Edinburgh East MP says the SNP must be prepared for challenges ahead, including indyref 2 "when it comes"
SNP MP Tommy Sheppard will stand for the deputy leader role in the party following the departure of Stewart Hosie, he has announced.
In a statement on his website, Sheppard placed the party grassroots at the heart of his campaign to secure the position, pledging to work towards a change in internal SNP structures to involve the membership more in the party.
The Edinburgh East MP, who was elected at the 2015 General Election after joining the SNP in 2014, said: "We need to revise how we do things, building on the massive increase in membership since 2014.
“Members are our biggest asset and we need structures that allow them to get more involved. They are central to our continuing success as a party and a movement.” Tommy Sheppard MP
"Members are our biggest asset and we need structures that allow them to get more involved. They are central to our continuing success as a party and a movement.
"We need to prepare as many people as possible to play an active role in campaigns. I believe we need to refocus our basic unit – the party branch – to include much more political discussion and action. We need to spend money on professional organisers – at HQ and in a regional network – to support branch activities and members’ training.
"We need to bring together all our elected representatives – MPs, MSPs and councillors – in coherent teams providing political leadership to our communities. We need to rethink how we make policy – involving as many members as possible in a continuous process."
At the SNP's spring conference in March, SNP Isle of Arran branch convener Malcolm Kerr addressed delegates with concerns about the conference agenda being "complacent" and full of "self-congratulation". Party campaigners called for greater involvement of members and more debate led by the membership.
Sheppard said in his statement: "To work, change must come from the bottom up via a swift but inclusive and comprehensive review. Working with other party officers and the NEC I’d like to lead that process, starting as soon as possible."
“We need to rethink how we make policy – involving as many members as possible in a continuous process.” Tommy Sheppard MP
Sheppard will face competition from fellow contenders Angus Robertson MP, Alyn Smith MEP and Councillor Chris McEleny. The previous deputy leader, Stewart Hosie, stepped down in May after news of an extra-marital affair emerged in the media.
Sheppard added that the SNP must be prepared for challenges ahead, including "indyref 2 when it comes", and said political opponents had "made it easy" for the SNP in recent elections. In 2015, the SNP wiped out Scotland's traditional Labour stronghold, returning 56 out of the country's 59 MPs.
"At this critical time in our nation’s history we have a window of opportunity, yet we still have much work to do in a short time," he said.
"To be successful we need to use all of the talents of our party. I believe the job of depute leader is key to our success. To achieve our goal of independence our party needs to be even better at everything it does.
"We’ve had some great election successes recently, but frankly our opponents have made it easy for us. We need to prepare for the challenges ahead, including indyref 2 when it comes. That will be a far tougher test, and we need to be ready."
“We need to prepare for the challenges ahead, including indyref 2 when it comes. That will be a far tougher test, and we need to be ready.” Tommy Sheppard MP
Sheppard – who owns the renowned Stand Comedy Club – has been active in politics for nearly 40 years, and spent most of his political life in the Labour party. He was elected councillor on the Hackney London Borough Council in the 1980s, and served as assistant general secretary of Scottish Labour in the 1990s. However, he discontinued his membership of the party in 2003, saying he could "no longer believe the Labour party is likely to change the world very much, or at least not in a direction I would like".
The new deputy leader will be selected via a members' vote at the SNP's autumn conference, and the window for candidates to put themselves forward closes in early August.
Picture courtesy of Tommy Sheppard
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