In recent weeks I have been approached by people asking if I’d run for national office in the SNP. (Back in the 1990s I was national vice convener for organisation and also a member of the NEC).
Amongst other positions, the ones I have been most often asked about are National Secretary and Policy Convener. I am flattered, and much appreciate the approaches, but I have declined.
After serious consideration however, I have agreed to go forward for election to the NEC.
It is my intention in the future to write a more substantial blog explaining the platform on which I will be standing. For now here is a very brief outline.
As never before, the NEC needs to ensure the party as a whole is prioritising independence. It is what my colleague Michelle Thomson calls our “north star” for it should guide all our deliberations. Everyone has an important role and most obviously the leadership, paid employees, branches, CAs and individual members. Nothing should get in the way, and no sectional interest should be allowed to hide from view our “north star”.
There is much talk of the need for more effective governance in the party. I agree but we need to understand what this means. In a large complex organisation we need to agree the principles by which we operate. I believe we should aspire to best practice in party governance. We have a distance yet to travel.
What do I think some of the principles might be? The following is an incomplete list, but will give you some idea of my priorities.
1. I would borrow from best practice in business governance the principle of “Comply or Explain”. That is, if there is any departure from the principles, the NEC should explain why in a report to the membership, probably via conference.
2. There should be a code of conduct for all in leadership positions including ordinary members of the NEC. As an example, this would set out very clear requirements to declare any conflicts of interests, and eschew any involvement in decision making where they occur. (I am thinking here of where conflicts may arise because of business interests, close personal relationships, or wider financial interests).
3. The NEC should have a particular responsibility to develop a culture of trust and respect in the party, and behave accordingly.
4. Members of the NEC, again mirroring best governance practice, should supply appropriate challenge prior to taking decisions. This is essential to avoid the development of “groupthink”.
5. The NEC should adopt good practice in decision making.
6. The NEC should have a supervisory type role over the conduct of party business, to ensure, for example, that any malign behaviour or gross incompetence is dealt with speedily and effectively.
7. Due regard at all times should be given to the interests of members of the party (just as in business there is a requirement to give due regard to the interests of shareholders).
8. There should be maximum transparency. I favour an assumption of open reporting unless circumstances clearly demand otherwise. (For example, and again reflecting best practice, remuneration packages of the most senior post holders should be published annually, as should salary scales. I would also favour a remuneration sub-committee being established).
9. The NEC should ensure compliance with the rule of law.
There are further principles I will discuss at a later date.
What would I bring to the party’s NEC?
My relevant background
A lifelong commitment to Scottish Independence with an unwavering commitment to our “north star”.
Many years experience of board membership. For example, I currently Chair Revive Campaign which is a community interest company; I am a board member of the Scottish Africa Business Association, and I am a director of Momentous Change Ltd.
I am a former member, along with Ian Blackford and Michelle Thomson, of the “Corporate Governance” All Party Parliamentary Group at Westminster.
I have a long standing professional interest in both the theory and practice of decision making.
I have advised on aspects of corporate governance in the framing of legislation.
I have taught aspects of corporate governance at post graduate level.
I have published articles relating to corporate governance.
I hope mine will be a constructive and purposeful contribution to the party's development.