OpenSpace Q&A with Councillor Chris McEleny talking about his campaign for SNP depute leadership & more!

Maxine Blane

All the questions and answers from the OpenSpace Q&A with SNP Depute candidate Chris McEleny

COUNCILLOR for Inverclyde West and SNP Depute candidate Chris McEleny was live answering questions on Tuesday 13 August from 6-8pm in the first of a series of Q&As with all of the depute candidates. McEleny was the first of the four candidates to announce that he was running and has put grassroots involvement at the heart of his campaign. McEleny answered questions about what we could learn from Nordic countries about local politics, bringing socialist values to the SNP and more.

If you missed it, don’t panic: We’ve collated all the questions and answers below, and they are also available to download as a document over on the OpenSpace page on CommonSocial. We’ll be uploading all the Q&A sessions hosted on OpenSpace to CommonSpace, and as downloadable documents that you can use as resources to share or start a discussion, so even if you can’t be online when a discussion is happening you can still get involved.

Join the OpenSpace page on CommonSocial now to make sure that you stay up-to-date with all the upcoming guests and what they’ll be talking about. If you’re not on CommonSocial, our editor Angela Haggerty has written a wee guide on how to sign up, and once you’re on you can join OpenSpace, or any other space you have an interest in and get a discussion started!

Chris McEleny

Hello, I will be online from 6pm to 8pm answering your questions about why I am best placed to be the next Depute Leader of the SNP. I am happy to answer any other general questions you may have. 


Q: David Inglis

Hi Chris, given that the SNP are set to launch their "summer" campaign for Independence, will they be reengaging with the wider grassroots groups and the Yes Movement?
Have any of the plans currently being discussed at the Common Weal been discussed in the SNP and is any work being done on any of these?

A: Chris

Hi David. I am not a member of the SNP 'NEC', effectively the body that runs the party and makes decisions outwith the normal policy making forums.

Therefore Im unaware of what discussions have taken place with common Weal. However it highlights an important point, we wont win a future referendum on the back of SNP Votes. A record 1 Million people voted SNP in the Holyrood elections this year, the highest ever constituency support in the history of the Scottish parliament.
1.7M voted Yes, and we lost. Therefore although the SNP is the political party of the independence movement we need to work together with every like minded person and group that shares the view that Scotland should be an independent country.

For me, as the party of independence the SNP need to win elections to keep progressing the case of independence. The next step is winning council elections across Scotland, we can do that but then we need to deliver for communities in Council's across Scotland. That is why im in this contest as I believe I can bring a unique understanding of the importance of local government to the heart of the leadership of the SNP.

Q: David

Thanks Chris,
I am wondering if the SNP have done any work on data gathering that would allow us to discuss the GERs report more constructively?

A: Chris

David dont forget that GERS figures are the position as being a member of the UK. Thats the whole point of independence, to reject austerity, not waste 100s billions of pounds the majority of Scotland oppose spending and to grow our economy to meet the needs of the future of Scotland.

Q: Daibhidh Ceannadach

Hi Chris,

Firstly, good luck with the Depute Leader election.

With regard to local democracy, some people (notably Lesley Riddoch) say that we have a lot to learn from Nordic countries. I'm wondering what your opinion is on this, and are there any particular things we could learn from them or other countries?

A: Chris

Good evening

What I love most about local politics is that it is about local issues that matter to people. Now although the issues in Greenock may be different from those in Peterhead or Edinburgh there are many common issues; child poverty, educational attainment gaps, lack of affordable housing, drug & alcohol abuse, an ageing population etc. However what local democracy allows for is for local people to provide local solutions to issues instead of a national one size fits all approach.

I have visited Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Of course one of the main differences is the level of taxation they pay, a level that reflects the quality of their public services. However we are in the difficult position that in the UK an argument of higher taxation for better public services is difficult because people will rightly ask why pay more when 100s of billions is wasted on Westminster vanity projects, illegal wars in Iraq and allowing big business to avoid paying billions in tax. 

As for local democracy in Nordic countries, local authority areas represent much smaller numbers of people. This you could argue leads to far greater level of localism. However we shouldnt just aim to mimic what works for other countries, thats the whole point of self determination, to be able to do things our own way that suit the people we are elected to serve. 

I would like to visit some Scandanavian countries in the near future to see how they have got the balance right in sharing costs but ensuring democracy is as close to the people decisions impact on. For example do we really need 32 chief execs across Scottish local government? Do we need 32 payroll systems, HR systems and IT systems, not forgetting that other public sector bodies such as the police, the nhs, fire&rescue have these too. Therefore there is a lot of money that can be saved by better partnership working across imaginary boundaries but we must ensure this is not at the cost of losing local control over decision making.

