Once again, SNP members have been faced with the difficult task of choosing among candidates of the highest calibre. Whoever wins, the contest has proved yet again that the SNP has a wealth of talent at its disposal. It has also demonstrated the strength of the party’s internal democracy. The manner in which these contests are conducted is a credit to the party and to the distinctive political culture which the British state is determined to eradicate.
My approach to differentiating the three candidates involved focusing, not only on the personal qualities and abilities of the individuals, but also on the fit between those attributes and the role of Depute Leader as I understand it. I was also mindful of the role(s) currently being filled by the candidates and how this might be affected by being elected.
My conclusion was that Julie Hepburn is the candidate best suited to the role of Depute Leader.
To some extent, this choice was influenced by the fact that I am persuaded that both Chris McEleny and Keith Brown have much to offer in other ways. And that being Depute Leader might actually limit them unduly. I see Keith as a projects man. His talents are best deployed if he has a sort of ‘roving commission’ to step into situation where strong leadership and effective management skills are required.
Chris, I’d like to see leading moves to secure (or restore?) strong representation for local government within the party as part of the wider reorganisation that is ongoing – even if only slowly.
Most importantly, however, I am firmly convinced that Julie is best qualified and most capable in relation to what I consider the three most important aspects of the Depute Leader role at this critical time for the SNP and the independence project. Without going into detail, these relate to –
- Connecting (networking) the branches and groups within the party.
- Connecting the membership with the party leadership.
- Connecting the party with the wider independence movement.
Whoever wins, these must be their priorities. I’m sure each of the candidates would bring something to the role of Depute Leader. I am certain that Julie would bring something extra.
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