Q&A with SNP depute leader candidate Angus Robertson MP
Holyrood asked the four candidates for depute leader of the SNP for their views on some key issues for the party
Angus Robertson MP - Image credit: Danny Lawson/PA Archive/Press Association Images
What sets you apart from the other candidates for depute leader?
Angus Robertson: The depute leadership election is about who can work best in a team with our leader, Nicola Sturgeon. As the Westminster SNP leader I already have that long standing relationship with Nicola. Having been SNP business convener and campaign director for the 2007 and 2011 Scottish parliamentary elections, I have the top level experience and an established track record. I am the only candidate from rural Scotland, and it makes perfect sense to have a leader and a depute from rural and urban Scotland, reflecting the whole of Scotland.
How do you keep all those members engaged and active?
AR: Our party needs to be ready on the ground campaigning, canvassing and doing the necessary work now. We cannot wait for whenever a referendum is called. That is why we need to prioritise our largest resource, which is the membership of the SNP now. The biggest single thing we can do to help keep members engaged and active is to make sure that everyone who wants to help, knows how to help, and that members who are not yet active have the opportunity to help and become active.
How do you strike the right balance between having policy debate within the party, but not having splits and division?
AR: In the SNP we do not shy away from policy debate, but there is more that can be done to debate more subjects at National Conference, National Council and National Assembly. For those who attended or watched the 2012 SNP conference in Perth, we debated one of the biggest changes to SNP policy, and I proposed those changes.
It was a passionate debate from both sides and the decision was taken, we accepted the decision maturely and moved forward. This debate was seen by many politicians and activists from other political parties as a model in decision making and that they wished their own parties would be able to have such a debate. We should never shy away from open debates in our party, whether it be at a branch level, constituency or conference environment. It is only by listening to each other that we will be able to show that we are the leading progressive democratic party of Scotland.
Has the party shifted to the left since the indyref?
AR: We are a left of centre social democratic party - standing up for the values, interests and aspirations of mainstream Scotland - and that's what we will always be. In the weeks and months ahead we have to look beyond our record levels of support and appeal to those we have not yet been able to win over. To win a referendum we have to speak to the 100 per cent of voters in Scotland, especially the 55 per cent we did not persuade in 2014.
The SNP is often accused of focusing on independence at the expense of using the powers it already has in government. How would you answer that?
AR: Our responsibility – today, tomorrow and for as long as the Scottish people put their faith in us – is to govern wisely and well on behalf of every citizen in our land. The SNP has managed the challenges of government and constitutional issues well, which is why the SNP has record electoral support. The public trusts us to always have the interests of people in Scotland at the top of the agenda.
What policy does the SNP not currently have that you would like to add?
AR: In the context of the depute leader election, you may not be aware that it is the depute that is responsible for collating policy ideas for the manifesto. I want all members to be involved, we can better use National Conference, Council and Assembly as well as modern technology to inform the manifesto directly. For example, a policy on an independent Scotland’s currency, I am open to the prospect of a Scottish pound, but we cannot rule out other options and that is why we have to go through internal debate, internal discussion, and agreement across the party. But we should be doing it in a way that brings in the 120,000+ members so that they are a full part of that process.
The SNP is seen as quite centralising in government. How would you ensure power is devolved down to a local level?
AR: The SNP is the party which is in favour of bringing power closer to people across Scotland. We need to do that in a way that reaches all parts of Scotland. The Scottish Government has already introduced legislation which empowers communities and there is more on the way.
We believe the best people to decide the future of our communities is the people who live in those communities. The Scottish Government will consult on and introduce new legislation to decentralise local authority functions, budgets and democratic oversight to local communities.
Would you support calling another independence referendum within the next two years?
AR: We are currently in the European Union and Scotland voted to remain. We have absolutely no intention of leaving and harming business, harming our citizenship rights and discriminating against our neighbours who happen to be EU citizens and who play such a valuable role in our society and economy. We will do everything to try and protect our position, and if that means we will have a second referendum in Scotland so that we are a sovereign state and able to remain within the EU, that is exactly what we will do.
What do you see as the most likely outcome of the Brexit negotiations?
AR: The process to exit the EU must have Holyrood’s legislative consent and I can't foresee circumstances in which the Scottish Parliament would give that consent. The SNP is focused on protecting Scotland’s interests and democratically expressed will to remain in EU.
Does Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the world need to change?
AR: Today, Scotland has no formal voice on the international stage. Instead we are represented badly by the Westminster government and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnston. We have repeatedly had different priorities from Westminster on issues from the Iraq war to our relationship with our European neighbours. Scotland has always been an outward facing nation, exporting goods, people and ideas around the world and welcoming ideas and people from other countries into our national culture. Scotland has deep internationalist roots and is based on a firm belief that we have a distinct and valuable contribution to make to world affairs. We should be an active participant in the global community of nations.
Who is your inspiration as a leader?
AR: Mahatma Gandhi, who helped deliver independence for India and its people through a peaceful movement for democracy and self-determination.
What is your top leadership tip?
AR: Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. I have worked hard at Westminster to make sure all SNP MPs and staff are part of the effective opposition. That team approach is key to our success.
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