THE debate about cybernats got me wondering whether the SNP has become too establishment in a bid to win voters. They appear to validate Unionist arguments that cybernats are a huge problem. They are rightly called out, but as far as I am aware it is a small problem and none of them has ever issued death threats to Unionist politicians, as have been issued to the SNP. Unionists never condemn the casual descriptions of the SNP as Nazis and the Sieg Heil salutes towards Nicola Sturgeon when she appears on TV. Indeed they are the ones who do it.

It got me thinking about other terms of engagement we have just accepted, which have moved the debate to being about things the Unionists want to debate like currency, leading into our recent debate on the Growth Commission. We, the SNP, have just accepted GERS as a starting point for economic debate, plus existing indications of growth like GDP and nothing else. We also just airbrushed from the figures anything we might still gain from oil. We accepted we start with a deficit, and we accepted the existing banking and financial system that has been discredited by, for example, Iceland, which jailed its rogue bankers.

In short, we are accepting the Unionist terms of the debate going forward, and we are avoiding anything that courted controversy last time. But how does it help us if we say essentially we are not counting oil revenues, we are accepting we start with a deficit, and we are accepting the discredited UK institutions which have brought us to the edge of the precipice? We have said for four-and-a-half years that things like the GERS figures are lies or at least a distortion – now we are accepting them just because the Unionist side wants us to?

Never mind the lukewarm progress the SNP has made on land reform, rent control, and so on. Maybe once the UK is out of the EU they will be able to challenge some of the landed vested interests free from the human rights legislation which terrified them into lethargy until now.

And our policies have lurched decidedly to the right. It did not come out in the media that quite a lot of SNP delegates at Conference were disgruntled with the Growth Commission. As an assembly, we did, it is true, accept most of its recommendations with the minor amendment of time limiting introduction of a new currency. But we did this because the debate has dragged on so long and we wanted some sort of resolution going forward.

The motion to remit the whole question back to conference was only slipped in to the debate at the last minute. Was this because that is really what was needed, to start it again and include more left-wing views, and that would have delayed it too long? There was a sop to the left wing in the form of a Social Justice and Equality Commission in the summer, but it will be on the back foot, trying to unseat the right-wing views which are now mainstream in the party.

It saddened me to read about Alan Clayton being thrown out of the SNP years ago and failing to get back in, but sadly did not surprise me. Try being an SNP candidate for anything now. You submit an application for vetting, then HQ puts out a request to your branch for reviews to people who you do not know are going to be writing about you (it is usually certain post holders, but if they are also standing, it is passed to someone else). You have no right to know what they write about you. Even if it is factually incorrect it is impossible to challenge. You can refer it to HQ but it is the devil of a job to get someone to actually answer the phone.

One SNP insider bemoaned to The National some time ago the fact that people pass vetting by canvassing, leafletting and so on, without having any real ability, and that had to change, but it is difficult to see how when the system is opaque to the point of secrecy. It is too easy for branches to weed out those they do not want even if they do everything they should, and perpetuate “their” type of candidate, even if younger branch members would have a better chance of winning. And no, none of this is about me.

The SNP needs to remember it was largely the left-wing (often ex-Labour) voters who put them where they are now, riding high in the polls. If they forget it, they may find that, like Scottish Labour, they become history overnight.

Watch this space to see if I get drummed out of the party next.

Julia Pannell