SNP NEC member says strict new rules for MPs may be illegal

TOUGH new rules to stop SNP MPs from running for Holyrood may be against party rules, a senior member has claimed.

Last week, the governing NEC brought in tough new measures on so-called dual mandates, which meant that any of the party’s Westminster politicians selected to stand for Holyrood would need to resign as an MP.

The party said it was about avoiding disruption for voters, but many saw it as an attempt to prevent Joanna Cherry from running in Edinburgh Central.

Effectively it meant if Cherry or any of her colleagues was picked to stand in next May’s vote, they would have to stand down from Westminster in enough time to allow the by-election to be held on the same day as the Holyrood election.

Ultimately that would mean the MP having to quit and close their office, making their staff redundant in February. The decision sparked outrage. Now, a blog post attributed to an anonymous member of the NEC described the decision as “a farce, a shambles, an incompetent mess”.

READ MORE: Kevin McKenna: NEC Joanna Cherry stitch-up shows SNP has a ‘party within a party’

The article, which appeared on Wings Over Scotland, said the decision over dual mandates was so close it had to be taken twice, and the result then took 30 minutes to be presented.

They claimed the process was “shoddy and improper” and in breach of SNP rules.

They wrote: “It is beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt, however, that the decision to effectively block Joanna Cherry (and potentially others) from standing in next year’s Holyrood election is not constitutional.”

It’s understood that during the four-hour-long meeting, members of the NEC were presented with a raft of options on how the party should approach dual mandates.

They were asked to vote using single transferable vote (STV), putting a one beside their favourite option, a two beside their second favourite option, and so on.

The anonymous NEC-er said they were asked to make their decision using the SurveyMonkey online poll.

They added: “So however shoddy and improper a process this appears, at least you would assume that the meeting would get the results right away, right? Erm, no again.

“The meeting continued for at least another 30 minutes as we waited on the corporate compliance manager ‘pulling the results together and collating them’.

“The results were flashed for a few brief seconds up on everyone’s screens by the party clerk and lo and behold, the constitution was overwritten: if Joanna Cherry wanted to stand in the Holyrood election she’d need to resign her Westminster seat months in advance to contest the nomination.

“And of course, no decent employer/human being is going to make all their staff unemployed in the current climate.

“So where are we now? As things are, the decision stands. Any half-competent QC would have a field day contesting it but I imagine our QCs in the party are rather more interested in beating Boris Johnson in court than having to take their own party there, so that’s not going to happen.

“A farce, a shambles, an incompetent and unconstitutional mess. We need our leader to step in now and sort.”

READ MORE: Here’s why SNP NEC’s rules for 2021 Holyrood elections are not unreasonable

SNP Angus MacNeil agreed, calling on the party’s leadership to “stop this festering any longer”.

Chris McEleny, who has twice served on the ruling body, said a mistake had been made.

The Inverclyde councillor added: “We use STV because it’s the fairest system to elect people to office, it ensures a better level of representation, but STV is not a system that you use when you’re voting on motions.

“You don’t use STV to vote on motions at the Scottish Parliament or UK Parliament.”

He added: “If someone proposes a motion you either agree with that and that’s fine, and if you don’t agree with that you propose an amendment and people can propose a second, a third or a fourth or fifth amendment, they can even propose direct negatives or remit it back.

“And you vote all these things through until you get a winner, it’s a run-off system.

“What you don’t do is you don’t put all those options out to STV because that doesn’t make sense.

“It doesn’t make sense to use STV to give a preferential system on a host of proposals that are completely different and, of course, some are directly negative from the others.”

An SNP source said the claims were “not correct”, while a spokesperson for the party told The National that they “do not comment on internal matters”.

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