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.

Will Keith Brown and the other two candidates be coming to North Ayrshire to address a meeting in the near future, if so where and when?

There's a hustings in Dalry on Sunday 26th Oct: 7pm Garnock Valley & West Kilbride branch (H). Scout Hall, Smith St, Dalry

I suppose the straight-up question - why you?

It's the one question that everyone should have to answer! I've got a track record of achievement; I've managed complex problems in difficult situations as a Scottish Government Minister. My life experience gives me a range of sources to draw on as well; I studied Political Science at Dundee University and went on to be a Council Officer with Stirling Council and a Councillor in Clackmannanshire Council after winning a by-election in 1996. I became leader of the council group a year later and Council Leader from 1999 to 2003 during which time Clackmannanshire won the accolade "Best Council in Scotland". I won the Ochil constituency in 2007 and retained it in 2011. After being Convenor of both the Standards & Public Appointments Committee and the Procedures Committee (the two were subsequently merged) at Holyrood I joined The SNP Government as Minister for Schools & Skills in 2009. I was asked to moveable on the Transport portfolio during the difficult winter of 2010/11, had Housing added to my portfolio in 2011 and responsibility for Veterans at the same time. I have been privileged to be a member of Nicola Sturgeon's Ministerial Team since 2012.

Depute Leader is a position that needs excellent organisational skills - especially with the influx of new members - and good relationships with our Scottish Government. I believe I fulfil those criteria.

You said that we have to involve all the new members and we've gone from about 300 here to over 1,200 and we're having to create new branches. We're going to have a lot more office-bearers who have never done the job before, how do they know they're doing it right? What will you do to make sure they are supported?

Well, I think we have to trust members to get things right but I appreciate that there is a need for support and training. I want to see proper guidance issued by the Party and emailed to new office-bearers as they are appointed. I also want to see us start training programmes to help members gain confidence in their new roles.

How will you support activists campaigning on the ground?

Much of that responsibility belongs to the National Organisation Committee and the National Organiser, but the Depute Leader has a supporting role to play in it. I think that there's a case to be made for an improved training programme for local organisers and activists and I'll be asking Headquarters what kind of resources there are available for that.

It sometimes feels like policy is being made by the government instead of by the party now. Will you reverse that?

I want to find ways to make sure that all of our members can have a say in developing policy. We have to appreciate that Ministers in the Scottish Government do have to make decisions and those decisions can't always wait for a policy proposal to come through the party's systems but we can certainly ensure a great deal of the control of policy development lies with our members. This is especially true for the main direction of the party, the large sweep of policy direction. I want to see regional policy forums, a policy discussion board on the party's website, and more discussion on policy development all over the party. That is healthy and democratic.

Policy development is the responsibility of the Depute Leader and I want to make sure that we do it properly.

Is there not a case for having the Depute at Westminster if the Leader is at Holyrood?

The Depute Leader supports the leader, helps manage the party and leads policy development. I think it's important that the Leader and her Depute work well together and can communicate easily. I don't think it matters which Parliament each of them is in but I know it's been useful to me as a Minister supporting Nicola in her government team to be able to walk next door and have a chat when an issue has arisen. It's going to be just as important to be able to work well with SNP HQ which is beside the Scottish Parliament and to be on hand to deal with anything that comes up.

I like Stewart; I think he does a great job in London and all six of our MPs will be closely involved in the campaign for the six months between the election of Depute Leader and the Westminster election but I don't think that being in Westminster is a prerequisite for being Depute Leader. I think there is an advantage in having the Leader and Depute Leader located in the same place.

We're looking to the long-term future of our nation, we'll be developing policies and ideas for use in the Scottish Parliament and working towards the election to Holyrood in 2016. I think people should be making their choice based on who they think will be best at the job and I hope that members think that is me.