Scottish National Party

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Template:Infobox British Political Party

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) (Prtaidh Niseanta na h-Alba in Scottish Gaelic) is a centre-left political party which favours Scottish independence. It currently regularly polls the second highest number of votes for a political party in Scotland, but fell to third behind the Liberal Democrats in the 2005 general election.



The SNP was formed in 1934 from the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party. The SNP first won a parliamentary seat in 1945 by-election but their candidate refused to attend Parliament on principle and lost the seat after three months. They next won a seat in 1967 when Winnie Ewing was the surprise winner of a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Hamilton. This brought the SNP to national prominence. Their electoral high point was in the 1970s when they polled almost a third of all votes in Scotland at the October 1974 general election and returned 11 MPs to Westminster, to date the most MPs they have had.

With the establishment of devolution for Scotland in 1999 the SNP has styled itself as the main opposition party to the Scottish Executive. For a fuller history see History of the Scottish National Party.

Party Organisation

The SNP consists of various local branches of party members. Those branches then form an association in the constituency they represent (unless there is only one branch in the constituency, in which case it forms a constituency branch rather than a constituency association). There are also 8 Regional Associations to which the branches and constituency associations in each can send delegates.

The SNP's policy structure is developed at its Annual National Conference and its regular National Council meetings. There are also regular meetings of its National Assembly which although they do not formally make policy allow for detailed discussion of what party policy should be.

The party has an active youth wing as well as a student wing. There is also a SNP Trade Union Group. There is also a monthly newspaper produced, The Scots Independent, which is highly supportive of the party.

The SNP's leadership is invested in its National Executive Committee (NEC) which is made up of the party's elected office bearers and 10 elected members (voted for at conference). The SNP Parliamentarians and Councillors have respresentation on the NEC, as do the youth wing, student wing and trade union group.

Policy Platform

The SNP's policy base is, by and large, in the mainstream European Social Democratic mould. For example, amongst their policies are a commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament, progressive personal taxation to redistribute wealth from rich to poor, the eradication of poverty, renationalisation of the railway system, a pay increase for nurses and so on. They are also committed to an independent Scotland being a full member state of the European Union, as well as supporting Scottish entry to the single European currency, although there are some members that disagree with this.

Contrary to the expectations of many, the SNP are not an expressly republican party, although they are committed to holding a referendum on the issue following the attainment of independence. Most SNP members are republicans though, and both the party student and youth wings are expressly so. The SNP is committed to maintaining an independent Scotland within the Commonwealth of Nations.

The SNP has a clear left-of-centre policy base, although not as left-orientated as it once was. In the 1997 General Election campaign the Conservatives accused the SNP of being the most left-wing political organisation in Europe since the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. However such a view is more difficult to sustain in the present political climate with the SNP moderating many of its views on socio-economic issues, and the fact that they are no longer the most left-wing of the established political parties in Scotland with the emergence of the SSP (Scottish Socialist Party).

Party Ideology

Although it is widely accepted that the SNP is in modern times a moderate left-of-centre political party this has not always been the case. From almost the instant the party was born there has been ideolgical tensions present within the SNP. This was by in large a product of the way in which the party was formed, as an amalgamation of the left-wing National Party of Scotland, and the right-wing Scottish Party.

This brought serious ideolgical tension immediately to the SNP. It was resolved in some way by the party officially taking no clear stance on the left-right issue and deciding to remain ambivalent on the issue.

However, by the 1960s the party was beginning to be defined ideologically. They had by then established their National Assembly which allowed for discussion of policy and it was producing papers on a host of policy issues that could be described as 'leftist'. Also, the emergence of Billy Wolfe as a leading figure played a huge role in the SNP defining itself as a left-of-centre social-democratic party. He recognised the need to do this to challenge the dominant political position of the Labour Party in Scotland.

He achieved this in a number of ways: establishing the SNP Trade Union Group; promoting left-of-centre policies; and identifying the SNP with labour campaigns (such as the Upper-Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in and the attempt of the workers at the Scottish Daily Express to run as a co-operative). It was during Wolfe's period as SNP leader in the 1970s that the SNP became clearly identified as a social-democratic political party.

