSP, Stuart McMillan MSP and the SNP trade union group calls for a “national plan drawn up of prioritised energy schemes, timetabled to meet the Scottish Government’s energy and climate change targets”.

The motion goes on to propose a “Scottish Energy Development Agency to accelerate local energy system transformation by nationally directing and enabling the development of energy infrastructure, generation and sustainable fuel supply chains, and providing the expertise and finance to catalyse Local Authorities and others to undertake effective carbon reduction projects”.

The idea of a Scottish Energy Development Agency as a co-ordinating body for energy infrastructure delivery to organise the green transition has been advocated by the Common Weal think-tank’s Energy Working Group

With the final chance for amendments to the Climate Bill this week, these proposals may need to be pushed ahead before the motion reaches the October conference.

Also on climate change, a motion on Climate Justice backing a Climate Justice Fund at UK Government level in addition to current international development funding is proposed, highlighting the fact that it will be the global south who will bear the brunt of climate breakdown.

A Scottish State Pension Plan

The one motion on Scottish independence is an interesting one. It takes on the vexed issue of state pensions, highlighting the fact that the UK state pension is the worst in the OECD, and argues that “as a minimum an independent Scotland should plan to meet the OECD average for a Scottish State Pension as a top priority for all of Scotland’s pensioners”.

It goes on to support “the commissioning of a Scottish State Pension Plan to sustainably deliver financial security and wellbeing to the pensioners of an independent Scotland”. 

The Sustainable Growth Commission report, a version of which was backed by SNP members at the last spring conference, had virtually nothing to say about the State Pension issue, so this call for policy work could help address an important and growing demographic which voted overwhelmingly No in 2014.

What else?

Other motions on the agenda include:

  • Condemnation of UK’s illegal sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, and calling on a ban on all UK arms sales to the despotic regime (not a new policy);
  • The backing of New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget model, which bases wellbeing indicators at the centre of budgetary decisions;
  • Condemnation of the UK Government’s detention of children and pregnant women at the Dungavel detention centre;
  • An ‘Urban Green Deal’ calling for the Scottish Government to work with local authorise on expanding “the amount and quality of greenspace in our towns and cities”;
  • A call for a statutory Scots Language Board “on a similar basis as Bòrd na Gàidhlig”

Picture courtesy of The SNP