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Reforming myself.


As I write this, it is only two days until the opportunity for SNP members to nominate individuals for party positions closes. I note there are many potential candidates advocating some form of change. I am one, as two of my earlier blogs on this site testify (see Time to Stand Up: Running for the NEC on 7 October, and What is to be done? on 10 October).

As someone who many years ago was influence by the work of the late Donald Schön and particularly his identification of the importance of reflective practice, I have been reflecting on what I would like to see change, and how it should affect me.

Put simply, if I want to see change on the way in which the party functions, I also need to reflect on what it tells me about the kind of behaviour I need to adopt. Let me point to the issue of transparency, which I have argued we need to see considerably enhanced within the party. If I want to see, for example, an end to secrecy in voting within the NEC and much better communication with the party membership as a whole, what does that say I should be doing if I am elected to the NEC? I think there are a number of simple things I could be doing.

If I want to see better reporting to the membership, surely that is something I should practice? How would I do that? At present, my thinking is there are two very obvious things I should do. First, I should use the opportunities of new technology to provide access to those members who wish to question me. So, I might run quarterly Zoom meetings where members (particularly from Mid Scotland and Fife as I am running to be one of their NEC representatives) can engage with me. I should also use old style reporting as well, for example by publishing a written report on my activities towards the end of the year of office. There will no doubt be other ideas members may have, and I’d be interested to hear from them.

There are other areas too I need to reflect on. For over 30 years I have had both an academic and a practical interest in effective decision making. I would therefore want to try and interest people, particularly when faced with highly significant and controversial issues, to adopt at least some very basic tenets of good practice. This might be no more than simply encouraging the adopting of better practice in the conduct of discussions to minimise the likelihood of the development of “group think” - for example by the use of effective questioning strategies. (I have no expectation that there is much likelihood of introducing more exacting approaches to decision making).

Another area where I have called for change is in the “culture” of the party. For example, if I want to see the NEC (and senior office holders) adopt a more respectful tone in communications, it is incumbent upon me to practice what I preach. Too often I fear, people in politics want to reflect on the failings of others, while being reluctant to reflect on their own weaknesses. As human beings, we all have weaknesses as well as strengths. We should recognise that and deal with it. We don't need to run formal Johari Window activities (as one person has already suggested to me). I suspect that would be too threatening at this stage to some of those with a delicate disposition when it comes to reflecting on themselves. But we can all benefit from encouraging more self awareness.

So, although as I have argued at some length in earlier blogs there are many reforms I would like to argue for, I do recognise that I must also reflect on what this says about myself, and what I must do to ensure good practice is mirrored in my own behaviours.

I would be interested to hear from my readers if they have any particular suggestions for me, or questions they wish to ask. I may as well start now to engage and demonstrate a willingness to reflect on both what I do and also the consequences of my actions. As Donald Schön would put it, I need to reflect-in-action and also reflect-on-action if I am going to be an effective representative. Do you agree?

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