The SNP may know who their next leader will be, but the polls are open until Wednesday night for the depute role, and there are three contenders. I thought I’d ask them all three awkward questions, and they were all kind enough to answer. I know it’s too late for most SNP members to use when making their minds up, but it may be of interest to any last-minute waverers. Thanks again to all three candidates.
Are there areas of policy innovation the SNP should consider?
Angela Constance MSP Party policy should always be open to review, challenge and improvement. Rather than focus on specific areas of policy myself, I am more concerned with ensuring that the rank and file membership, through their branches, is empowered to discuss new ideas and improvements to existing policy such that our party is led by initiatives inspired by our grassroots and their communities. I will not seek to lead the party to particular policy positions, rather I will seek to find the best mechanisms through which our branches can develop policy, informed by their everyday personal and professional experiences, and make the party much less driven by policy initiatives from parliamentarians and their advisers. However, it is clear from hustings meetings that I have attended that the party will wish to address the issue of fracking.
Stewart Hosie MP The key thing I would like the SNP to change is the way in which major policy is formulated. National Assembly, which was the policy formulation body of the Party, should be re-constituted to meet on a regional basis. This would give many more of our members, particularly new members with a great wealth of experience in all sorts of areas, the opportunity to have a real input into SNP policy making.
Keith Brown MSP The most pressing area is in relation to poverty and child poverty. We need to have full powers over taxation and welfare, amongst others, from the Smith Commission. We need to eradicate child poverty and the need for food banks, and we need control over tax and benefits to do it. We haven’t done nearly enough work on reserved areas and we need to sort that now. We have to be bold and imaginative in our plans and building a better future. We’ve done well in devolved areas and I want to see us go further. Early years education; something like the Reggio Emilia approach. More emphasis on health promotion to lessen the costs of treating sickness and reduce health inequality. Support for small businesses and new business start-ups. It has to be done by the whole SNP membership – we have to give policy-making back to the members.
What does a roadmap to independence now look like?
Stewart Hosie MP There are many roads to Independence! The bottom line, though is that the Scottish people will determine the speed and direction of travel. We have just been through a referendum where the result was clear and I personally think that the referendum route remains the most credible. There are however many things which could trigger another referendum. For example an in/out referendum on Europe where Scotland and rUK vote different ways. Perhaps an overwhelming demand from many who voted No – expecting substantial devolution – if the UK Government fails to deliver on that promise. The key thing is to keep making the case for Independence and to keep campaigning.
Keith Brown MSP The same always – get a mandate and hold a referendum. We can’t run the referendum again, though, our tactics have to be better: build momentum earlier, have different Yes voices lay out their visions of an independent Scotland so it’s not one vision with fractures but different visions with the same first step. Trust those tens of thousands of Yes activists who put heart, soul and imagination into this campaign – they should lead; our big victory was that the people took the referendum and ran with it. Want another shot at the prize? Campaign, win and deliver. We can’t be the Jim Bowen of Scottish politics and saying “let’s see what you could have won”, we have to be the party and the movement looking to the future and saying “this is what you can win”. Scotland will be better after independence but we have to work for it.
Angela Constance MSP The SNP is a democratic party and, whatever our view of the approach of the No campaign, we must accept the result. That said, the promises that were made in support of securing a No vote must be kept. We have every right to hold the vow-makers to account and to continue to persuade people of the case for Independence. If the final fortnight of the Referendum campaign proved anything it is that only the prospect of Independence forces Westminster to consider conceding meaningful power. Ultimately it will be the people, not politicians and parliaments, who will dictate the timetable and route to Independence. It is our job as a party to continue to persuade the people to make the journey.
How should the SNP act if the party holds the balance of power at Westminster in 2015?
Keith Brown MSP It’s a bit of a jump from here to there but if we hold the balance of power the negotiations over what we’ll do will be led by Nicola Sturgeon. The incoming UK Government will have to decide how to respond to the Smith Commission and whether to deliver on additional powers for our Parliament. That’s why it has to be the First Minister of Scotland and her team doing the negotiating – Scotland’s interests have to come before the SNP’s interests or the interests of MPs. She’ll have Angus Robertson as leader of the Westminster group to advise her but it will be her job to do. As she’s already pointed out, though; we won’t prop up a Tory Government and Labour isn’t much better, so our deal has to be just about what Scotland can get and how much we can squeeze out of Westminster for Holyrood. Coalition with Labour is possible but we’ll act in Scotland’s best interests.
Angela Constance MSP It would be my preference for some form of Yes Alliance to hold the balance of power rather than the SNP in isolation. However it would not be the job of either to prop up a Unionist government at Westminster. Our job will be to work day by day, issue by issue, to deliver the best deal we possibly can for Scotland and, obviously, there would be a particular task in delivering meaningful constitutional change. At the present time I cannot see the circumstances arising where we would seek to be part of a formal coalition with any Unionist party, but the rise of UKIP raises the spectre of a rather unpleasant kind of government emerging. Therefore if the only alternative to a Tory/UKIP coalition government is to enter a formal coalition with others then, in my view, there would be a strong case to do so.
Stewart Hosie MP The SNP needs to win more seats in the 2015 General Election. That should be our sole focus. Our ability to force Westminster to sit up and take notice will be determined by that and that alone. The job of the SNP Parliamentary Group (with the possible addition of other Independence supporting MPs) will be to get the best possible deal for Scotland. While the SNP will be the guarantors of new powers, it would be wrong to speculate on precisely how any arrangement might work or what any demands would be. Let’s win the seats first and look at the Westminster arithmetic later!