It is over ten years since I allowed a guest post on this blog. This is because I never listen to anybody except myself. That way I avoid hearing anything disagreeable.
(Those last two sentences are a joke, deliberately in the style of Jane Austen. Of course it ruins the joke to explain it, but if I don’t, then twitter will be full of trials writing jibes about narcissism).
I have turned down hundreds of requests, but today I have decided to publish Stephen Norris, the Convener of his SNP branch, who has just had enough.
The SNP Inner Circle’s desire to fix the election for Humza could hardly be more obvious. Murrell and Sturgeon remain in place to oversee the process – and are carefully diverting attention to the counting process rather than the issuing and verification of login IDs.
Almost half of the campaigning days available are to be taken up by a series of 8 regional hustings meetings. The SNP machine (ie the Murrells) have decreed – against the will of two of the three candidates – that these will be closed meetings and neither reported nor streamed.
All are fully booked with no tickets available, and the party machine that booked them tipped off their own people to grab the seats. The candidates will only be able to speak to 3,500 members in total through these hustings, out of a membership claimed to be over 100,000.
It is deliberately designed to tie the candidates up and minimise their exposure. Of course, as a new mother, it is particularly constraining for Kate Forbes.
Now Stephen Norris has captured regional list MSP Emma Harper breaking party rules by emailing the South of Scotland membership on the SNP email system, urging them to vote for Humza Yousaf.
This plainly contravenes the election rules, but is on a par with Humza appearing everywhere with placards etc using fonts, styles and materials exactly as used by party HQ, and almost certainly produced by them.
Before I finally hand you over to Stephen Norris, I might further explain that ultra-Sturgeon loyalist Emma Harper MSP was jemmied into her seat by a fake process designed to exclude the Independence stalwart Joan McAlpine MSP – a talented and independent figure detested by Sturgeon.
McAlpine was removed by a rule change adopted by the Sturgeon controlled SNP national executive, which rules that regional lists must be topped by disabled candidates. Members voted for candidates in the normal way and the boosting was done AFTER the vote, with the disabled promoted to the top.
The extremely talented McAlpine was therefore forced out of parliament by the ultra loyalist nonentity Emma Harper, on the sole grounds that Harper has diabetes. It is worth noting that in other regions, candidates with less than 5% of the members’ vote were promoted to the top of the list, above individual candidates with ten times as many votes, and are now MSPs.
So now you know how Harper got to her position, I give you Stephen Norris:
I write this with a heavy heart and after much soul searching.
But events over the last few days have left me with no other choice.
I trust that those who read this understand I do so out of loyalty to my party, to Scotland, and the wider independence movement.
THE SCOTTISH National Party will stage the first of eight hustings on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. Arguably, with Alex Salmond gone and Nicola Sturgeon going, it will be the most important leadership election in its history.
Sadly, and to the shame of those involved, the process of choosing our new leader and Scotland’s First Minister has been compromised before it starts. The act has been perpetrated in the most sleekit, arrogant and undemocratic manner imaginable. And I use that word “undemocratic” deliberately.
Once upon a time, the party to which I have devoted 41 years of my life, campaigned for, argued for, stood for and believed in, prided itself on a democratic power derived from its diverse and multi-talented membership. A power feared and respected by our unionist opponents and one which led our movement to the brink of victory.
Be in no doubt, that victory – the vital independence of our country and the restoration of its social and economic fortunes – remains within our grasp. The grassroots Yes movement still survives and thrives and – despite a succession of surrenders and false promises – a platform of around 50 per cent support for independence remains as our start point.
But the independence our country so desperately needs will not be achieved with Humza Yousaf and his backers at the helm of the SNP.
On Friday, February 24, 2023, two hours and 26 minutes before nominations for the leadership contest closed at noon, I received an email. It was from Emma Harper, the sole list MSP for the region, and time-stamped 9.34am. On investigation I discovered the same email had been sent to SNP members across the South of Scotland, whose numbers run into thousands, at exactly the same time.
