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Thrash Metal or Flash Raccoon: Battle Lines Drawn in SNP Depute Leadership Race

Euan Ryan

With Stewart Hosie stepping down, we look at who’s who among the candidates putting themselves forward to be the next Depute Leader of the SNP.

The Rules

Candidates for the Depute Leader position must have the nominations of at least 100 members from across a minimum of 20 different branches. The closing date for nominations has passed and now the party membership will elect their new Depute Leader (using the Single Transferable Vote system) before the SNP Conference in Glasgow in October.

Key Issues

Independence: The strength with which candidates push for a second referendum, particularly in light of Brexit, will likely be a prominent feature throughout the campaign. Whilst Angus Robertson has been bullish on the prospect of independence recently, Alyn Smith has been more hesitant, highlighting that Brexit may not be enough to swing the potential vote in their favour.

Europe: How Scotland maintains its relationship with the European Union after the UK’s vote to leave will dominate discussions in the coming months. This will be a key message in Alyn Smith’s campaign, who announced during his campaign launch that his reputation within the European Parliament would make him well positioned to weather upcoming negotiations.

Reform of policy making processes: Some candidates have expressed support for a more democratised process, with members given increased power over shaping SNP policy. Both Tommy Sheppard and Alyn Smith have declared an interest in this and Chris McEleny is also likely to use his connections with local authorities and grassroots members as a way of differentiating himself from the rest of the field, who are representatives of national and supra-national institutions.

Candidate (left t right): Angus Robertson, Alyn Smith, Tommy Sheppard and Chris McEleny

The Candidates

Angus Robertson is widely seen as the front-runner of the depute leadership campaign. The most experienced of the four candidates, Angus has been an MP for Moray since 2001 and is currently the SNP’s Westminster Leader, having previously held the position of Defence and Foreign Affairs spokesperson. He has spearheaded various successful SNP campaigns and has the backing of a number of high profile SNP politicians, including Humza Yousaf, who was himself expected to run before declaring his support.
Expect him to focus on: Independence, independence, independence
Candidate Strengths: Recognition, authority, status
Special Talent: Headbanging to Enter Sandman (he has expressed in the past that he is a passionate fan of Metallica)

Alyn Smith rose to prominence in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union by issuing a rousing speech to the European Parliament on Scotland’s desire for continued membership. Alyn had the parliament, and indeed the nation, in the palm of his hands as he declared: “Scotland did not let you down. Please, I beg you, chers collègues, do not let Scotland down now.” He has been an MEP since 2004, before which he was a commercial lawyer. He is also a Director of LGBT Youth Scotland.
Expect him to focus on: Europe
Candidate Strengths: Stirring emotional appeals, reputation within the European Parliament
Special Talents: Extreme left eyebrow elevation & saving celebrity, therapist raccoons

Having previously had to explicitly declare that he would not be challenging Angus Robertson for his job as Westminster leader, Tommy Sheppard has now explicitly declared that he will be challenging Angus Robertson for the job of SNP depute leader. A recent addition the SNP parliamentary party, Tommy was elected to the House of Commons in 2015 having previously made a name for himself by founding The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh in 1997. He has a long history within politics, but only joined the SNP in 2014, following the independence referendum.
Expect him to focus on: Grassroots/membership involvement
Candidate Strengths: Up and coming star, fresh perspective
Special Talent: Queen of Hearts impression, demonstrated when saying “Off with their heads” during the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton

Despite being relatively unknown, Councillor Chris McEleny was the first declared candidate in the race for depute leader, having announced his candidacy three days after Stewart Hosie stood down. He leads the SNP group in Inverclyde Council and has recently been the victim of sectarian abuse on Facebook. Prior to his work in politics, he was an electrician for Babcock International.
Expect him to focus on: Local authorities and 2017 council elections
Candidate Strengths: The Underdog Effect, grassroots links, socialist stance
Special Talent: Reluctance to put on sun cream

There had been an expectation that a female politician would enter the contest, with Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Mhairi Black both touted as potential candidates, but as yet neither have confirmed a bid.

If you require more information on the SNP Depute Leader candidates, need the biographies and contact details of any Scottish MPs, MEPS, MSPs or Councillors or would like to be kept up to date with various public and private sector events across a range of industries, please get in touch.

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