The most significant – and bitterly contested – internal vote of the SNP’s annual conference in Aberdeen has ended with a landslide victory for Nicola Sturgeon and her allies.
Angus MacLeod, the party’s incumbent national secretary, won re-election to his post of chief administrator by 774 votes. His nearest rival, Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny, won just 199, with activist Morgwn Davies in third with 156.
The margin of victory is significant for what it symbolises. MacLeod and McEleny, an outspoken supporter of Alex Salmond, clashed on the first day of the conference over McEleny’s demands that delegates be allowed to debate and vote on his “plan B” for leaving the UK: an effective unilateral declaration of independence in the event that the SNP and other pro-independence parties win a majority at the next Scottish parliament election.
His demands were overwhelmingly rejected by delegates, a number of whom saw fit to boo him. So it is no surprise that the candidate of the leadership – which has spent the conference stressing the need for a more cautious, gradualist approach on independence – should defeat him. It is a sign that Sturgeon has a firm handle on internal dissent, and control over the party’s internal organisation.
But the fact that nearly a third of delegates still chose to reject the candidate of the leadership – with many of that sizeable minority backing the candidate of belligerent opposition to Sturgeon and the SNP establishment – shows that leadership’s grip on the party is not quite as complete as it would like.