Nothing changes

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.



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26 thoughts on “Nothing changes

  1. I can only agree with every word. Leaving brings with it relief and regret as you say. I think the members are in a hopeless position and the really awful thing about it is that a huge number either don’t realise it or are in denial, still feeding on carrots.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. For the first time in a long while, I am starting to feel a wee bit optimistic. Why? Because I believe the SNP is now in the winter of its existence and will be superseded. Not for a while yet, granted. The pact with the Greens will finally seal the party’s fate, and not before time. It has become a wasteland of lost opportunity and deliberately laid caltrops to cripple the unwary. It has overplayed its hand. The party so many of us owed our loyalty to, and supported throughout the lean years when it was a bit player, an outlier, has eaten its own children. Like Ireland before us, we will move forward to independence, but not with the SNP. Not unless a miracle happens and a coup from within take place very soon. Otherwise, the SNP will become a footnote in history. Time and tide wait for no man or woman, as the cliche goes, and not for any party either.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. You keep saying that, Peter, as do I. It has fallen on deaf ears. Sometimes, there’s nowt you can do but wait for the brainwashed to catch up. Galling, but true. We don’t actually have time for the SNP to get its a**e in gear either. We didn’t have time in 2016, but, hey, five years later almost…

        Liked by 5 people

      2. It is a matter of deep regret that I find myself obliged to constantly remind people of the urgency of Scotland’s predicament. (That’s people in general.) But it continues to be necessary because so many still discount the time factor to a greater or lesser degree. Many just ‘forget’ to test their ideas against the time constraint. Even I, as someone most painfully aware of the pressure of time, find myself pushing the limits of that constraint further and further due to my reluctance to give up. There will come a point, however, when not even the most committed independence supporter will be able to deny that time has run out. We are approaching that point at an accelerating pace.

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      3. We didn’t have time in 2015, or 2016, or 2017, or 2018, or 2019, or 2020, Peter. Six wasted years. Utterly wasted by the SNP. Now, they are to ally with the Greens to date even more time by introducing insane policies no one wants (women? f**k them, no double entendre intended) and vague, green ones it will be impossible to implement without crashing the economy (and I’m green, to a point) and putting thousands out of work and on to social welfare. More comfy slipper middle-class twaddle to waste even more time. We can’t win a referendum because we are not going to get one, Peter. Not within five years, or if we do, by some miracle, it will be sabotaged. No, it has to be through the electoral system coupled to international pressure, then a ratifying referendum. A pre independence one was always the trap.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Any referendum is pre-independence. Because it’s not independence until it’s ratified in a referendum.

        If we’re not going to get and win a referendum in the next couple of years then we are not going to get independence. The election just past was the last one to offer an electoral route to independence. That won’t happen again. Or to be more precise, we can’t be sure it will happen again. Waiting five years is a MASSIVE gamble. It’s a terrible bet with everything to lose and nothing to gain.

        There is an easy way to ensure a referendum isn’t sabotaged. Cut the Brits out of it altogether. They have no right to interfere in our exercise of our right of self-determination. In fact, UN conventions forbid such interference by external powers. Why both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond want to invite that interference remains to be explained.

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  3. Re:
    ‘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.’

    Any internal revolution worth it’s salt would include welcoming those with questioning minds back
    (although it would need to be a very convincing conversion for them to want back)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So long as a second indyref of any type is still on the cards – or used as bait – bye, bye independence. Next time, if it comes, it must be a plebiscitary election and straight to independence or simply declare it once the agreement with the Greens is reached because there will be a majority. The price will be the complete sell-out of every woman in the party and in all parties, and in Scotland, and in the wider UK, and still no guarantee of independence because the Greens are as treacherous as Judas – as, come to think of it, is the SNP.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If you can win a plebiscitary election you can win a referendum. So why settle for the least conclusive option? Why rely on a plebiscitary election that you have no way of bringing about? It has to be a referendum to be conclusive. What is up for debate is the route to that referendum. The recent election provided an opportunity to take the most effective route. But the Yes movement declined that opportunity. There won’t be another.

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  4. “Nothing has changed.”

    Peter, 3 members of whatever committee are externally irrelevant.

    The National Treasurer is a statutory role according to PPERA, and currently the SNP don’t have one.

