The Top 10 reasons to back Bhutta

You have the power to select Cunninghame North’s next SNP candidate.

By our nature, we are a party of change, not status quo. Cunninghame North can do better, and here are 10 reasons you should vote for Osama Bhutta. 

  1. This is a transformative election. The next parliament must deliver independence, a fairer society after Covid, and must beat climate change in time for 2030. Osama has shown he has the ideas and approach to build an ambitious future rather than live in the past. 
  2. Only 10% of SNP members in the constituency think we’re doing enough to campaign for independence locally. Osama’s got the background in campaigning and has talked about how we deliver the Yes vote in North Ayrshire that we didn’t get in 2014 
  3. Before even entering parliament, he has been setting the agenda on things like a Scottish currency 
  4. Global recognition will be crucial for independence and he has global experience working with embassies, foreign ministries and the UN 
  5. He has ambition for our area and believes we can end the abomination of one-third of our kids living in poverty and our people being some of the most multiply deprived in Scotland 
  6. To do this, he has published a plan to revive our town centres, bring in green jobs to the constituency, and sort out our ferries
  7. We live in an era of people powered movements and Osama has the modern participative campaigning approach to deliver these wins 
  8. He has promised free authentic curry for activists in the Cunninghame North SNP campaign rooms! 
  9. It’s been unedifying to see the local party’s divisions in the press. This has been years in the making. Fresh leadership will bring people together. Osama’s managed large teams, and with his background in human rights, has the empathetic approach to remove this risk to the SNP and Yes vote. 
  10. He’s won substantial public backing in the constituency within a short space of time on the basis of people looking at his track record, ideas, and engaging videos

You secured the wins for the party in previous elections. Next door to us, Cunninghame South SNP won more than 50% of the vote in 2016 with a new candidate. We can do the same next year with a new candidate who has ambition and ideas. We have the great activists locally, plus the national party leadership which people want to vote for. 

The identity of Cunninghame North’s next SNP candidate is in your hands. Please use your vote which is now in your mailbox.

Campaigning for independence in Cunninghame North

From the survey I emailed to Cunninghame North SNP members last week, a sobering 72% of you think we are NOT doing enough to campaign for independence locally. Only 10% of you did think we are doing enough.

I went to Arran to learn more about how they achieved a 60% Yes vote in 2014. My latest video from there reflects on how we make no mistake next time and achieve a Yes vote across Cunninghame North next time around.

Ambition for Cunninghame North – a plan

I’ve been hearing from so many of you about the local issues which would benefit from your MSP working with people power.

As a result, I’ve published a plan. This includes reviving our town centres, bringing green jobs to Hunterston, and improving our ferries.

The plan is ambitious yet achievable with the right action. Cunninghame North deserves better than one-third of our kids living in poverty. We have to change this, and this plan is a first step.

Let me know what you think. If you select me as your candidate, we’ll get to work straight away.

I am suspending this campaign in protest at rule breaches

Update: The campaign was unpaused on 31st October

Selection contests are opportunities for parties to have important debates about the future and to get the best people in place to deliver on that. For a party which has been in power for 13 years they are important opportunities for renewal.

When agreeing to stand in Cunninghame North against a longterm incumbent, I knew the task was a huge one. I spent time assessing the lay of the land and received enough support from across the constituency to think it was achievable.

I also looked carefully at the selection rulebook. The race is prohibitive for anyone taking on an incumbent. Candidates can only send the ‘selectorate’ two emails and attend hustings. We aren’t otherwise able to contact the membership. Office bearers in branches and the constituency must maintain organisational neutrality and can’t publicly endorse candidates. Despite this, I thought it was still worth pursuing – on the basis of the published rules.  

I’m therefore sad to report that the rules are not being followed by everyone taking part in the contest. Office bearers in one of our largest branches last week circulated a motion to all their members in support of the incumbent MSP. This contravenes rules 8.5, 9.2 and 9.3 about using member data, using party meetings, and the role of office bearers.

