SNP set to allow non-members to become candidates

Party leaders are hoping the move will appeal to pro-independence campaigners. Picture Michael Gillen.
Party leaders are hoping the move will appeal to pro-independence campaigners. Picture Michael Gillen.
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PRO-INDEPENDENCE campaigners who are not part of the SNP could potentially stand under the party banner as a candidate in next year’s Westminster elections.

Nicola Sturgeon, who today takes over as SNP leader, said the party was “open to exploring the possibility”.

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She spoke as it emerged the SNP annual conference in Perth is consider changing the rules on who can stand for election.

Ms Sturgeon, who next week will become Scotland’s first female first minister, said the change came after a massive surge in membership in the aftermath of September’s independence referendum.

The SNP had about 25,000 members prior to that vote, but new recruits have flocked to join the party since the No vote, with membership now said to be 84,000.

Ms Sturgeon told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland that the change would also mean some of those new members could put themselves forward and stand.

She said: “We want to open up potentially our candidates list for Westminster firstly to people who’ve recently joined the SNP but in the normal course of things wouldn’t satisfy our membership criteria to be a candidate. Normally you have to be a member of the SNP for several months before you can be a candidate.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of new members with skills, with talents, with something big to contribute. I want to give them the opportunity of being an SNP candidate.”

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But she also said: “I think it does open the potential for people who were Yes campaigners who may not be members of the SNP to share a platform with the SNP so we’re open to exploring that.”

That could mean people such as Jeane Freeman - a former adviser to Labour first minister Jack McConnell who was part of the Women for Independence campaign - could stand for election, Ms Sturgeon said.

“Jeane Freeman would be a good example of the kind of person I’m speaking about,” she said.

But she stressed SNP constituency branches would need to back having a non-member as a candidate.

Ms Sturgeon said: “This is about the choice that SNP constituencies might be given to choose their candidates.”

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