CommonSpace Q&A

Rory Steel

Ahead of Saturday’s inaugural meeting, SNP Socialists Interim Convener Rory Steel was asked a series of questions by CommonSpace…

Why are you setting up SNP Socialists?

“The SNP has always been known to be a broad kirk taking in members from across the political spectrum united behind the cause of independence. The SNP has grown massively in recent years and has made our broad kirk even broader.

“Many members of the SNP identify as Socialists and have done since the party’s formation in 1936. We naturally have our own views and interests, as do all members, and are seeking to form a unified voice to raise issues important to us and many other members within the party. We want to be a pragmatic, democratic and constructive collective voice to influence policy.

“For example, this Saturday at our inaugural meeting, we’re going to be discussing and potentially adopting as a policy public transport nationalisation.

“Another core part of what we want to do is to educate people on what socialism actually is and how it can benefit Scotland and the world. We want to put across to people what our vision of Scotland as an independent nation or a part of the UK looks like.”

Approximately how many socialists do you think there are in the SNP?

“It would be really hard to say. I definitely think that since the independence referendum, the new uptake of members who have joined are more left wing than the general membership before. It was the message of self-empowerment, self-determination and hope for something better than the status quo that caused so many people to join.

“If I was forced to put a figure on it, I would say that at least around 40% of the membership would consider themselves socialists or have socialist leanings. But I do live in west coast bubble so the number is probably a bit lower.”

Do you think the SNP is a Socialist Party?

“I don’t think it’s socialist; I believe it’s a social democratic party. I, and no one else I’ve spoken to, are under the illusion that the SNP is a socialist party.

“However, that doesn’t mean to say that there is no common ground between the two ideologies or that they are necessarily antagonist to one another. We want to work together with all members. After all, we are in the SNP because we believe that it is the best party to deliver independence and deliver a competent and effective government that benefits Scotland and its people.”

Which candidate for Deputy Leader are SNP Socialists most likely to support?

“It would be against the rules for any body within the party to endorse a candidate. Although we are not fully affiliated – although we one day hope to be – we respect the party rules and procedures.

“We are holding a Deputy hustings at 4:30pm on Saturday following our first meeting with all four of the candidates making contributions. Members will be able to decide themselves individually who they’re voting for.

“But after speaking with many socialist members, there is definitely a clear favourite.”

Why does the SNP require a socialist’s direction?

“Our membership is what makes our party. The membership is a tapestry of individuals and collectives each with their own viewpoints. We want to organise so that we can be a part of the internal and wider discourse.

“We wholly respect the views of non-Socialist members and the party’s democratic processes and standards. We are looking forward to working together on shared objectives for a progressive agenda with other established groups, such as SNP CND; Youth and Students; Friends of Palestine and Trade Union Group.”

Does SNP Socialists intend to challenge for the leadership of the party?

“Socialists already are challenging for the leadership. Both Tommy Sheppard and Chris McEleny are self-identified socialists.

“In terms of fielding candidates ourselves, we have a long way to go before we even consider anything like that. But the SNP Depute Leadership election has shown to be a lesson in democracy to the Labour and Tory party. It is a perfect example of how internal democracy should function: with civility and fairness; without divisions and backroom dealings.”

The answers given to these questions have been used as the basis for this article.

Rory Steel is founding member of SNP Socialists and a Politics graduate of Strathclyde University. An SNP member since 2011, Rory is an active campaigner in the Glasgow’s East End. He also founded and ran Yes Strathclyde and SNP Strathclyde, and is currently Vice Convener of SNP Youth.

Disclaimer: articles published on Red Thistle are the views of the individual authors and not necessarily those of SNP Socialists as a whole.

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