Internal Democracy – Scotsman Article – 01 June 2021


The SNP’s no longer my party though internal democracy was a factor leading to my departure. Political parties governance is also largely for the membership, as with any such organisation. But the SNP’s no ordinary party as its the party of Government in Scotland and its influence is extensive across the land. Hence factors that would routinely not apply with other groups, understandably come under scrutiny and rightly so. 

The National Treasurer and the person appointed to head their Independence Task Force both resigned, albeit for unconnected reasons. So what some might say? And certainly with regard to the latter post, its more an internal issue. Marco Biagi’s departure simply showing that whilst the rhetoric continues, planning for independence remains absent. People were warned but now they know. It’s for the party membership to act as they see fit, or not as the case may be. 

But the Treasurer’s resignation is an altogether different issue. That isn’t simply strategic or political. It’s about institutional governance and ensuring no malfeasance in office. It’s a post I held myself for many years back in the 1990’s. Now the party’s way bigger than back then and software systems for accounts have evolved. But some basic rules remain sacrosanct. Staff account to and are under the direction of office bearers and those in the elected post must have access to and sight of all information.  

That this appears not to be the case is simply unacceptable. I know Douglas Chapman MP and I accept I’d be minded to take his view over that of the party loyalist spin machine. But its not just him who’s exposing an issue at the centre of governance. It’s a few months now since the three highly qualified and respected members of the SNP Finance and Audit Committee walked for similar reasons.  

Peter Murrell, the SNP CEO and spouse of the First Minister, saw no harm in seeking to have SNP staff pressure police to investigate Alex Salmond but he can’t provide information on party accounts to elected members. That’s just not right and isn’t just an internal matter.