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Sunday 5 August 2012

My reasons for cancelling my SNP party membership

I have decided to cancel my SNP party membership, effective immediately. This will come as no surprise to readers of this blog, nor to Twitter followers.

A few words of background -

I have only been an SNP member for about four years, and an SNP supporter and voter since Iraq, so I have a very short history with the party. During my party membership, I have not been a very active branch member, but in the contacts and the meetings I have attended I developed the highest respect and regard for the branch members I met, and especially for the elected officials. I have some idea of how they have worked over decades of loyal party support, especially in the active campaigning, leafleting and door-knocking that led to the election of Colin Keir, MSP in 2011 as part of the new intake in the party landslide victory. (I played little or no active part in all that hard work for personal reasons.) I am sad to longer be a part of such a committed and loyal group of political activists.


I have been a Labour voter for most of my life, but never a party member. I had a brief membership (a few weeks) of the SDP when they broke away from Labour in 1981. It lasted until I met David Owen at a Durham branch meeting and realised what an awful mistake I had made!

In joining a political party, however briefly, I had broken a vow I made in the early 1950s that I would never be a member of a party that supported nuclear weapons. None of the parties that opposed nuclear weapons seemed to me to have any chance of being elected to government. But I had – and have – a democratic commitment to voting, but qualified by the criterion of electability, so I voted for what I saw as the least worse option among the major parties – i.e. Labour – on that basis. This included the awful mistake of voting for Tony Blair and New Labour, until 2003 and Iraq.

Watershed moments that took me gradually to the belief that the SNP was electable included hearing Alex Salmond speak at the New Club in Edinburgh in the late nineties and hearing John Swinney speak at a regional Question Time in Meadowbank at which I was an audience member. I also had the privilege of working briefly with the late Douglas Henderson of the SNP as a colleague on negotiating skills courses for Professor Gavin Kennedy’s company Negotiate Ltd for a period in 1990.

Of course, devolution was a key moment of realisation that the SNP was not only potentially electable as the Government, but that they could actually deliver Scotland’s independence and a nuclear-free Scotland, as the government of an independent Scotland. For the first time in my political life, there was an electable party that met my key requirements of being anti-nuclear and a social democratic party of the Left, and that they were not a least-worse option, they were the best option. Party membership was the next logical step.

My reasons for leaving – which must be self-evident to anyone who has read my NATO blog – are as follow -

1. I believe NATO membership is inextricably bound up with nuclear weapons, and that an independent Scotland must not be a member.

2. I believe the SNP leadership has behaved disingenuously at best in the way they have approached this issue, and at worst have deliberately manipulated their supporters in order to push through a volte face in NATO policy under the disguise of open debate.

3. I believe that their stated negotiating position is either ludicrously simplistic over NATO (unlikely) or is a deliberate attempt to conceal a planned retreat from any early removal of Trident and nuclear submarines from Scotland within a ten to twenty year period, regrettably highly likely.

I won’t rehearse yet again my detailed arguments on why I find this unacceptable.


I am one voter, one voice and I claim to speak only for myself.  What I had to offer the party from 2008 on was not what they wanted from me, and I am unable to offer what they rightly value highly – active doorstop campaigning and leafleting. They have every right to take such a view.

I will continue to campaign for YES in any way I can be useful.

I will not join any other political party ever again.

I will continue to support the SNP with my vote in any local or by-elections before 2016, and I will continue to support the SNP’s policies across their range of policies, since I agree with most of them.

At the 2016 Holyrood election, I will judge against the deal breaker criteria that any other party that supports independence, is anti-nuclear and anti-NATO, and is broadly social democratic in philosophy will be a candidate for my vote, with electability as an important criterion, but not a deal breaker.


A secondary consideration in reaching my decision to leave the SNP was the increasing volume of abusive, obscene and sometimes threatening emails, blog comments and YouTube comments received. All comments are pre-moderated by me, and all such comments were deleted without being published. 90% of these were anonymous and claimed to be from SNP supporters. 100% of them supported NATO and that told me a lot.

Any comments that I have published on this blog or on YouTube were within my range of acceptability – some totally acceptable expressions of disagreement, couched in rational, civilised arguments, some less so (see yesterday’s comments). Again, a majority  - but not all - were in support of the SNP’s NATO U-turn.

I have received direct contacts – email and Twitter direct message – from MPs and MSPs, all in confidence, which I have respected. All were pro-NATO – I have received no direct contact from any anti-NATO MPs or MSPs.

If my critics regard this as evidence that my viewpoint is a minority one within the party, I readily accept that, indeed Professor Mitchell’s report appears to confirm this.

I will not be publishing any comments on this blog post – there is little point, so please don’t offer comment or advice. (I will be happy to receive emails.)

Normal blogging service will be resumed tomorrow, but perhaps with a change of emphasis, since the only party line I must now respect is that of independence and the anti-nuclear voice.

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