Q: Daibhidh

Chris, I get your point about not mimicking other countries, but finding what works for us while being informed by what others are doing.

Many towns & villages in Scotland are twinned with similar in other countries. I don't know to what degree the corresponding councils already communicate but it seems to me that these connections could be a good source of ideas on how we could make our democracy more local and more effective.

A: Chris

Good point Re twinning. 

It couldn’t be easier to sign up to CommonSocial – just follow these simple steps:

Q: CommonSpace

We have received a question from twitter user 'Ms. Anthrope' (@gille_toine), who asks:

"As a fellow SNP socialist does Chris have any advice when dealing with right of party?"

A: Chris

I assume Ms.Anthrope was suggesting the right of the SNP?

I think as with the country in general all political parties have members of varying positions on the left to right spectrum. However I didnt get into politics to drive Scotland to the right or to the left, I stood to become a councillor to drive my community forward.

However there is a reason the SNP have replaced the Labour party as the party of 'the Left' in Scotland. I share the same socialist views as the great trade unionist Jimmy Reid. Jimmy of course joined the SNP and campaigned for independence. The same sort of journey many Labour voters were on that resulted in them voting Yes and the reason many joined the SNP or vote SNP.

However for me the independence question now has two sides. Those in favour who are promoting the opportunity to become a more socially progressive country. A country that doesn't spend £200bn on renewing Trident, a country that doesn't go to illegal wars in Iraq, a country that taxes the boardrooms not the bedrooms, a country that has a government the people of Scotland vote for not a Tory government we dont vote for imposed on us. 

The opposition to this is now clearly Ruth Davidson's right wing Tory party. A party who are defending the UK government at every opportunity. A party that thinks employment law, the right to set a living wage, maternity rights and more should be in the hands of Theresa May's right wing government and not the Scottish people.

Therefore I believe that independence will be won when the majority of people in this country who want to live in a fairer, socially just country come together and realise that the right wing politics of the London Government is our past and the progressive politics of Scotland is our future.

Q: Rab Hay

Hey Chris, when and under what circumstances do you think the next referendum will be? Robin McAlpine believes we won't be ready for another five years which will give us time to analyse where we went wrong and not only fix it but put it in the public domain so that it is common place not a radical leap.

A: Chris

Good evening Rab. When will Scotland become an independent country? When people vote for it. When will people vote for it? When the majority of Scotland want to vote for it. 

Brexit has changed the landscape but lets not forget the true democratic deficit in Scotland – having a Tory Government we don't vote for imposed upon us.

Despite this being the most unpopular and right wing government in a generation the British Labour party haven't landed a glove on them. They are too obsessed with talking to themselves and fighting a civil war within their party to run the country. 

I think that over the next 12 months many things are going to start to sink in. Firstly that Scotland is being dragged out of Europe against our will. It doesnt actually matter if you voted to leave or if you voted to remain, the point is it didnt matter. The opinion of the rest of the UK is what is dictating Scotland's future. Many people in Scotland may want to leave the EU but it should be the people of Scotland that determine Scotland's future relationship with the EU not the people of England or Wales.

Secondly the Labour party are imploding across Scotland. Many people believed in 2014 that they could vote NO then get the Tories out in 2015. We didnt. As mentioned we got another Tory Government Scotland just did not vote for. Now the prospect is that the Tory's will remain in power for decades to come. That may sound unimaginable but who is going to remove them from power? A Labour party that cant even form a shadow cabinet? A party that campaigned in 2015 on a Tory Light manifesto?

Dont forget all the legislation the EU protected; workers rights, the right to time off, maternity leave, health and safety rights etc. Who do we trust in Scotland to make better decisions about all of the above? Do we trust these laws in the hands of Theresa May, Boris Johnson and co or would better decisions be made for working people in Scotland if these laws were in the hands of the Scottish government?

So we are on a journey. We wont win a future referendum by shouting the same arguments of 2014 with louder voices. Thats why we need to talk to people. Listen to their concerns. The pound was one of them, but where is Alistair Darling and his plan B to stop the post Brexit Pound plummeting?

I think many people in Scotland are reflecting on the vote they made in 2014 and are now asking themselves the question of did what I thought i was voting NO for in 2014 come to fruition and can it ever in this disunited Kingdom?

Therefore we need to be patient and allow people to reflect and be able to provide them the answers to the concerns they have.

Scotland voted no in 2014 but I believe the majority of those that voted No voted not yet.

When they are ready to vote Yes we will win a future referendum.

