Q&A with SNP depute leadership candidate Julie Hepburn
The SNP will announce its new depute leader at its spring conference later this week
Julie Hepburn - Image credit: Julie Hepburn
How do you see the role of depute leader, given you also have a deputy first minister and a party convener?
Right now, we have an opportunity to take a fresh approach to the role of depute leader. Both John Swinney and Derek Mackay deputise very effectively for Nicola Sturgeon as deputy first minister and business convener. We need to take a more strategic approach to the role of depute leader and elect someone who can focus on the essential internal work that will lay the foundations of our next independence referendum and future elections.
Why should someone vote for you rather than the other candidates?
I’m proposing a different approach to the role of depute leader – one focused on the internal work that we need to do to harness and empower our vast membership, drive forward internal reform in the party and build a renewed case and campaign for independence.
There has been a lot of discussion about members not feeling involved in the party decision making. How would you approach that?
We should be putting in place a robust policy structure that engages and harnesses the skills, expertise and ideas of our members across the country – one that allows our wider membership to shape policy together with our elected representatives. I’ve set out a number of proposals to do just that, including:
- A new policy development committee and policy convener, focused on supporting members to shape policy through National Assembly and conference resolutions;
- A revamped National Assembly process, that brings policy discussion and debate to every level of our party;
- Regular policy papers distributed to all branches and SNP organisations for discussion, with guidance on how to run inclusive and invigorating events;
- The establishment of new advisory groups to harness the professional expertise of members.
What policy does the SNP not currently have that you would like to introduce?
I believe very strongly that we should have an elected head of state in an independent Scotland, but that is a decision for the people of Scotland, so I would like to ensure that we have that choice.
The FM appears to have fired a starting gun on the independence debate. How do you win over those that didn’t support you last time?
By engaging with people who voted No in 2014. We need to listen and understand their concerns, and respond to those concerns with respect and renewed focus. If we don’t take the time now to fully understand why people were reluctant to support independence, then we reduce our chances of persuading them at the next referendum. This work must start now. We need to highlight to those who support devolution that if we remain in the UK, the Tories will destroy devolution. Their attempted power grab is evidence of this. We need to demonstrate that independence is the only way to protect the powers already devolved to Scotland – powers that protect our public services like the NHS.
When would hold the next independence referendum and why?
At the earliest opportunity, because the case for independence has never been stronger. We have some work to do to lay the foundations for next referendum, but that work can happen very quickly.
Who is your political hero?
I have many, and they are SNP activists across this country who put in a phenomenal effort to campaign for the party and for independence, so that we can build a better future for everyone who lives here. They won’t ever be household names, but the personal sacrifices that people make every day as political activists for the party never fails to astound me.
What kind of leader will you be?
One who will listen to SNP members, and do all I can to support them to get involved in shaping policy and to support local campaign efforts. I think it’s really important that we have someone who is focused on supporting our vast membership, and that’s how I would approach the role.
What’s your top campaigning tip?
To keep going!
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