My recent blog presenting a few ideas that could usefully be pursued by the National Executive Committee of the SNP has led to some gratifying positive feedback. The idea attracting most comment has been in relation to the talent survey (or skills audit as some have called it). I had forgotten that back in 2014 HQ had initiated a skills audit, but nothing seems to have come of it. I would hope a professional approach and establishment of a proper “Talent Register” would provide a more effective foundation this time around. As I hope becomes evident from the following, there are areas where the new NEC may need to call upon such expertise.
This blog reflects on further areas where I think purposeful action can be taken immediately by the NEC about to be elected at the SNP conference. I stress the following are mere examples. The range of opportunities and challenges ahead for the new NEC are very considerable.
National Executive Committee
The constitution lays out nine areas of responsibility for the NEC. I want here to reflect on only one of them. It is the responsibility for
“employment and direction of staff”
This calls for significant professionalism on the part of the NEC to ensure party HQ, for example, operates effectively. It involves everything from an understanding of employment law, to staff rights, to clarity of responsibilities both individually and collectively.
Given the NEC has such responsibility, this is an example of an area where there is a need to adopt a highly professional approach. I was reminded just the other day of the importance of good HR practice in this regard from my good friend Dr Bobby Gordon, a leading HR professional of many years standing. Commenting on an earlier blog he averred that,
“Organisational & Human Resource Management supported by effective Performance Management systems are at the heart of efficient organisations”
I do not know, for example, what performance management systems have been put in place by the NEC, so I am not inferring anything untoward. It is however a good example of where the NEC needs to have considerable knowledge and skills to ensure such matters are dealt with efficiently and effectively. At present, there is no requirement to have elected to the NEC people with demonstrable competence in this or other areas. Dependent upon who is elected, there will be a clear need to assess if professional competence exists amongst NEC members or if the committee will have to call upon external assistance and advice from amongst the party’s wider pool of talent.
Regional Steering Committees
Due no doubt to the pandemic, Regional Steering Committees do not appear to have been established. However, if we assume these will soon be put in place, it will be the responsibility of regionally elected members of the NEC to chair them, as made clear in the party constitution as follows:
“Regional Steering Committees are co-chaired by the members of the
National Executive Committee elected for that region and must meet
at least quarterly.”
Amongst other responsibilities, the steering committees have a key role in
“identifying the training needs and development requirements of members in the region and working to ensure that those needs and requirements are met”
This is an area where if I am elected for Mid Scotland and Fife to the NEC I would want to act on as quickly as possible. It is also an area where the modern equivalent of the Scottish Self Government College (which I advocate in my recent blog 3 of 5 be established) would be of great assistance.
It is vital such steering committees engage widely in their region with all branches, elected representatives and so forth. This is but one aspect where we can provide further opportunities for member engagement. Our members are vital in the forthcoming campaigns and in our drive for Scottish Independence. We need to maximise our support for them. Leadership from NEC members is needed after the forthcoming elections at conference.
Declarations of Interest
Although there are five pages of standing orders for the NEC including a basic agenda, I am surprised that there is no recognition of the need for declarations of interest.
Declarations of interest are important, not least for transparency purposes. It is very important that the business of the NEC is not compromised because of financial or business interest, or because of personal relationships that may be involved. In general terms, individuals with such ties should excuse themselves from discussions involving such interests, unless the NEC has good grounds for deciding otherwise. As a party, we often and rightly complain about how such financial or personal interests affect the decisions of our opponents. We must not be seen to allow lower standards for ourselves. We all aspire to an independent Scotland where high standards of behaviour exist. We need to practice what we preach.
I know the above are merely three examples of areas for attention. They are very far from comprehensive, but my intention in presenting the above examples is to indicate my view that there are very considerable opportunities as well as challenges ahead to ensure we have an NEC focused on their governance responsibilities. Good governance of the party will contribute to the building of trust and thereby make its own contribution to the drive for Scottish Independence. I would like to think I may have something to contribute. There is a lot of work to do.