Yousaf: SNP has 'lessons to learn' on transparency over member numbers

The First Minister spoke as he attended his first National Executive Committee meeting as leader of the party.

Humza Yousaf admits SNP has ‘lessons to learn’ on transparency after member numbers controversy STV News

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has said that the SNP will work to ensure “transparency” in its affairs, after attending his first National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting as party leader.

Yousaf said that after the leadership campaign it is clear the party has “lessons to learn” over some issues, including the question of membership numbers.

It came to light during the leadership race that the party has lost some 30,000 members in little over a year.

The mishandling of the situation – with the party initially having rubbished reports its membership had fallen by this much – saw SNP communications chief Murray Foote and long-standing chief executive Peter Murrell, who is former first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, both quit.

At its meeting in Glasgow on Saturday the NEC agreed to the development of a process to appoint a permanent chief executive, a role currently held by Mike Russell on an interim basis.

Speaking after the meeting, Yousaf said: “I was delighted to attend my first NEC meeting as the new party leader and to answer questions from those elected by the party to take forward our affairs.

“Whilst of course the leadership election was run efficiently and securely by an external contractor under the supervision of the national secretary, it is clear that the party has lessons to learn from some issues, including the question of membership numbers.

“The important governance review established by the deputy leader Keith Brown reported in 2021, and we now need to draw on its work, utilise the expertise within the party and seek external input in order to ensure best practice in governance and transparency.

“The SNP has a vibrant internal democracy which encourages debate and provides a broad tent for the respectful exchange of differing views.

“We need to reflect that in our internal structures whilst also ensuring that we have the confidence, not just of all our members, but of Scotland as well.”

The NEC also discussed the possibility of a recall petition in independent MP Margaret Ferrier’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency.

A Commons committee recommended on Thursday that Ms Ferrier, formerly an SNP MP, is suspended from the House for 30 days for her coronavirus rule-breaking, after she travelled by train while knowing she was infected with Covid-19 in 2020.

This could trigger a by-election in her seat if enough constituents vote for one in a recall petition.

Ms Ferrier was ordered to complete a 270-hour community payback order by a sheriff at Glasgow Sheriff Court last year, after she admitted culpably and recklessly exposing the public “to the risk of infection, illness and death” as a result of her behaviour.

She was elected SNP MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West in 2019, regaining the seat from Labour, but had the party whip removed in 2020 after the allegations against her emerged.

Yousaf said this week that he believes there should be a by-election in her constituency.

The NEC discussed the party’s intention to register as an accredited campaigner in favour of the recall and prepare for a vigorous contest should it take place.

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