Your Questions

The new Depute Leader has to listen as much as anything else, and has to encourage the engagement of all of the party's membership. I'll be laying out plans for doing that in the long term but I'm also interested in what you want to know.

Use the form on the right to send me your questions and I'll do my best to reply. I'll show the questions and answers below as well.

I have been talking to a few friends in the SNP and we are all anxious to know what the SNP's (and your) stance is on 2 very important matters for Scotland - TTIP and fracking. Could you give me an answer of these 2 issues please?

Firstly, on TTIP, we think the proposed trade partnership could have many merits, and we would welcome the potential economic growth and jobs that may arise from it but this cannot come at the price of Scotland’s NHS being opened up to American-style privatisation. That’s why Health Secretary Alex Neil has been calling for cast-iron assurances that explicit protection for publicly funded, publicly-run health services is put on the face of any EU-US trade agreement. It’s worth noting that the French Government have already been explicit in seeking that cultural services, such as film, are excluded from TTIP. I understand Alex Neil has already raised these concerns with the UK Government and will continue to do so.

On fracking, as I said in reply to an earlier question, I have serious concerns and have discussed it with Fergus Ewing (he's my Ministerial colleague with responsibility for Energy) quite a few times - most recently just last week. Fergus has been fighting Scotland's corner on this in the face of the UK Government ignoring its own consultation and the wishes of the people who responded. Fergus has made the Scottish Government's opposition to the approach of the UK Government very clear, particularly in relation to the removal of people's rights to object to fracking under their homes. I've asked Fergus to look into the possibility of imposing a moratorium on fracking until we can get a clearer picture of the situation.

Hi Keith, I am looking to vote for Depute Leader... Please can you tell me whether you are for or against fracking in Scotland

I have serious concerns about fracking and I have discussed it with Fergus Ewing (he's my Ministerial colleague with responsibility for Energy) quite a few times - most recently just last week. Fergus has been fighting Scotland's corner on this in the face of the UK Government ignoring its own consultation and the wishes of the people who responded. Fergus has made the Scottish Government's opposition to the approach of the UK Government very clear, particularly in relation to the removal of people's rights to object to fracking under their homes. I've asked Fergus to look into the possibility of imposing a moratorium on fracking until we can get a clearer picture of the situation.

Both you and Stewart Hosie promise to provide more training for organisers. While that is welcome, the real problem has often been resources, especially when it comes to time demands on organisers with full time work and families.

Would you support using party resources to pay for support for organisers - possibly on a regional basis - to help us take advantage of printing deals, design skills and other things which can be difficult to leverage at present when you have to get a dozen folk in a room to discuss, agree and pay for everything that goes across boundaries?

A question that has plagued political parties for a long time. First, I think we have to note our gratitude to those generations of people who have given up their time and their own cash to help get the party to where it is now - it's on their hard work that we have built our current success and our future opportunities depend on us making good use of that success.

I'm looking at all of the different ways in which we can use the new resources available to the party centrally to improve the party's performance. I'll take your suggestion into that thinking and might come back to you after the election is completed to discuss the issue more fully. As Depute Leader I hope to be speaking to party members the length and breadth of the country to use every good idea that members have to get the very best out of every resource we have. Organisation takes on a whole new aspect with our vastly increased membership and we will have to be thinking a lot more about how we get all of those members involved. This is going to take all of our ingenuity and I'll be asking people all around the country to help us work it out.

What will you do as Depute to ensure that MSP expenses are realistic and accountable to the electorate and do not become corrupted as is now the case with Westminster and Scottish Labour MSP's?

I think we can see that the Scottish Parliament system of expenses is better than the Westminster system. At Holyrood you need receipts for everything, for example, and the Allowances Office check that you're getting value for money (your office rent has to be at a fair market value, for example) and there are strict rules we have to follow which you can read on the website at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps/12453.aspx and they are properly enforced. Our expenses are also published regulary and you can check all MSP expenses online - http://mspallowances.scottish.parliament.uk/ - so we are open about how much we are claiming.

That kind of scrutiny tends to make sure that very few people are likely to want to transgress and face the sternest jury of all - public opinion - but we should never be complacent and I think that regular examination of how the system is working. MSPs must have suitable amounts to employ staff and provide a proper service to the public and be available to constituents who want to get in touch so we have to make sure that there is sufficient resources there to do that but we also have to be sure that we are getting and giving value for money.

