Lack of equalities policy shocks SNP’s new convener Lynne Anderson The Times 06.02.21

The original article is here.

The bitter infighting in the SNP took another extraordinary turn last night after its newly-elected equalities convenor wrote to members saying she was “astounded” to find the party did not have an equalities policy.

In an email to branch officials Lynne Anderson said without the policy the party had no “strategic framework in place on which to pin all the mechanisms which may be required to bring about fairness and equality in our work toward Independence”.

The letter is the latest shot in the war raging between the party leadership and supporters of Joanna Cherry, who was sacked from SNP’s Westminster front bench team on Monday.

Anderson, like Cherry, signed up to Women’s Pledge, a feminist group within the SNP which is deeply opposed to reforms of the Gender Recognition Act, championed by Nicola Sturgeon and her supporters, including the Out for Independence group.

These reforms include simplifying the process for transgender people to legally change their gender.

Though the email to branch officers did not reference the issue of trans rights, Women’s Pledge supporters are outraged that Sturgeon, the party leader, and Peter Murrell, her husband and the SNP’s chief executive, are championing reforms which they say are not supported by the membership.

Critics of the leadership derided the “incompetence” of Murrell’s operation at the SNP’s Edinburgh headquarters.

“They just do things on an ad hoc basis, as and when it suits them, and drop things, as and when it suits them,” said one party member. “They spend money as they see fit, without reporting to any of the boards that are supposed to run the party.”

Cherry echoed these criticisms, though she said it was “unfortunate” that the email had been put into the public domain.

She added: “My colleagues who have been newly elected to the NEC (National Executive Committee) are trying collectively to address a backlog of poor practice and failures of party organisation.

“We will continue to do that in private so the SNP can better reflect the wishes of its members.”

Anderson’s letter also drew attention to “reserved places” on the regional lists of prospective MSP, which will see BAME and disabled candidates prioritised.

Critics of the leadership allege that Emma Harper, a Sturgeon loyalist, will be first choice on the South Scotland list, because she is diabetic and thus disabled, ahead of Joan McAlpine, who is an opponent of Sturgeon’s proposed gender reforms.

In her email Anderson recounted a meeting in January the party’s solicitor “informed those present that the party did not have an equalities strategy/policy”.

She said: “I, of course, raised this with the Chief Executive at the next NEC meeting. I did not receive a satisfactory answer as I was informed there was a strategy, it was just dated. It transpires that this was in fact reference to a gender equality policy written in 2012.”

Anderson added: “My own view is that ‘equalities’ currently has too narrow a focus within the party and have yet to hear poverty and the environment mentioned at our meetings.”

The SNP constitution includes a section on maintaining equality of opportunity. It says “the equality strategy must aim to ensure the Party fields a balanced list of candidates, aiming towards 50/50 gender-balanced representation and increasing the number of candidates drawn from under-represented groups.”

The implementation of the equality strategy, it adds, “must be monitored by the National Executive Committee.”

An SNP spokesman said: “Responsibility for maintaining the equalities strategy rests with the NEC. As the party’s equalities convener, Lynne Anderson will be responsible for taking areas of this work forward and bringing a proposal to the national executive committee.

“Having achieved gender balance with our constituency candidates, we aim towards a Scottish Parliament more reflective of the diversity of the nation with BAME and disabled candidates in May’s vital election.”

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