Jim Sillars backs Inverclyde councillor for SNP deputy leader role

CommonSpace’s David Thomson reports on the battle for the SNP’s deputy leadership role

FORMER SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars is backing Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny to become Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy.

The SNP grandee has thrown his weight behind the Inverclyde Council SNP group leader because he would be a “voice for the membership”.

Sillars, the husband of the late Margo McDonald, also shares the same socialist policies with the Gourock councillor.

“First he is a socialist, and I believe that it is necessary for the socialist wing of the party to be represented in the election for deputy leader,” said Sillars

“Chris McEleny is a socialist, and I believe that it is necessary for the socialist wing of the party to be represented in the election for deputy leader,” Jim Sillars

He added: “Second, concerns the balance of power within the party. Before 1999, with only a few MPs, the power in the party lay with the members as represented by the national executive.

“With the election of a large Holyrood parliamentary group, inevitably power shifts from the membership, and the national executive to that group because it has to deal with matters on a day to day basis, and occupies the major platform within the party.”

McEleny faces an uphill struggle to become deputy leader of the SNP. The party’s Westminister leader, Angus Robertson, Euro MP Alyn Smith and Edinburgh Eastern MP Tommy Sheppard are also in the running for the position..

However, Sillars said McEleny would represent the party membership in a way that “is not there” currently.

“The election of Chris would insert into the power matrix a voice for the membership which is not there at present,” said Sillars

Watch: CommonSpace reporter Nathanael Williams interviews Alyn Smith MEP at his deputy leadership campaign launched (filmed by Independence Live)

McEleny welcomed the support from Sillars. He said: “Jim has championed working class and socialist values over the years, the values I believe in and want to champion at the heart of the SNP.”

The position of deputy leader of the nationalists became vacant after Stewart Hosie resigned in May following news of his affair with journalist Serena Cowdy.

Whoever takes over the role as deputy leader will have to liaise with grassroots members and to work with different parts of the independence movement.

Ahead of the 5 August deadline for nominations to become deputy leader, each of the candidates has made their pitch to the 120,000 party members.

McEleny launched his campaign to become deputy leader within days of Hosie’s resignation. He said: “As a councillor I am in a unique position to build a better relationship between the grassroots of our party and the various strands of local and national government.

“We are on the brink of independence; the campaign that comes now should be all about persuading people why our vision is the right one for Scotland.” Angus Robertson MP

“I believe I am best placed to be that link that ensures the views of people in communities across Scotland are represented at the heart of the SNP.”

On Friday, Angus Robertson MP said that Scotland “is on the brink of independence” as he outlined his bid to become the party’s deputy.

Robertson, who has been MP  for Moray since 2001, said that the party needs to focus on persuading the public that independence is the best thing for Scotland.

Robertson’s campaign will focus on leadership, grassroots and independence. He said: “We are on the brink of independence; the campaign that comes now should be all about persuading people why our vision is the right one for Scotland.

“The SNP depute leader has a big role in order to make this happen - developing our policy, strategy and tactics to win.”

Alyn Smith launched his bid to become deputy leader last Thursday in Edinburgh, by putting Europe at the forefront in his pitch to party members.

At the launch, Smyth said: “We need to make clear, to ourselves as a party, to Scotland and to the wider world, that we choose Europe as our future, Westminster is our past.”

“We need to rethink how we make policy – involving as many members as possible in a continuous process.” Tommy Sheppard MP

Tommy Sheppard – who founded The Stand comedy clubs in both Glasgow and Edinburgh – believes that the first thing that the deputy leader should focus on is to develop a grassroots campaign that is fit for the 21st century. This will include spending money on professional organisers at the Party HQ to support branch activities and members' training.

Sheppard wrote on his blog, said: “We need to prepare as many people as possible to play an active role in campaigns.

“We need to bring together all our elected representatives - MPs, MSPs and councillors - incoherent teams providing political leadership to our communities. We need to rethink how we make policy – involving as many members as possible in a continuous process.”

 The new SNP deputy leader will be announced at this year's Autumn conference in October.  

Picture courtesy of YouTube

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