Like many folk in the party, I remain undecided about which of the three candidates for Deputy Leader of the SNP I should support. How do their visions differ? What are they all about? Having a wee platform here, I thought I'd take the opportunity to ask all three to write me up to 1,000 words on the thinking behind their bids to replace Nicola Sturgeon. Newspapers only have so much space. On telly and on radio, one has next to no time to say anything at all. On blogs, we can afford to be a bit more leisurely and considered. On Monday, we heard from Transport Minister, Keith Brown MSP. Today, it is Dundee East MP, Stewart Hosie's turn, to make his pitch.
The Labour Party in Scotland is in meltdown.
That’s an unusual way to start an article, but as we approach the next challenge the SNP and the wider Independence movement faces - it is important - because that next challenge is the 2015 General Election.
This should not, in my view, be a re-run of the referendum. Instead it is the Scottish people’s opportunity to hold Westminster’s ‘feet to the fire’ and force them to fulfil their promises.
So remember what they told us. “We’re going to be, within a year or two, as close to a federal state as you can be.” (Gordon Brown, 14 August 2014). Which, sounds very similar to the pledge (or vow) made by the Prime Minister. “If we get a No vote …, that will trigger a major, unprecedented programme of devolution with additional powers for the Scottish Parliament.” (David Cameron, 15 September 2014)
But the proposals published so far by the UK parties neither meet the public demand for “devo-max” or the expectations raised during the referendum campaign.
Their proposals would devolve barely 30% of Scotland’s revenue base, or to put that another way, less than half the funding requirements of the Scottish Parliament. These are not “extensive new powers”, that is not “federalism”. Rather those are extremely modest proposals and likely to disappoint not just the 1.6 million who voted Yes, but the large number of those who voted No in order to secure substantial new powers.
The only way to make unionism sit up and take heed – and to secure substantial new powers – is to elect the largest number of Independence supporting MPs to Westminster ever. While we may win seats from the Lib Dems, and they deserve to lose them, our primary opponents in most seats in Scotland are Labour. That is why their all too public collapse is important. That and the fact their devolution offering is even weaker than the Tories. So far, so self evident. The question is how do we win these seats?
In my view, it hinges on keeping the Yes Movement together to campaign for Independence supporting MPs and for more powers while at all times making the case for Independence. And in arguing for real maximum devolution (everything bar defence and foreign affairs), we would reach out not just to those who voted Yes, but 25% of those who voted No expecting substantial new powers for Scotland
I am certain that the best way to make sure Westminster delivers will be to return the largest ever number of Independence supporting MPs to Westminster. I’m equally certain that many of the wonderful, talented people who emerged through the Independence campaign will contest the next election. But The SNP will be the engine of the campaign and with over 80,000 members it will be a turbo charged one. However, the wider Independence movement can provide further fuel and momentum to that campaign.
In practice that means looking at ways of working beyond party interests to maximise the participation of those who campaigned and voted for a better Scotland by offering them an opportunity to campaign and vote again for change at next year’s General Election. I have no doubt that the SNP can and will send the largest ever number of SNP MPs to Westminster at next year’s general election, but if we build a Yes Alliance, there is an opportunity to do even more than that.
What is clear is that whether we campaign on a joint platform of maximum powers for Scotland, or select candidates from the range of hugely talented people who emerged through the referendum campaign, the SNP should show the same willingness to work with individuals and organisations to make sure the largest number of Independence supporting MPs is delivered to Westminster next May.
By turning the strong desire for change into votes for change next year the Scottish people can sweep aside the vested interests of the Westminster old guard. This will deliver the best chance of substantial new powers for Scotland.
It is for agreement as to how formal or informal such cooperation would be, but what a powerful alliance we could deliver to stand up for Scotland. Of course any broad campaign will require approval from not just the SNP but many of the other parties and organisations involved in Yes but it is important that we begin build that alliance now to deliver for Scotland.
2015 is just the next step for Scotland. There will be many, many miles to walk to Independence after that. But it is an important step in a very important year. I believe I have the skills and experience to help offer some leadership over this period, which is why I have put myself forward as a candidate for Depute Leader of the SNP.
All the hopes and dreams we have for a richer, fairer, greener, more socially just society need Scotland’s people to take the next step and demand more powers. Let’s make sure the Independence Movement is united and sure-footed as we campaign, together, to take this most important next step.
Stewart Hosie MP