Members in the three southernmost constituencies, Galloway and West Dumfries, Dumfriesshire and Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, received this email. Ms Harper holds the SNP brief for these seats because these are the only ones where there is no constituency SNP MSP.
I have learned that she spoke to Mr Yousaf about his campaign and strategy for the south the day before she sent the blanket email – a fact of which I have written proof. It transpires that Ms Harper, with the consent of party HQ, has been granted access to the South Scotland membership database, ostensibly to broadcast her work as an MSP. The email was not issued via Ms Harper’s personal account but from “Scottish National Party” with the delivery email of [email protected].
As we draw closer to the end of the nomination process in the contest for leadership of our party and for Scotland’s next First Minister, I wanted to take the opportunity to write to you all with my decision to back Humza Yousaf for these top jobs.
As I am sure we all agree, Nicola Sturgeon has served Scotland and the SNP with absolute distinction. As the first female First Minister, she has also been the longest serving incumbent in the role. Both of these are stunning achievements in themselves. Nicola Sturgeon’s legacy in Government is one which has improved the lives of tens of thousands of families the length and breadth of Scotland and is one which has brought us ever closer to our nations independence.
Being First Minister is the top job in our country. It requires experience and dedication – a First Minister is never off duty. In my opinion, and after consideration, I believe Humza Yousaf to be the best person for this role. Humza has had many of the toughest jobs in government over the last 10 years – Transport Minister, Justice Secretary and Health Secretary in the midst of a global pandemic. He has also openly reaffirmed his commitment to our nations independence, to progressive politics and to equality for all, all of which I view to be crucial in Scotland’s journey to become a fairer, progressive and more equal country.
One of Humza’s many strengths is reaching out to bring people together and that is exactly what we need right now. However, as you will be well aware, my priority – as it always has been and as it will continue to be — is on representing the views of people in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. To this end, I will be making the case to Humza to prioritise the needs of our region if he is successful in becoming the leader of our party and First Minister. Issues like addressing derelict buildings, improving our transport infrastructure, addressing rural healthcare needs and unlocking the potential of the region – to name just some.
I will, of course, keep members updated on the actions I take to ensure our area is represented and listened to. As always, members can contact me at any time, should you be looking for any advice or support.
And a wee final reminder – please ensure you log onto MYSNP to nominate your candidate and to vote for who you think is the best option for party leader and First Minister.
Yours for South Scotland,
Emma Harper MSP
The last paragraph, by any interpretation, attempts to add a veneer of impartiality to everything above – which is nothing more than blatant electioneering on behalf of Humza.
No other candidate or campaign team leader was offered a similar facility to make their pitch to the South Scotland membership, in the same way Emma Harper did for Humza Yousaf. I do not – and for many reasons could not – support Humza, so I phoned round my Kirkcudbright and District Branch executive to see if they had received a similar email. They all had – at 9.34am.
I then contacted members in the two seats east of Galloway and West Dumfries – Dumfriesshire, and Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, with the same question. They too had been issued the same email by Ms Harper, via Scottish National Party and [email protected], with precisely the same time stamp – 9.34am. I have these emails in my possession – written proof that they were sent on behalf of Humza Yousaf across all three constituencies. Suffice it to say my friends in Dumfriesshire and the Borders are equally incensed at this sleekit attempt to manipulate the vote and sidestep our party’s strict electoral rules.
The Kirkcudbright branch secretary then told me something else. A second email had gone out later that day, February 24, this time to “All Conveners, Secretaries, Organisers, Membership Secretaries, Women’s Officers, Political Education Officers Councillors, MPs and MSPs.”
I am convener of Kirkcudbright and District Branch SNP. It is dated February 24 with a time stamp of 19.10, headed Scottish National Party and sent via [email protected]. It was sent out after nominations had closed at noon that day, and nine hours after Ms Harper’s first email.
With the candidates now confirmed for the Leadership Contest, I wanted to remind all members who have emailing rights on my.snp.org about their responsibilities during the period of the contest.
