In an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland In Union Director Alastair Cameron has made an unprecedented offer of up to £5,000 to help the SNP change its constitution.
In the letter, Mr Cameron calls on Ms Sturgeon to use the SNP’s position of strength as an opportunity for reform, and says the SNP’s current constitution is a barrier to trust. He says that the current SNP constitution:
1. Makes the interests of Scotland seem like an afterthought.
2. Appears narrow and selfish.
3. Leaves it unclear what the SNP stands for, apart from separation.
SIU is offering the SNP up to £5,000 to help with relevant costs if Ms Sturgeon will put the constitution on the conference agenda, and the party agrees to change it to show a positive view of how a future SNP government will use its powers.
Mr Cameron said: “The SNP is in a position of amazing strength. It is in effect the Scottish political establishment, thanks to its eight years in power, its unprecedented funding and its dominance of the media agenda. The party of Sturgeon and Salmond has a real and pressing responsibility to stop acting as though it is in opposition, and to set out its fundamental principles for government. Government policy should be based on principles, not make-it-up as you go along. If Ms Sturgeon does not take up Scotland In Union’s £5,000 offer, she and her party will be shown as fixated on separation at all costs – and Scottish politics will continue to suffer from a lack of positive ideas to help people in Scotland.”
The full text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Ms Sturgeon
An offer of help from Scotland In Union
The SNP has been in government for more than eight years, and has record numbers of members and large cash donations. Your party is still riding high, despite some recent minor setbacks. Now is the time to reform, from a position of unprecedented strength.
Scotland In Union believes the SNP’s constitution is an obstacle to positive politics in Scotland, particularly as the question of separation was settled in 2014 for at least a generation. Your candidates may say that a particular election “isn’t about independence”, but people who understand the benefits of the UK will not trust the SNP while its constitution reads:
2. The aims of the Party shall be:
(a) Independence for Scotland; that is the restoration of Scottish national sovereignty by restoration of full powers to the Scottish Parliament, so that its authority is limited only by the sovereign power of the Scottish People to bind it with a written constitution and by such agreements as it may freely enter into with other nations or states or international organisations for the purpose of furthering international cooperation, world peace and the protection of the environment.
(b) the furtherance of all Scottish interests.
Policy and Direction
3. The policy and direction of the Party shall be that laid down from time to time in accordance with this Constitution and any Rules made under it.
We believe this constitution is a problem for most people in Scotland, for three reasons:
1. It clearly gives primacy to separation from the UK, with the ‘Scottish interests’ appearing as an afterthought. Indeed, if independence was actually in the interests of the people of Scotland, 2(a) would not even be needed.
2. There is no mention of working in the interests of the rest of the UK. Those who care about people in Scotland, people in the rest of the UK and people in the rest of the world see this as narrow, selfish and potentially beggar-thy-neighbour.
3. There are no guiding principles for the party other than separation: it is unclear what the SNP stands for in government. Does the SNP represent state control, or individual choice and freedom? Does it stand more for big business, or does it favour the views of trade unions? Does it espouse progressive or regressive fiscal policy? Does it lean more towards free markets, or towards state direction of the economy? The lack of answers must make policy-making difficult for you, but more importantly it means voters must deduce SNP direction from looking at what the party has done recently, and looking for specifics in your manifestos.
Scotland In Union is a non-party, not-for-profit, pro-UK campaign group. It might seem surprising that we are offering help and advice to the SNP, but we are not anti-SNP as such: we are pro-UK, and want to see a prosperous and confident Scotland within the UK. We would like to see politics in Scotland conducted in terms of policies rather than powers, and the SNP has such power and resources at present that we are keen engage with you and your members on this subject. It is unhelpful to Scotland, and to the UK, to have a party of such strength as the SNP which does not clearly state its principles for government, which is why we are writing this open letter to you.
We assume that you and the party leadership are not radicals who want independence at any cost, even if it bankrupts Scotland and has a negative impact on other countries. We also assume that your members and politicians would benefit from a set of principles to help set policy.
We are aware that the party constitution is on your conference agenda in two weeks’ time. Our offer of help, therefore, is that if you:
1. Discuss the implications of your constitution at your October 2015 conference in Aberdeen;
2. Agree to change your constitution’s wording and order, so that it:
a. Focuses on working positively for Scotland, the UK and the wider world; and
b. Sets out clear and specific principles by which an SNP government will form policy and then act;
then we will contribute to the associated costs.
If you are prepared to take this bold and positive step, as a leader and a party, and you and your party decide to change the SNP constitution in this way, we undertake to raise up to £5,000 to cover resulting receipted and appropriate legal, drafting and distribution costs.
Please consider this offer in the serious and positive spirit in which it is made. I, or other members of the SIU committee, would be delighted to meet you to discuss our proposal. Time is short, though, before you need to produce your budget as a government, and write your manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood election. We therefore urge you to consider our offer and make positive change part of your manifesto discussion later this month.
Scotland In Union