A DAD-OF-TWO is vying to become the first person of colour elected as national secretary of the SNP, pledging to empower members and make the party more accessible.
Qasim Hanif, convener of affiliate group Scottish Asians for Independence (SAFI), is one of three contenders for the top job at the upcoming conference in Aberdeen next month.
The 32-year-old SNP activist has a manifesto packed full of ideas for change – from creating an independent complaints process and committing to responding to member queries in 72 hours, to promoting equal representation at all levels and greater inclusion of rural branches in decision-making.
Hanif is up against current national secretary Lorna Finn, who has been in post since 2021 and is the fifth woman to hold the position, and Chris Hanlon, the party’s former policy chief who argued earlier this year that “devo max” should be on the ballot paper in indyref2.
With the second independence referendum on the horizon, Hanif, a business development officer, believes that it is a critical time for the party and that the membership needs to be more involved in setting policy.
The 32-year-old told us: “I want to try and be a representative for members from the Highlands to the Borders, looking at their needs as well, making things more accessible for them using the likes of technology to our advantage so they can access more events, and encourage more party events to be in rural Scotland.
“If I was elected I would take it upon myself to visit every region – I might not manage every branch as there are a lot of them, but we could encourage each branch to attend and we could have a bigger event. We should make that something that every national secretary has to do, because that gives you face-to-face interaction with the members and buy-in, and if people agree or disagree with policies then you can give them an explanation in person.”
Hanif said that the pandemic has had a huge impact on internal party politics, with technology allowing business to continue, but also removing a lot of interaction between members – and he has concerns that the costs of attending the party’s conference exclude some from key processes. He argued that a no-questions-asked subsidy should be put in place to help more people attend.
“It doesn’t make the price of conference go down, it encourages more people to come and it pushes up revenue as well,” he added.
Hanif has previously stood in the local council elections and has been involved in encouraging other members of minority groups to stand themselves, as well as arguing for gender- balanced candidate lists.
Representation and accessibility are two tenets of his manifesto, but his core principle is that “membership matters”.
On potentially becoming the first person from a minority group to hold the top job, he said: “I think it’s quite significant, with the under-representation of not just ethnic minorities but all minority groups.
“Being from an ethnic minority group in politics is very difficult because on places like Twitter you face a backlash for nothing. I know my colleagues Humza [Yousaf, Health Secretary] and Anum [Qaisar, SNP MP] have to keep accounts running but I’ve been reluctant because every time I’ve stood for something or tried to launch a campaign there’s been a lot of backlash and racism involved.
“Because of that, a lot of people are reluctant to come forward and throw their hat in the ring.”
Although wary, Hanif believes that if he wins, more members from ethnic minority groups will feel confident in running for internal party roles in the future.