George Kerevan

George Kerevan

Delivering radical change in the SNP

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In George Kerevan’s article SNP at the Crossroads, he asks the question “how do we build a new, effective leadership for the Scottish working class and the independence movement?”

As the hegemonic force in Scottish politics, it’s vital that the SNP continues to play a prominent role in acting as the electoral expression of the independence movement. But we need to organise the grassroots, change the internal party culture and offer radical alternatives which can engage working class communities.

There must be organised pressure to tackle the political outlook of the party, ensuring it is representative of the wider grassroots movement.


Inside the SNP, many grassroots members are waiting for someone to do or say something different. If you speak to people with experience in the local branches, you’ll hear that after the 2014 independence referendum, new spaces were required to accommodate the influx of new members. Six years on, attendances at branch meetings are back to their pre-referendum levels for many communities, although many branches report that attendances have remained strong.  

Some local branches have been able to organise their members to answer clear demands from their local communities. The Islay & Jura branch has been able to sustain, and in some cases grow their support because of the work they do to improve their local community. Radical problems often require radical solutions, and authentic, credible leaders must deliver that message.

For the wider party, change won’t just be handed to you, it requires taking the initiative. The successful work seen in some branches can’t just be flatpack delivered to another branch, there are different obstacles and opportunities for every community. But what can be done differently is having an organising body which can work with grassroots members to change the wider structure of the party to accommodate radical solutions.

This strategic organising body already exists within the party. The SNP Common Weal Group (CWG) has been working to build a distributed network of SNP members who want to see radical change in the party. Building support within grassroot branches and elected representatives, the CWG has been working to build confidence, tactics and momentum towards political action which can tackle the existing power structures within the party.


Much will depend on changing the party culture, such as how the party evolves, how members are socialised into the party and how they take meaning from it. 

If the political and administrative power in the party is centralised around a small group of people, then how party culture is developed is dependent on how this group exercises its influence. Without effective avenues for the grassroots to challenge this power, the foundations of division within the party will continue.

To challenge this power, the CWG has to begin rebuilding working class trust in the wider SNP. Yet, to do that, working class people have to be confident that the CWG has the credibility to build this momentum, not only towards democratising party institutions, but towards building the case for independence.

The fight for radical change evokes a counterchallenge from not only those that are in positions of power, but from allies who are susceptible to the influence and authority of that power. The reality is, whenever you try to enact change there will be political conflicts that you have to overcome.

Organising working class support is no job for the fainthearted who seek trivial ends. Genuine action cannot be substituted for the social credit exchanged on social media. Radical change can’t coexist with a politics which is subordinated to upward social mobility. This isn’t about building a social media following, although digital strategies are important, this is about fortifying ourselves for the long-term commitment to radical change.

Radical Change

To create a radical agenda which has the capacity to build broad support, you need to have the flexibility to meet people where they are and bring them to where they need to be. Mass movements like the campaign for independence must be engaged on their own terms. By speaking from a perspective which can understand and explain the dilemmas facing the SNP, we can build a movement of political action which can deliver radical change.

The message, however, has to be a positive campaign which seeks positive outcomes. To encourage people to join a movement, you need to play a positive and enlightening role in rehabilitating grassroots members back into political action within the party. 

With no discussion on strategies to deliver independence and radical policies to transform the Scottish economy coming from the SNP leadership, this offers the CWG a significant opportunity to engage with the grassroots members on these issues.

With All Under One Banner continuing to keep the independence movement on the streets and Common Weal continuing to discuss strategies to deliver independence and radical transformation of the economy, positivity has endured externally to the SNP. The CWG can deliver the momentum to ensure this positivity permeates internally within the party, and settle the malaise of ordinary party members.

Radical Agenda

As the CWG continues to reach out to branches, many people are beginning to feel politically active again. Members are looking to the future of Scotland and increasingly the conclusion they are reaching is that the received dogmas do not match up to the needs of an emerging grassroots. Below are five ideas which offer a radical alternative for the party. Whatever your views are on policy, these are essential ideas to begin the discussion.

  • Green New Deal is a large-scale infrastructure development programme which can create a much more humanistic and regenerative economy for the future. Our massive potential for renewable energy resources in Scotland is vital and should be in the control and ownership of the Scottish people.

  • Economic transition requires natural resources and land-based industries. With Scotland’s unfair pattern of land ownership, which itself creates enormous inequality, Land Reform is vital to drive this radical change.

  • If Scotland was independent with its own Independent Currency it would be able to create a genuinely optimal currency area and match monetary policy to the economic cycles of the Scottish economy, breaking away from the failed UK economic model.

  • Scotland needs to be relentless in Local Wealth Building to ensure that much more of Scotland’s wealth is retained in the Scottish economy and less is extracted by multinational corporations.

  • We need to encourage the grassroots members to engage with internal party democracy, offering them the opportunity to deliver Democratic Reform of the internal structures. The grassroots should be in control of the future of the party. 

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