The Grassroots Case for Party Reform

In recent blogs I have argued for more engagement from the grassroots. As a consequence I have invited Rob Thompson, who is involved in some grassroots initiatives, to give us his thoughts on how he sees the party. As with all my guest bloggers, these are his views unedited by me. Free speech in action. Over to you Rob....

The only constant is change. Champion teams know that to stand still is to allow the rest of the pack to not only catch up but to overtake them and consign a once winning formula to the dustbin of history.

One does not have to look far in the current political field to discover what hubris and complacency does to a seemingly impenetrable position. Failure to understand the changing “living” experience of their supporter base has destined the once omnipotent Labour Movement in Scotland to a rump of a party full of self-pity, fuelled by bitterness and rancour towards those perceived to have “deserted” them.

We, the SNP, must have the humility and self-awareness to objectively compare and contrast our own circumstance with the lessons offered by the past, and resolve to avoid the many pitfalls afforded by a feeling of rectitude and a sense of entitlement in what we believe is a self-evidently ‘noble’ cause.

We are the established party of Government in Scotland albeit within the domain and effective control of the Westminster parliament. We are seen to be competent managers of our allocated resource without the wherewithal to make transformative change.

We have an oft repeated mandate from the electorate to proceed towards independence which we choose to interpret as a request for a further referendum utilising the 2014 process. Thus, effectively providing the party in power in Westminster a veto with which they can stymie the “sovereign will” of the Scottish electorate.

Power and the Utilisation of Power

For a glorious 15 hours on 18 September 2014 we the Scottish electorate had absolute power within our grasp to decide our destiny. That is the power we have as individuals through our democratic will as exemplified by our ‘vote’.

The fact that as a party we failed to win that argument is irrefutable. Whether it was through lack of resource or effective utilisation of that resource any analysis of cause and effect has not been made available to the general membership. The massive upsurge in membership following the referendum result was clearly unexpected and unprepared for by the Party organisation. No co-ordinated effort was made to tap into and engage the many talented and able new members who wished to contribute with their knowledge and expertise to form a winning strategy supported by a transformative and credible policy portfolio. Six years on there is still no articulated grand strategic plan to place ‘Power’ in Scottish hands.

The ‘Art’ of Management and Leadership

I just have to look to my shelves to be reminded of the thousands, nae millions of words that have been written on this subject. Suffice to say that without competence in the attributes required of the former and the presence, charisma and risk taking required of the latter then our party and wider independence movement is destined to stagnate. The team currently in place to deliver both sides of this coin are falling far short, mostly because the small coterie charged with delivering the requirement have neither the skill set nor the scale to meet the challenge. The empathy and trust needed for effective team building and delegation is lacking. Judge for yourselves; how do the current incumbents in HQ fare against the following most common shortfalls amongst failing Executives in Europe?

Poor Interpersonal relationships – 64%

Inability to develop or adapt – 62%

Failure to build and lead teams – 24%

Failure to meet objectives – 16%

Too narrow experience – 18%

Fortunately, a genuine wish and intent for change can turn things around rapidly – it just takes the will to reach out and take expert guidance and advice. Organisational and cultural change is a matter of routine for innovative and successful organisations.

Governance and the strength to accept it

Good Governance is the cornerstone of democracy; without the necessary independent oversight and transparency even the ‘best’ organisations can become tainted by bad behaviour and loss of values. In the worst cases the retention of control for ‘controls sake’ can, even with initially the best of intentions, lead to gerrymandering and corruption.

Recent and, eventually, very public machinations within the National Executive Committee at the very least bring into question how well the party is governed. A clear set of tenets are required and transparently and accountably adhered to as a matter of urgency. The key characteristics of good governance are the organisation needs to be participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive, follows the rule of law. Delivery of these internationally and nationally accepted standards at the very least require oversight of a Governance Committee, with a membership made up of experienced personnel with the necessary competencies and gravitas, selected by the party members.

In sum, we can and should do a lot better as a party, the membership deserve and require the clarity of focus, the quality of analysis and the detailed strategic plan widely shared that provides both the means and the step by step guide to delivery of Independence as mandated by the electorate in the minimum time possible before the door to independence is slammed shut by a resolute central government and international inertia or insouciance.

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