Douglas Chapman MP’s resignation as SNP National Treasurer comes as no surprise. He is an honourable man. When he tells me that he did not receive the support or financial information he needed in order to carry out the fiduciary duties of the role to which he had been elected by party member, I believe him. I trust him. I would tend to accept his account even if three members of the party’s Finance & Audit Committee hadn’t resigned back in March citing very similar reasons. I’d take his word even if the claims of sidelining and obstruction weren’t supported by information reaching me privately and confidentially from trusted sources. Doug Chapman’s honesty and integrity are not in doubt. Would that the same could be said for the leadership and senior management of the SNP.
What may be surprising to some is the official reaction from the SNP to this and previous resignations from the body elected by members to oversee the party’s finances. SNP business convener Kirsten Oswald MP issued the following statement.
I am disappointed by Douglas’ decision and, as Business Convener, fundamentally disagree with his assessment of the support and financial information available to him. However, I respect his decision, thank him for his contribution to the NEC and wish him well. SNP National Treasurers have access to detailed financial information and report to the NEC on a monthly basis. The NEC can request any additional information it requires. The SNP’s accounts are also independently audited, submitted to the Electoral Commission and published.
This is barely a bawhair away from calling Doug Chapman a liar. It avoids the direct accusation only by generalising about what the rules say should happen rather than making a contradictory claim about what had happened. Nothing, however, saves it from being an appallingly disdainful and thoroughly disrespectful response. Doug Chapman deserves better.
That statement form Kirsten Oswald signals no change. Douglas Chapman’s resignation like the resignations which preceded it will have no effect. Which remains incredible no matter how cynical one has become about the dubious machinations in the upper echelons of the SNP. This lack of effect only serves to confirm George Kerevan’s conclusion on quitting to join Alba that the SNP is “unreformable”. He states the matter baldly.
This is outrageous. The SNP rightly attacks the questionable financial practices of Tory ministers yet when the elected SNP Treasurer resigns because he questions the propriety of internal financial management, the Business Convenor does nothing.
The sense of powerlessness felt by members reaches all the way to senior elected officials. If the National Treasurer can’t even perform his fundamental duties far less carry out the reforms he was elected to introduce, then what chance is there for ordinary members? Doug Chapman was elected along with a raft of other new NEC members last November specifically for the purpose of effecting change in the way the party is run. They were elected by members who sought to free the NEC from the clique of crazies that had taken over and return the party to the membership from the conniving cabal that has stolen it. They have had no effect whatever. Nothing has changed.
The feeling of powerlessness is extremely dispiriting. I drains all enthusiasm leaving only despair and despondency. I can personally testify to this. It was the despondency and despair stemming for powerlessness that drove me to resign from the SNP after months of imploring others not to do so but to stay and fight. Quitting the party doesn’t reduce the feeling of powerlessness. Quite the contrary. But it’s a powerlessness that I have chosen rather than powerlessness resulting from the power to which I was entitled being denied to me by people I consider unworthy. When your membership is the only thing over which you exercise any control the temptation is to use that morsel of power in the forlorn hope of having some impact. Nothing changes.
Having resigned my mood now swings back and forth between relief and regret. I suspect Douglas Chapman will come to have similar feelings. He has far better reasons for feeling relief than myself. I was never more than a branch office-bearer and conference delegate. He has just set down the heavy burden of responsibility that comes with one what is arguably the most important and onerous elected role within the party. I regret that should there be some sort of internal revolution within the SNP, I am not now in a position to be part of it. I still catch myself thinking about what I hope might happen at a ‘real’ party conference before recalling that I won’t be there. I still hope for that revolution. I just won’t be participating in any direct way. I regret that.
At the risk of presuming too much I’ll venture that Douglas Chapman will also have regrets. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to speculate about the specifics of that ruefulness, but I think it safe to say that he will be profoundly sorry for having been unable to fulfil the duty he owed to the members who elected him. In no way does this failure reflect on the man’s capacities or commitment. Rather, it is a measure of the degree of control exercised by the leadership and senior management of the party. Control that seems absolute and unbreakable. Control that has supplanted the internal self-discipline and ‘natural’ cohesiveness derived from commonality of purpose that used to unify the SNP.
Doubtless Kirsten Oswald would dismiss such observations, pointing out what the party’s rules say about the leadership and senior management being answerable to members. But as Douglas Chapman has discovered, those rules count for little or nothing in practice. The reality that Kirsten Oswald so effortlessly evades is the SNP has been hijacked by knaves, nutters and control-freaks. And there seems to be nothing anybody can do about it. Not even someone as estimable as Douglas Chapman.
If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.