Ominous: SNP adopts new gagging laws on party dissent

Alex MacDonald March 30, 2015 3

The case for the free-thinker in the SNP is waning thin. At the party’s conference, a new motion was brought in which will prevent members from airing their views should they disagree with the party line.

What happened to an inclusive democracy? An idea kicked to the long grass, presumably, because the new motion would emphasise that the SNP leadership is seeking unity – ironically – (or dictatorship, depending on your view) as it goes into the May elections looking to bust a game-changer in the negotiations room.

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But – and there is a but – how long does the SNP leadership hope to keep its vocalised membership obedient and quiet? An article in the Spectator pointed out just a few days ago that the party atmosphere is more of a “Ukip of the North”, arguing that Sturgeon was positioning herself as the leader of the common people, looking to stick it to the Westminster man.

Even if the rhetoric is matching its usual form, how long can the leadership seriously expect its members – a vocalised bunch – bow down and keep schtum? One Twitter user described the party as transforming into a cult: “Since you can’t criticise the leadership at all, how is joining the SNP any different from joining a cult?”

For me the scariest thing about this change is the damage it has done to the democratic process within the SNP. Motions which have the backing of the leadership, or are pre-approved with a whip guarantee, are now far less likely to be revaluated and scrutinised from within because SNP politicians will be blocked for disagreeing with the party’s decision – or potentially even punished.

What does that say about the free exchange of ideas and liberal values within the SNP? Lots: the Nationalists don’t subscribe to them. They prefer the iron fist.

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