This behaviour harks back to the bad old days of internal branch stitch-ups. We thought this kind of thing was in the past when the democracy of One Member, One Vote was brought in.

We could dismiss this motion as a relic of a bygone age, and an act of desperation. The truth is though that we don’t know the effect of this propaganda. It is unfair if candidates do not have equal airtime and access to party email lists.  

It’s also disrespectful to the people who have resigned positions within their branches in order to be able to publicly support my campaign.

I lodged a complaint with SNP headquarters about this exactly one week ago. My message and followups have not been acknowledged.

This puts me in a difficult situation. There is a very short timeframe to this selection contest. This motion is also very likely a harbinger of more cheating. This is not frivolous and in Scotland we still believe that election rules matter.

As a result, I am suspending my campaign until the party decides whether or not it will implement its rules. If it acts in good time, I will resume the campaign. If it does not, it will have to accept a tainted result.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. I know this is not the spirit of the positive future-facing campaign we’ve been running, but I hope you will agree that there is no alternative to making a stand for fairness.  

SNP members are the party’s superpower. We must use them better.

The SNP’s membership base is the largest of any of the Scottish political parties and, by head of population, the largest in the UK overall.

That’s an incredible position to be in, and it came largely in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum. At the time, Nicola Sturgeon said of the five-fold surge in the party’s membership:

“[This is] a massive opportunity to transform how we do politics and to connect with the people of our country in a way that none of our opponents can match.

“… Where that takes us will not be dictated by politicians, it will be driven in the words of the US constitution by “We the people”. Make no mistake, I know where I want that change to lead: To Scotland being an independent nation.”

Since then, it’s become assumed by many insiders that members actually joined as a badge of identity, to make a point, or give money. But at their core, I believe most people joined the SNP to make a difference. The reality of membership for too many of them however hasn’t met their high expectations. Most haven’t found a foothold in party activity.

We can see the result around us now. Widespread grumbling about HQ, NEC and others in the party hierarchy reflect a disengagement between the political class and the grassroots. The atmosphere is febrile. Many find more fulfilling activity inside other independence groups.

This is a shame for both members and politicians alike. The gap between parliament and the street is currently too wide. We live in an era of people power – Me Too, Greta Thunberg, Black Lives Matter, Belarus et al. People benefit from proximity to politicians, but politicians should also be utilising and allying with people power in order to achieve big objectives. In the next few years we want to create a new state and have a ‘war time’ mobilisation to defeat climate change.

In today’s world, people want to be more involved than allowed by the politics of the past. In that old model, a problem arose, and the parliamentarian would ask a serious question in the chamber or fire off a letter to somebody important. They’d then report back on the response they got and explain they tried their best. Occasionally they’d get a victory.

As the dominant optics, this is seen as more performative than participative, and as such is not fulfilling. Politics should not be a spectator sport. Our role is not just to follow the news and comment about stuff on social media. This road leads to much of the online anger and argumentation that we see today instead of productive activity.

The pandemic gave us a glimpse of what community solidarity and acting for each other could look like in the 2020s. Party politics should help fuel this on an ongoing basis.

Given I’m running for office myself, it would be remiss of me not to give undertakings regarding how I’d change things. My commitment is to work with members and constituents to set clear targets and priorities for the constituency. This could include things to do with ferries, housing, or jobs in the area. It could involve solving problems for individuals where appropriate, as well as national and global matters. We would agree what we want to do.

We would then work out – together – what our tactical plan is for achieving these things. There would be regular and transparent report backs. We will win more by working this way. Our members are the SNP’s superpower. It’s time to unleash them.

SNP members are right now in a powerful position. They will shortly select the Holyrood candidates for their constituency. They should think carefully about what kind of relationship they want with their candidate and MSP.

For my part, I’m not just asking for their votes. If they select me, it is the start of a partnership between us.

We won’t just stuff envelopes or deliver leaflets, though we will do a lot of that. We will work together to rekindle the fire in the bellies of our people and to connect their hearts in solidarity. We will do in politics as in the rest of life – work as if we are in the early days of a better nation.

First published in The National