SNP conference to trial digital democracy for motion selection 


“Pilot” system will allow delegates to choose handful of conference motions

A MINI-DIGITAL DEMOCRACY project will test giving SNP members more influence over how some of the party’s motions are selected at its Autumn conference. 

Party national secretary Patrick Grady confirmed the move in an email to members at the end of last week [Thursday 29 September].

45 minutes of the conference programme will comprise motions voted on by delegates through an online election poll.

“This conference is beginning to resemble the Labour party in the Tony Blair era. We can do better than that.” Malcolm Kerr

The move comes after criticism that the conference is too “stage managed”, and should do more to include the interests of the party’s mass membership and have open debates on forming policy. 

Grady, in his message to members, said: “The Standing Orders and Agenda Committee (SOAC) has agreed to pilot a system which will allow delegates at SNP Conference to have a more direct say over the topical resolutions selected for discussion.”

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“SOAC will consider the resolutions submitted and a 'long list' of these will be circulated to all registered conference delegates on Monday 10th October.  Delegates will then be able to vote by electronic ballot (using a ranking system) on which they believe should be debated on the floor of conference.  SOAC will then select the resolutions with the most support to be debated at the extended topical resolution session of conference between 3.15pm-4.00pm on Thursday 13th October,” he added.

While SOAC will still decide what motions can be voted on, the move represents an attempt to involve more people in setting the party’s agenda.

Since the SNP membership surge to over 124,000 people there has been some disquiet over the narrow approach to policy making at conference. 

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In 2015 members rebelled against the party’s land reform proposals for not going far enough. Motions proposed for a full ban on fracking were diluted down, then rejected at previous conferences, leading to some rebel members calling for change. 

Malcolm Kerr was applauded at the previous SNP conference in March when calling for greater powers to the party’s membership in setting the conference agenda.

“This conference is beginning to resemble the Labour party in the Tony Blair era. We can do better than that,” he told the hall.

The party agenda for the 2016 Autumn conference mainly reasserts pre-existing SNP policy, barring debates on the tax status of the school system and the legal position of medical cannabis.

The National Council is the governing body of the SNP between conference periods. It is comprised of SNP officer bearers (all elected politicians), six elected members, and representative of interests groups like SNP Trade Unionists, SNP Youth and SNP Students.

Picture courtesy of Patrick Grady MP

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