What is the SNP strategy to combat the bias of National media.

We'll have to continue to try to get our message out through the traditional media because that's simply still where most people get their news but we'll also have to think more creatively. The party has shown itself to be adept at using social media and online news and I want to see us continue that and develop it further but I think we have to also keep using the methods we've always used to get around the reluctance of some of the traditional media to carry our messages - knocking on doors and speaking to people, leafleting and meeting people at surgeries and events. We've got a huge job to do but we've managed to come this far and we should continue that. I think it's clear, though, that where we have a story to tell we can get it out through the traditional media - I've managed fairly well throughout my Depute Leadership campaign and I've got confidence that we can do that more generally.

What mechanisms do you envisage employing for cultivating the inclusion of young supporters and young voters. This is a crucial area for long term success. The utilisation of social media and supportive peer communications could reap massive rewards?

As a former branch secretary I applaud your suggestion to offer training and support.

Taking this opportunity to offer my best wishes in the vote for deputy leader, you have my vote.

Thanks for your support. I've had some discussions about how to utilise the energy and imagination of our younger members and supporters and I've called for the party to create a Youth Academy along the lines of our current Women's Academy to support them and help them make a full contribution to the party and our aims. You can read a bit more in the news release here - http://www.keithbrownsnp.com/keith-brown-calls-establishment-snp-youth-a...

Where do you stand regarding a Yes Alliance; why should SNP candidates step down in favour of a 'stronger' candidate from another party?

I agree with you. In every seat in Scotland the SNP is the closest to winning of all of the parties that supported Yes and it would be difficult to tell individual constituencies to stand down their campaigns and let someone else have a run at it. I haven't seen which constituencies are being suggested as being ones in which the SNP shouldn't stand candidates and I haven't heard of any constituency being approached to see whether they would be happy standing aside as yet but I would be interested to know which areas of the country are being considered as the areas that we should step down in.

We don't have the right to tell other parties not to stand or to support our candidates but if they thought that was the best course of action to bring independence closer that would be welcome. I see, though, that the Green Party has already started selecting candidates and that Patrick Harvie was a bit reluctant to engage with the question when he was asked so it looks like the Greens will be standing candidates which is understandable since they want to advance other policies as well and don't agree with all of our policies.

While I understand the desire of party members to get a quick return on all the work that has been done towards independence I believe that we have to be working towards a victory in the Holyrood election in 2016 which will bring a second referendum much closer.

May I ask what the future plans are for all working parents and provision of childcare. Would you support an increase in provision? Would you also avoid means-testing? My husband and I have a low 40k combined income and we never qualify for any support except child benefit. We live in Glasgow and our rent takes up a fair portion of our expendable income. Private childcare in Glasgow (city centre and West End) costs on average £1000 per month. It is crippling. What are your views on this?

I agree with you that childcare is too expensive. I also think that early years education and childcare are absolutely essential elements of lifelong learning and how children are treated in the first years of their lives affects them all life long. I want to see ambition for Scotland's children, to see wrap-around care help them get started and make a success from the earliest days.

Trying to make high quality childcare affordable for parents is part of that. You'll know that the SNP in Government has started extending the childcare that the state pays for but we don't think it's enough and we want to go further. Money is, as always, the issue while the Scottish budget is still controlled by Westminster, but we're doing what we can. John announced extra support in his budget speech "To ensure that the benefits of economic growth are available to all, we are investing more than £300 million over two years to allow for expanded childcare provision of 600 hours for three and four-year-olds and 27 per cent of two-year-olds. That investment will reduce the cost barriers that face parents with young children when they look to participate in the labour market."
You can read the whole thing here - http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=957...

We have a long way to go but we've started and we're determined to keep going.

What is your views on the proposed Scottish Defence force and how would it work?

I think Angus Robertson MP, the leader of our Westminster group, has done some good, solid work on this and the proposals he came forward with informed the defence section of the White Paper. I think that was a good starting point for an independent Scotland's armed services but I think it will probably need revised as we get closer to the next referendum - nothing stays still!

Where do you stand on Trident being situated in Scotland? Should it stay or should it go?

It should go. I laid out the position fully in a debate in the Scottish Parliament in August; see the Scotsman report here - http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/independence-keith-bro... - or read the Official Report here - http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=943...

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