Replacing Stewart Hosie as Nicola Sturgeon’s second-in-command holds many attractions, says Tommy Sheppard
For anyone interested in politics being an MP is a brilliant job. Most of the time it’s a privilege to do it. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the travelling gets to you. So the summer recess is very welcome – getting to wake up in your own bed each morning and the time to catch up on everything in the constituency is wonderful.
Given that I also represent the area where most of the Festival and Fringe venues are, you might wonder why I’ve thrown my hat into the ring for SNP depute leader.
Why spend my evenings running to the farther reaches of Scotland to debate in hustings with the other candidates when I could take it down a notch and try to reduce the blood pressure?
I wonder myself sometimes, but every time I get the chance to talk about political ideas with party members I know why. These are exciting times. People always say that, but quite seriously I can’t remember a time when politics was more fluid and unpredictable – and I go back to the 70s. The last few years in Scotland have been a time of unprecedented change: new ideas have emerged and old allegiances have withered.
There is now a popular modern politics in Scotland which brings together those who aspire to us becoming a self-governing country with those who long for social and economic reform to achieve a more equal and fairer society.
And I believe that the SNP can be the champion for that new politics.
To do so we need to do two things. One, to consolidate our position as a modern left-of-centre social democratic party.
Two, an organisational upgrade so that we can consolidate these changes on the ground and get many more of our members active.
The first is a matter for the whole membership and our delegate conference. It’s the second I am making the focus of my bid to become Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy.
You can find out exactly how I aim to do this at tommysheppardmp.scot (and yes, I pay for the website myself).
Even the way we are filling this vacancy sets the SNP apart from the other parties. Tory MPs squeezed out their contenders leaving Theresa May with the Tory crown and members without a say. Labour, meanwhile, seem to be having an election for a position that isn’t even vacant and are excluding swathes of their membership. The SNP instead have a contest in which any member could stand and every member can vote. It’s a different way of doing things. We call it democracy.
Some have pointed out that I’ve not been a member long. In fact, I’ve been a member longer than most. This, of course, just points to the phenomenal growth of the party in the last two years.
But the interesting thing is this is a contest in which length of service doesn’t really matter. Eighty per cent of SNP members didn’t have a membership card two years ago and it is a party where everyone is welcome. It really doesn’t matter where you’ve come from – only where you want to go.
And I can’t think when I’ve ever been in a better natured campaign.
This contest will frustrate those who claim there’s no diversity of views in the SNP as there so clearly is. The difference is that all the candidates believe in an over-arching narrative that our country would be better run if decisions were made by the people who live here.
And that means that our party will be stronger as a result of this contest and thousands of individual members engaging in dozens of hustings meetings across the country.
Whoever wins, they will do so with a popular vote from all members giving them a powerful mandate to get on with the job.
Tommy Sheppard is SNP MP for Edinburgh East