There is too much fragmentation combined with insufficient engagement in the SNP at present. It is an ideal recipe for conflict and loss of direction. I have talked in an earlier blog about the need for TeamSNP approach at a more national level. Here I want to focus on the local. I want to focus on the role of parliamentarians in particular.
It may surprise readers however that my starting point is with our overriding purpose of achieving Scottish Independence. I do so because we cannot best deliver locally unless we secure the fruits of Scottish Independence. We cannot do that if we don't act to transition to independence. This has consequences. Let me explain my thinking.
Working together: Breaking down devolution driven barriers
Currently we are mirroring devolution not independence in the way many (not all) elected representatives work. I know from personal experience there can be jealous protection of boundaries established by devolution. For example, MSPs being jealously protective about their devolved responsibilities, such as in education; MPs being jealous about their responsibilities, such as in foreign policy. This might be fine in a context where independence is in the far distance, but not now. It doesn't make sense for Scottish Independence. We need to be bolder and not be constrained by the status quo. I am reminded of the words of Edwin Morgan:
"We give you our deepest dearest wish to govern well, don’t say we have no
mandate to be so bold. "
Thinking more strategically about transitioning towards Scottish Independence must inevitable lead us in the direction of breaking down devolution barriers and building in their place a common road to Independence. Put simply parliamentarians must maximise working together as if they were in the new single independent Scottish parliament where there are no such false barriers. This is particularly true given the UK government drive to compromise devolution.
This means MPs and MSPs should work together wherever possible in areas of policy development across the whole spectrum of subject matters. This has implication not just for the national level, but locally as well.
Constituency level joint working
I am very impressed by constituencies where MPs and MSPs are working closely together. No individual parliamentarian has a monopoly of wisdom. I am less impressed where there are boundary jealousies and a lack of common purpose.
Of course there are matters where it is not possible, such as individual constituency cases with their attendant privacy and data protection concerns. However it is not true where it is about building approaches to proactively develop plans for local development. Indeed many policy issues already cross over portfolio boundaries. Joint working in my view should become the default position.
The above has consequences for other functions. Given my professional background in research, I think it makes eminent sense to have a common research function for MSPs and MPs in each constituency. Rather than an MSP researcher here, and an MP researcher there, better to explore integrating research functions to maximise impact.
Individual constituency needs
The above inexorably leads towards a more joined up service for constituents. A common TeamSNP at constituent level. At present (although I am not an elected representative) I am working very closely with Neale Hanvey MP in developing practical approaches, along with businesses and local education institutions, to coastal issues. If I were to become a local MSP it wouldn’t matter one whit to me that Neale is taking the lead. The key issue should be what delivers the best outcome for our constituents: For the people of Scotland. He has knowledge and contacts that I don't have and vice versa. It is in everyone’s interest that there are as few barriers as possible between us, and certainly no stupid turf wars.
Breaking down barriers
So from national level down to street level, my view is that it is time to ensure barriers created out of devolution do not get in the way of the joint working needed both to serve constituents as best as possible and also to contribute to effectively transitioning to independence. Independence is good for local action. We should act in preparation for independence. At least I believe that. Do you?