We encourage branches and elected members to make sure that members are aware of the contest, and engage with it, either through attendance at in-person or online hustings. It’s an important period, and it’s important that members have buy-in to the process, since for many it will be the first time that they’ve voted for a party leader.
The dedicated page for the contest on the member portal will stay up to date with information throughout the period of the contest.
I would like to draw your attention to the section on organisational neutrality. It’s important that, in sending emails to members, that personal thoughts on who to back are not conveyed to others. Who an individual member chooses to vote for will be up to them. This also applies to branch/organisational social media accounts. The views of the individual(s) with login details for a social media account do not determine views of the branch/organisation. So no mention of support for a particular candidate should be shared on those accounts. And under no circumstances should any membership data be given to a candidate or candidates.
Please also note that under Rule 4.2 any party organisation organising an event with any candidate during the election period must issue an invitation to all candidates.
The relevant part of the rules (which can be found here) are:
9. Organisational Neutrality
9.1 All hustings must be conducted in a manner which gives no advantage to any of the candidates seeking selection.
9.2 No resources of the Party, including membership data, may be used by, or made available to, any candidate seeking election.
9.3 No Party meeting may take a vote preferring any candidate in the election.
9.4 No member may use a Party email facility to seek to influence the votes of members in the election.
9.5 Headquarters staff must not act, or be asked to act, in a way which would call into question their impartiality.
9.6 Parliamentarians and councillors must ensure that neither they nor their staff use parliamentary or council resources for campaigning.
If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]
Of particular relevance are points 9.2, 9.4 and 9.5.
Point 9.2 clearly states that “No resources of the Party, including membership data, may be used by, or made available to, any candidate seeking election”. Ms Harper is Humza’s lead campaign organiser in the south. She deliberately, on his behalf, lobbied thousands of members across the south seeking their support for him, to the total exclusion of the other candidates.
Similarly, point 9.4 states that “no member may use a party email facility to seek to influence the votes of members in the election”. Ms Harper, acting on Mr Yousaf’s behalf, did precisely that in direct contravention of the party’s constitution and rules regarding ‘Organisational Neutrality’.
Point 9.5 also has relevance: “Headquarters staff must not act, or be asked to act, in a way which would call into question their impartiality.” Plainly, headquarters staff granted Ms Harper access to the entire South of Scotland membership database. It is inconceivable that Ms Harper’s actions were unknown to HQ – and, suffice it to say, key personnel therein. In short, they too stand accused of acting outwith the party’s constitution and rules.
There is much more I could say but at this moment in time I will refrain from doing so.
But I want to place on record one thing. This is my party, the party I love. Unlike many, I have never left, and I will not do so.
I leave it up to others to decide who is bringing our great party into disrepute – I, or all those at whose door I lay the blame for this shameful cheating and trashing of Scottish National Party internal democracy.
In conclusion, Scotland’s cause means more to me than words can express. I have six grandchildren all of whom, for the present at least, thankfully remain within Caledonia’s shores. I want only that they should have the best possible future as citizens of an independent Scotland, of Europe and the world.
And it is for them that I fight for independence – more, much more, than for myself.
Such a happy and necessary event can only happen if the SNP returns to form at the head of the entire YES movement. Our party will never be able to win independence without that great civic force for good, of creativity, hope and imagination.
The onus is on us to lead by example, whereby our internal party democracy acts as a template for our country’s future democracy and constitution, one founded on the pillars of justice, truth, openness and equality of opportunity for all.
In conjunction with that it goes without saying that corruption, nepotism and gerrymandering of opinion have no place in our party, and never should have.
We cannot, must not, emulate the unionist parties in going down the anti-democratic path. We are better than that.
As an ordinary SNP member and branch convenor, I therefore call on Humza Yousaf, as a matter of honour and integrity, to immediately resile himself from the leadership contest and withdraw his candidature, for the reasons I have outlined above.
Kirkcudbright and District SNP ”
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