Upset and depressed after being barred from the SNP candidates’ register by the hierarchy for “lack of commitment to group discipline”.
I was asked at assessment whether, as part of a Westminster deal with another party, I would agree to vote for the bedroom tax if instructed by the Party. I replied “No.” End of SNP political career. Problem is, I really believed we were building a different kind of politics in Scotland. I also knew that a simple lie would get me in, but I couldn’t bring myself to utter it.
I had very, very strong support from ordinary members to be the candidate in Falkirk or in Airdrie, and had 17 requests to stand from other constituencies, several from branch meetings. I wonder what the SNP new membership will think of this?
I had intended to keep this a private grief if possible, but I was phoned at 8am this morning by the Scotsman, who had plainly been briefed in some detail from within the party hierarchy. I was also phoned by the Sunday Herald, who were coming from a different direction, having picked up a whiff of Tammany Hall about the SNP selection process in several constituencies.
In the interests of full openness, these are the complete communications I have been sent regarding my rejection as a candidate:
Thanks for coming along to the Assessment Day on 6 December and apologies for not being able to get back to you before now.
I’m afraid to say that the Panel did not feel able to recommend you for approval as a potential parliamentary candidate at this time. While you showed excellent qualities, you could not give a full commitment on group discipline issues, and for that reason the Panel could not recommend approval.
There is scope to appeal this decision, and if you wish to do so then contact my colleague Susan Ruddick – (email address deleted) – who will be able to put that process in train.
Corporate Governance and Compliance Manager
Scottish National Party
Thank you for attending the Appeals Panel yesterday.
Unfortunately your Appeal was not upheld.
I wish you luck in your future endeavours.
That is it. I have asked for more detail of why I was refused, but been given none. All I have is “you could not give a full commitment on group discipline issues”, and the only question to which I gave an answer that could possibly be interpreted that way, was the one above on the bedroom tax. There was, incidentally, no corresponding question designed to test the loyalty of right wing people.
I should note that I was astonished by the hostility of the appeals board, chaired by Ian Hudghton MEP and flanked by two MSPs. They could not have been more personally unfriendly towards me if I were Jim Murphy: their demeanour was bullying. They were less pleasant to me than was Jack Straw or anybody in the Foreign Office when they were sacking me for blowing the whistle on extraordinary rendition and torture. It was a really weird exercise in which these highly taxpayer paid professional politicians attempted to twist every word I said to find an excuse to disqualify me. I found it a truly unpleasant experience.
My analysis is that those in the SNP who make a fat living out of it are terrified the energy of the Yes campaign may come to threaten their comfy position. I think there is an important debate here on how the 80% of the SNP who are new members can affect its existing gatekeeping structures. No new members were involved in deciding if I was a fit candidate, and the 1500 new members in each of Falkirk and Airdrie were denied any chance to vote for me as their preferred candidate.
This also makes a complete nonsense of the SNP’s much publicised move at the Perth conference to allow non-members to stand as SNP candidates in an “opening out” to the wider Yes campaign.
I do worry that the idea of Whitehall ministerial limousines in a coalition is of more interest to some in the SNP than independence. I also am really concerned that the SNP has become, like other parties, a source of lots of taxpayer-funded careers. A significant proportion of those that do pass the vetting process are Special Advisers or work in SNP MP’s, MSP’s or MEP’s offices. The SNP is developing its own “political class” which is the opposite of the citizen activism of the Yes campaign. It became clear to me that a lot of SNP insider thought around the selection process is not about furthering independence, but about jobs for the boys (and girls).
Every candidate for selection is allowed a 350 word statement including cv to be given to members with their ballot paper. This is the 350 word statement which I had submitted to HQ for distribution to SNP members in Falkirk, prior to my disqualification. It has never been distributed, but I would like every SNP member to read it. If you know one, send it to them:
My aim is to achieve Independence. The Smith Commission shows we will never be given the control of our own economic resources required to achieve our aims of social justice, or to stimulate the economy, within the Union.
I think we have to avoid the trap of managerialism – of being just another political party but a little more competent and fair. We should maintain a firm thrust towards the goal of national freedom.
I will vote with the SNP group, but my voice within the party will be against any coalition agreement with Labour or Tories.
I want to defeat Labour, not sustain them. I want to end the Union, not to run it.
Within the SNP we must guard against success leading us to develop our own careerists. Professional politicians in Westminster have become a parasitic class with interchangeable beliefs, out for themselves. There are too many of them – Special Advisers, research assistants etc. The number of politicians paid for by the taxpayer has quadrupled in 30 years.
The best MPs contribute from a wide variety of life experience.
I want the dynamic citizen activism we saw in the Yes campaign to lead to a new kind of politics in Scotland. Bubbling up from ordinary folk. And I want that energy from the people to defeat the forces of the mainstream media and the unionists here in the coming election.
Together, we can do it.
If selected as our candidate I will immediately move my family home to Falkirk and begin campaigning. Once elected MP, my home will become my constituency office and open to all, and no MP will work harder for his constituents. No Scottish MP will have lower expenses. I shall regularly attend the Commons and speak in debate.
Writer, Human Rights Activist.
Chairman, Atholl Energy Ltd
Rector, Dundee University 2007-10
Honorary Research Fellow, University of Lancaster School of Law 2006-10
British Ambassador Uzbekistan 2002-4
HM Diplomatic Service 1984-2005
MA 1st Class Hons Modern History
Declined LVO, OBE and CVO as a Scottish nationalist and republican
Maybe that statement is what really got me disqualified?