And, we’re off! Nominations closed yesterday for the post of SNP depute and it was a shock to no-one that all four previously declared candidates have confirmed their position on the starting grid.
Today I launch my campaign at the CCA in Glasgow, where I’ll be setting out why I want the job.
I know the SNP can be a much more effective campaigning machine. The way we ran things when we had 20,000 members isn’t the way we should run them with 120,000. We need an organisational upgrade.
These are exciting times for our party and our movement. The speed with which events are moving gives us great opportunities, but also raises the stakes. We need to be ready for indyref2, and we need to be ready far earlier than most of us imagined.
Any mechanism to keep Scotland in Europe will require not just constitutional theory but political will. And if that goodwill is not forthcoming from Westminster then independence may become the only option left.
And let’s be clear. This is not about the EU. It’s about who gets to decide whether or not Scotland should be in the EU. There’s only one democratic answer to that question – and it’s the people who live here. Independence may be the only way to execute that democratic ambition.
And if that happens we need to win it, and win it well. Failure is not an option. A second No vote would set us back immeasurably. And that means we’ve got to be ready – we cannot try to do this from a cold start. It’s time to get the motor running even if it may be next year before we put it in gear.
That is why this election to choose the next depute leader of our party is so important. We need to rapidly build the structures we need to deliver victory. We need to get match fit for the next independence campaign.
And we start with our members – the most important resource we have. We need to listen to, and engage, our 120,000 members – whether they’ve been in the party two months or 50 years – getting them active, giving them confidence. I want us to overhaul the way we run our branches taking the best practice from some parts of the country and applying it everywhere. I’ll spell this out in more detail next week.
To back up local activists we need to get organised nationally. The time has come to spend money on a network of full-time organisers both at HQ and in eight regional offices across the country. These professional staff can provide back-up and training, co-ordinate campaigns, and bring together our elected representatives to provide effective political leadership in their local communities. More on this later.
Most of all we need to constantly look outward building alliances outside of the party. With a second independence referendum on the agenda we need not only to put the band back together but recruit some new members. We need to re-ignite the passion and enthusiasm of 2014, but on a much more professional footing. As someone who came to the party through the Yes campaign and with a wealth of political experience elsewhere, I believe I can bring that new perspective to our leadership team.
The delayed "summer campaign", has ground to make up, and then some. Launching at our October conference I believe we should run a campaign not only to make our own members aware of the possible options we now face but to lead our local parties in reaching out to the public – particularly those who voted No last time.
Whoever leads that campaign needs to have the time and focus to make it work. Doing another big job, while trying to deliver on this one isn’t going to do justice to the 120,000 members who expect our leadership to be able to fight on several fronts at once.
We need to add to our leadership team, not stretch it. The days when talented people had to double-up on jobs are in the past. The job of depute leader is more than a reward for work well done elsewhere. It is a job in its own right, a key part of the team we need in place to deliver the party and the victory we all want to see.
I believe the depute leader should be the voice of the membership, talking to the leadership – not the other way round.
Over the coming weeks, as part of this campaign to elect our new depute leader, I want to broaden out the debate and raise issues that are fundamental to how we will win. I want to listen to what members have to say, and understand how we can quickly put in place the structures and processes to engage our members in winning independence.
This column was written for The National - 6th August 2016