The Scottish National Party's (SNP) disabled members group criticised an SNP MP on Saturday who urged for equalities groups to be taken off the party’s general group in order to increase the focus on the independence cause.
Emails by Alyn Smith, leaked by The Scottish Sun on Saturday, involved the Stirling MP criticising the party's national executive committee and urge for the removal of a number of equalities groups that were represented at the body.
Our response to Alyn Smith’s leaked emails re our positions on the NEC. Given the media attention, we felt it was important for the wider disabled community to know that disabled people are an essential part of @theSNP and the independence movement. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs pic.twitter.com/XJmB1apDEa— SNP Disabled Members (@SNP_dmg) August 8, 2020
The SNP disabled members group released a statement calling for an apology by the MP and saying that they “struggle to believe” a senior member of the party “could ever conceive that independence alone is more important” than a fair and equal society.
“Our disabled members have fought hard to have our voices heard and to take our seat at the decision making table...which is why it’s fair to say we were gobsmacked to read the leaked document", the statement read.
"The idea that ‘unwieldy’ and ‘unfocused’ meetings are the fault of disabled members and other protected characteristic group representatives is absurd and deeply concerning".
The statement said that the lack of "good governance" and respect for decisions made by the conference as well as a misunderstanding of equal treatment was "deeply offensive and unbecoming of someone in any position in the party, especially such a senior one".
Smith's original email, sent to business convener Kirsten Oswald MP and the SNP’s national secretary Angus MacLeod, saw him call for the formation of an "equalities forum"’ and for a reduction in the number of NEC members from 42 to 18.
The drop in numbers would see and effective exclusion affiliated women, equalities, disabled and BAME representative groups.
"I am not alone in thinking that too much of the party's oxygen has been taken up by discussion of peripheral issues like GRA reform, with a small but vocal number of NEC members focussing on these peripheral issues, however worthy, to the exclusion of all else", the email says.
"This imbalance has not served that debate, the party, or the cause well and had led to pushback and resentment from the membership".
Smith said that the issue of independence from the UK is a bigger priority for him than equality issues.
In response to the leak, he said that the Scottish Sun report misrepresents his views and has said he has been "utterly pro-Equalities" during his entire 16 years in elected office.
I have contacted the journalist asking the headline at least be changed to better reflect my actual proposals.— Alyn Smith MP 🏴🇪🇺🏳️🌈 (@AlynSmith) August 8, 2020