A personal blog by Tom Gordon, Scottish Political Editor of the Sunday Herald
Sunday, 11 September 2011
For the past couple of weeks, I've reported on the tensions inside the SNP's Glasgow Regional Association.
First Shona McAlpine quit as secretary, then Norman McLeod quit as vice-convenor, and then, two weeks ago, Ari Mack quit as convenor.
It's all been a bit stormy.
However even I was gobsmacked by Mack's resignation letter, which is reported in today's Sunday Herald.
Here's the whole jaw-dropping story:
Scottish Political Editor
THE former head of the SNP in Glasgow has launched an extraordinary attack on his local party members, accusing them of suffering from “paranoia, conspiracy theories, mental illness and downright stupidity”.
Ari Mack also denounced SNP activists for “dancing on pub tables shouting Freedom”, the battle cry of the Nationalist hero William Wallace in Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart.
Mack made the comments in a statement to activists saying he was quitting as convenor of the SNP Glasgow Regional Association (GRA).
His exit follows a period of bitter feuding within the GRA over how to fight the council elecions in Glasgow next May.
One side, including Mack, wanted to field 40 candidates to maximise the SNP vote, while another group, linked to SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon, wanted to stand more candidates.
Mack and his allies felt this could split the SNP vote, and help Labour.
The 40-candidate ‘Voter Management Strategy’ (VMS) had been agreed last year, but Sturgeon’s allies forced it to be reopened over the summer.
The resulting infighting saw the resignation of GRA secretary Shona McAlpine, then vice-convener Normal MacLeod, and finally Mack.
The divisions were first revealed in the Sunday Herald.
In a resignation email on August 31, Mack said he had enjoyed his role, but went on:
“However, I can no longer sustain my involvement both in GRA and Maryhill/Springburn [branch].
“An atmosphere of paranoia, conspiracy theories, mental illness and downright stupidity emanating from my local branch has made my membership of the branch unsustainable...
“This paranoia, conspiracies and mental illness has been festering amongst members for some time now and I am no longer prepared to accept it.
“Dancing on pub tables and shouting ‘Freedom’ and all the other nonsense that is going on bears no relation to the excellent branch I joined 4 years ago.”
It is understood some branch members feel the party hierarchy looks down on them for being workingclass and left-wing, however another SNP activist said Mack was “talking a lot of crap”.
Labour said Mack’s outburst showed the SNP was unfit to run the city and its £2.5bn budget.
Glasgow East MP Margaret Curran said: “This humiliating letter shows the SNP have simply lost control of their Glasgow councillors.
“People who jump on tables and scream ‘Freedom!’ are not fit to run anything, let alone the great city of Glasgow.
“It seems the moderates in the Glasgow SNP have jumped a sinking ship and those left are hardcore agitators more interested in their political careers than our great city.”
Since winning its majority at Holyrood, the SNP has made ousting Labour from local government its top electoral priority, with Glasgow seen as the biggest prize.
SNP progress in the west of Scotland is also regarded as vital if Alex Salmond is to win a referendum on independence.
David Meikle, the sole Tory councillor in Glasgow, said: “This shocking letter shows the immature Braveheart tendency is still alive and well in the Glasgow SNP. They should be putting forward ideas, not dancing on pub tables.”
The GRA picked new office bearers last week.
The new convener is former treasurer Natalie McGarry; the new vice-convener is former Holyrood candidate Sid Khan; while McAlpine withdrew her resignation and remains GRA secretary.
A SNP spokeswoman said: “The SNP in Glasgow delivered a record result across the city in May 2011. We are now preparing to end decades of Labour domination and move Glasgow forward with success at the local elections next year.
“While Labour look set to deselect over half their sitting councillors, the SNP are putting in place a confident team, campaigning on a record of delivery and a vision for the future.”