    Seems to me they’re in a shed load of trouble without one, with annual accounts due to the Electoral Commission by 7th July, after audit, with the National Treasurer presumably (I haven’t checked), then having to sign them off. Who will take over the poisoned chalice? Would you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The audit report, by the way, will almost certainly be provisoed by something like:

      “Audited on the basis of information supplied to us, according to X standards and the 1988 something”.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. If those elected to a position of fiduciary responsibility do not take it seriously and check all information then they become personally liable. Douglas Chapman was right to resign. When and if dirty dealings come to light, those not willing to take the position seriously may live to regret it.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I think David Henry is already going down the only route open to SNP members who still believe internal change is possible. The legal one.

    Even then, with the COPFS under Scot Gov and UK unionist control, I suspect UK level intervention via the electoral commission or supreme court may be required.

    The 1900 case of Free Church of Scotland against United Free Church of Scotland is the closest precedent I am aware of.

    Departure of the leadership, even if backed by a majority, from founding principles and from published constitution. Against the wishes of bona fide members.

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    1. I’m no legal expert. But that doesn’t seem like the sort of process that might be brought to a conclusion in time to be of any help. Like so much else, it has been left too late.

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  7. I was really hoping that when Dougie took up this mantle that we would eventually get to the the bottom of all that is wrong with not just the financial wrongs with our party but this would be the beginning of a root and branch clean our of the crap that’s infiltrated it’s way into the SNP. I have worked with honest die hard nationals like Dougie and guys like Jim Norris in our Dunfermline branch back in the day and I really do feel for them now. As Peter has mentioned our voices are no longer being heard within the party so we the members have to now make our voices heard in the only way we can and that will be felt at the top echelons of the party so I suggest that we should now all on mass withdraw all our funding’s, donations and dues to the party until we have a true voice once more at the top of our party.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we all believed – or wanted to believe – that last year’s shake-up of the NEC would at least start the process of restoring the SNP’s internal democracy. We reckoned without the wiles of Murrell et al. But I’m not sure about the withdrawal of funding. Such actions only work to the extent that they are supported. It’s like a boycott. If only a few people participate, there’s no impact. If a sizeable number of people participate but fail to persist, there’s not sufficient impact. The secret of the effective boycott is to make it easy for people to join in and stay the course.

      So long as the SNP remains crucial to Scotland’s cause, we cannot undermine the party without harming that cause. People either realise this or they don’t. If they do – or if they are just unthinking party loyalists – they won’t join the effort to withhold funding. And they’ll be easily persuaded to give up the boycott. That’s enough people to ensure the boycott fails, I reckon.

      It also only works if there is no alternative source. Political parties – particularly those which have been in government for some time and look like remaining there – have substantial borrowing powers. Certainly sufficient to cover any short-term shortage due to direct action.

      I’m afraid that one’s a non-starter. And before you ask, no! I don’t have a better alternative. Not one I couldn’t just as easily argue against. I’ve put a lot of thought into this. It’s one thing to think of the effect that you want to achieve, quite another to come up with a foolproof way of achieving that effect. Especially when there is a severe time constraint. Conference SHOULD provide a democratic means to ‘reprimand’ the leadership. But who knows when or even if there will be another conference like that?

      A group like SNP Members for Independence is the first step. Action has to be organised and coordinated. But that group attracted only a few hundred members. Similarly, Now Scotland has not attracted the support it needs from the wider Yes movement. It was a great idea. But it didn’t take long for the participants to fuck it up by taking the focus off the constitutional issue and straying into the realm of policy. They one thing it absolutely had to avoid was pretty much the first thing it did.

      You wonder why I despair?

      Like

  8. The SNP gets around £1.1m in Short money and £0.5m in MP levy. They need that to pay the large salaries and legal costs. Independence would stop that.

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    1. This is a perfect example of thinking the argument through only as far as is convenient for the desired conclusion. Independence would stop the Scottish taxpayers’ money that comes to the SNP via Westminster. But independence would allow that money to be replaced by a possibly larger amount via Holyrood.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve taken the liberty of editing your original comment, Bruce. This would normally be taboo as far as I’m concerned. But the circumstances warrant it, I think. We hope to avoid at least some confusion.

      Like

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