The 2000s: Building a reputation for the Branch and the Party
Paul Martin was the decade’s first convener in 2000. Following Paul’s tenure the branch held its first hustings for branch convener, with Jim Orr edging out David Munn in a tight vote. However Jim soon returned to Edinburgh where he became a councillor, eventually resigning the party whip.
John Green once again became convener with Alyn Smith as branch secretary. Alyn and John both stood at Westminster elections in 2001, Alyn in Edinburgh West and John in West Aberdeenshire. Neither were successful but both Alyn and John held the party’s share of the vote, despite there being a downturn in the SNP national vote in 2001.
Alyn would go on to a long and successful spell as an MEP in Brussels and Strasbourg, becoming leader of the European Free Alliance parliamentary group, with which the SNP are aligned. Alyn was elected as MP for Stirling in the 2019 election and is the party’s foreign affairs spokesperson at Westminster.
The last editor of ‘The Exiles’ was Peter Morris, who brought real gravitas to the publication. Much of the focus was on policy and the branch followed this up by hosting an economics forum, chaired by a branch member Rod Baptie, at the party’s annual conference in Inverness. This was a real coup as it attracted top guest speakers including MSP and former cabinet secretary Alex Neil and former National Treasurer, MSP and minister Jim Mather. The forum garnered a large and appreciative audience.
Rod’s business was able to give the branch access to a call centre and such centres continue to be a focal point of the branch’s campaigning activities. One of our call centre activists was Stefan Tymkewycz, who went on to become a councillor in Edinburgh and later an MSP for Lothian region. Stuart McMillan, who was also elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2007, was a branch member in the first half of the decade.
Rod Baptie was also responsible for organising and running large and memorable Burns suppers at this time, with guest speakers including Andrew Wilson, Bruce Crawford, Dorothy-Grace Elder, Tariq Ali and Bruce Kent. We also had the pleasure of Sheena Wellington singing for us at a Burns supper; Sheena famously sang at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The suppers proved major fundraisers and at party conference in Motherwell we were able to present a cheque for £4,000 to John Swinney to support the 2003 Scottish Parliament election.
The 2000s also saw the election of Jane Morrison, the second woman to become branch convener. Jane was a Stornoway native and a Gaelic speaker with a wealth of business experience. Her sudden and untimely death left branch members devastated.
John Green again became convenor and it was during this period that the first tentative steps were taken to bring the branch into the internet age, with the creation of our first website.