SNP should publish membership numbers regularly, says depute leader

The SNP’s depute leader has backed the regular publication of membership figures after a wrangle prompted the resignation of the party’s head of communications and chief executive.

All three candidates in the SNP leadership contest backed the publication of the the number of members in the party earlier in the race.

But the published figure showed that media reports of a drop of about 30,000, which the party’s press office robustly rejected, were accurate.

Saying he had responded to media queries “in good faith”, former communications chief Murray Foote announced his resignation, with Peter Murrell – Nicola Sturgeon’s husband – stepping down the following day, admitting the response to the media had been “misleading”.

Writing in the Daily Record on the day where Ms Sturgeon’s replacement will be announced, Keith Brown said the party must work under its new leader to increase transparency, admitting members had been “bewildered” by the wrangle over the membership figures.

As the campaign for leader comes to an end, Mr Brown said, “it is time for opportunities to be seized”.

“Chief among these is the chance to effect real and radical change to the way the SNP is governed,” he said.

Membership figures should be published regularly, processes agreed for internal voting/contests for party positions, we need greatly improved financial transparency and control, improved support to staff, to members and to office bearers, to name but a few.”

The SNP should strive, according to the depute leader, to “set the standard and not merely follow the lowest common denominator”.

Keith Brown
Keith Brown is the SNP’s depute leader (Lesley Martin/PA)

He added: “The proactive publication of membership figures on, say, a quarterly basis would mean that the SNP would not simply follow the poor practices of the other parties but would once again lead from the front and thereby build trust with the public.”

There should also be an “open and agreed process” for selecting the party’s new chief executive, the Justice Secretary said.

He also touted the findings of a “governance review group” he chaired, which made a number of recommendations to the party’s national executive committee (NEC) of changes that could improve the party’s governance, including the reform of the ruling body itself, which he said had become “unwieldy”.

“Critically, we proposed reform of the NEC itself, which had grown to over 40 members and had become, in our view, utterly unwieldy as an ‘executive’,” he wrote.

“This proved a step too far for the NEC, not least (and perhaps understandably) for those members whose places were proposed to be culled.

“However, too many other proposals for reform were not progressed.”

In the view of the depute leader, “taking no action or deferring tough decisions will simply not allow the SNP to exploit the opportunities in front of it”.

The opportunities, he claimed, are to have a “renewed and reinvigorated party, with a properly resourced HQ function, transparent and trusted, with a dominant but continuously improving and locally-bolstered campaigning machine, all brought to bear under the stewardship of a new leader”, which would be combined “in earnest pursuit of achieving our goal of independence for Scotland at the earliest opportunity”.

“We have an opportunity to grow support for independence and public trust in our party,” he said.

“But we must also increase trust within the party and within the wider independence movement.

“We need to grow the numbers of those who would vote Yes, but also retain and regain the trust of those who have committed to our ambitions for Scotland.

“In short, we need to shape up, and keep our ‘ayes’ on the prize.”