A: Rab

Thanks Chris, I think that until the effects of Brexit really hit people they won't fully realise that we need to be an Independent country to tailor our plentiful resources and economy to our needs and wants. It will probably be another five years before that happens and we are ready to fight another referendum. That said nothing is stopping us trying to win people over from now onwards.

Q: Rab Hay

Chris before you go could you explain what made you decide to run for Depute leader of the SNP, you are up against three heavyweights but we do love an underdog don't we?

A: Chris

Thanks for your time everyone. I will leave you with why I am standing for this position and then I am off to watch Scotland's representatives in Europe!
It is time for local government to have a louder voice at the heart of our party.
It is a great privilege to be involved in this contest championing the role of local councillors at every opportunity. For too long as a party we have not utilised the breadth of talent local government has to offer. You just need to look to the SNP party website in which MPs, MSPs and MEPS are highlighted but there is no reference to the hard work we do on a daily basis to deliver for our communities.

The SNP Depute Leadership contest gives councillors across Scotland the opportunity to use their vote to make sure we our voices are heard.
IN 2011 the SNP made history by securing a landslide victory in the Holyrood election which resulted in what was thought to be impossible – a majority government. Over 900,000 voted SNP in constituencies across Scotland. In the 2012 council elections many thought this success would be replicated, but they were wrong. First preference votes were just over 400,000 and despite getting more councillors elected than any other party, the SNP took majority control of only two out of 32 local authorities across Scotland.

The referendum has changed Scottish politics forever. But there is a difference between independence referendums and elections. We lost the referendum but if we want another one so that Scotland can at last become an independent country then the party of independence has to keep winning elections.

The next step in our journey towards independence was winning a massive majority of Scottish seats at the General Election of 2015. Then we won the Holyrood election of May 2016 with an increase in our vote of over 10 per cent. In June of this year we had the opportunity to use our votes to protect our European status and we voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. This further highlighted the democratic deficit that is imposed upon us in Scotland, with our clear decision to remain in Europe being overruled by the result in England and Wales.

The journey towards independence is well underway. Our next challenge on that journey is to win council elections across Scotland.

Alyn, Angus and Tommy are all exceptionally talented and valued parliamentarians. Alyn has proven to the country that he is the best person to stand up for and promote Scotland in Europe, regardless of the result of this depute leader election. Angus, in his role of SNP leader at Westminster is already holding the right wing Tory Government to account on a weekly basis and has made the SNP the true opposition at the Westminster parliament. Tommy is absolutely right in calling for the party to reform, to restructure, and to take into account the fact that we have grown from 24,000 members to over 120,000 members in such a small period of time. I wholeheartedly support Tommy’s vision of the future and hope to see him play an integral part in a restructuring of the SNP.

However this is not the time to be putting unnecessary emphasis on a London parliament or to be talking to ourselves about internal issues: this is the time to be putting local government to the forefront of our campaigning.

The SNP have an opportunity to use this Depute Leader contest to send a strong message out to people across Scotland. We care about local government and we support the hard work that is carried out in local communities across Scotland. There are 33 governments in Scotland, one Scottish Government and 32 local governments spread across the country.

We are the third largest party in the UK, but the Tories and the Labour party would laugh at the idea of a councillor being elected to such a senior position. If we want to win in all 32 local authorities next year there can be no stronger sign of our commitment to councils across the country than that of electing a representative of local government to the heart of our party’s leadership.

The future of Scottish politics is right here in Scotland. A leadership team consisting of our leader Nicola Sturgeon who comes from the SNP group at the Scottish parliament and a Depute Leader who comes from local government makes strategic sense. Westminster and Europe are still important, but the SNP is the party of Scotland, and it is the government of Scotland which should be at the heart of the party.

It’s time to do local politics differently. We must clear out the old boys clubs that fill up council chambers across Scotland. Whether it is the stale Labour-led councils in Inverclyde, Aberdeen, Glasgow, North/South Lanarkshire, Fife or the Lothians. Local politics can be a force for good and it is an arena where we can work together to improve our children’s education, look after those in need, improve our areas and use the resources at our disposal to invest in communities.

We cannot afford to allow business as usual to continue after next May. Winning at Westminster and at Holyrood will all be for nothing if we cannot win locally across the country in May of next year. That is why I want to be Depute Leader of the SNP, to start delivering for the many communities that are being failed at the moment.
If you would like to join me in making Local Government stronger from both within the SNP and in Scotland then please get in touch.

As councillors we have set the foundations upon which our party’s success has been built.
With your support we can win this contest and elect a councillor as our next Depute Leader.
Next week please consider giving LOCAL GOVERNMENT your 1st Preference Vote!
Thank you

A: Rab

Thanks for your time Chris, good luck.


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