Some attempted to cement this at the 1975 SNP conference where a motion to change the name of the party to the Scottish National Party (Social Democrats) was due to be debated. However, this motion was withdrawn at the last minute.

There were some ideological tensions in the 1970s SNP. The party leadership, under Wolfe was determined to keep the party clearly on the left, to put them in a position to challenge Labour. However, the party's MPs who in the main represented seats won from the Conservatives were less keen to have the SNP viewed as a left-of-centre alternative to Labour, for fear of losing their seats back to the Conservatives.

There was further ideolgical strife, after 1979, with the 79 Group attempting to move the SNP further to the left, away from being what could be described a 'social-democratic' party, to an expressly 'socialist' party. This brought with it a response from those opposed to this, who desired the SNP to remain a 'broad church' and apart from arguments of left vs right, in the shape of the Campaign for Nationalism in Scotland.

The 1980s saw the SNP further define itself as a party of the left, with campaigns against the poll-tax and so on. They have developed this platform to the stage they are at now, a clear, moderate, centre-left political party. This has itself not gone without internal criticism from the left of the party who believe that in modern years the party has moderated itself too much.

The ideological tensions inside the SNP are further complicated by the arguments between gradualist and fundamentalist. These arguments too go back to the very foundation of the party, with the merger between the pro-independence National Party of Scotland and the pro-devolution Scottish Party.

In essence, gradualists seek to advance Scotland to independence through devolution in a 'step by step' strategy. They tend to be in the moderate left grouping, although much of the 79 Group was gradualist in approach. However, this 79 Group gradualism was as much a reaction against the fundmentalists of the day, many of whom believed the SNP should not take a clear left or right position.

The position of fundamentalists within the SNP is further complicated by the fact that modern fundamentalists are unlike the old-style. They tend to be on the left of the party, critical of both the gradualist approach to independence and what they perceive as a moderation of the party's socio-economic policy portfolio.

This grouping of neo-fundamentalists have their roots within the Jim Sillars camp inside the SNP.

National Executive & Front Bench

Party Leaders

Electoral Performance

1935 General Election - 1.1% of Scottish vote - 0 seats
1945 General Election - 1.2% - 0 seats
1950 General Election - 0.4% - 0 seats
1951 General Election - 0.3% - 0 seats
1955 General Election - 0.5% - 0 seats
1959 General Election - 0.5% - 0 seats
1964 General Election - 2.4% - 0 seats
1966 General Election - 5.0% - 0 seats
1970 General Election - 11.4% - 1 seat
1974 General Election (Feb) - 21.9% - 7 seats
1974 General Election (Oct) - 30.4% - 11 seats
1974 Regional Council Election - 12.6% - 18 seats
1974 District Council Election - 12.4% - 62 seats
1977 District Council Election - 24.2% - 170 seats
1978 Regional Council Election - 20.9% - 18 seats
1979 General Election - 17.3% - 2 seats
1979 European Parliament Election - 19.4% - 1 seat
1980 District Council Election - 15.5% - 54 seats
1982 Regional Council Election - 13.4% - 23 seats
1983 General Election - 11.7% - 2 seats
1984 District Council Election - 11.7% - 59 seats
1984 European Parliament Election - 17.8% - 1 seat
1986 Regional Council Election - 18.2 % - 36 seats
1987 General Election - 14.0% - 3 seats
1988 District Council Election - 21.3% - 113 seats
1989 European Parliament Election - 25.6% - 1 seat
1990 Regional Council Election - 21.8% - 42 seats
1992 General Election - 21.5% - 3 seats
1992 District Council Election - 24.3% - 150 seats
1994 European Parliament Election - 32.6% - 2 seats
1994 Regional Council Election - 26.8% - 73 seats
1995 Unitary Authorities Election - 26.1% - 181 seats
1997 General Election - 22.1% - 6 seats
1999 Scottish Parliament Election - 28.7% - 35 seats (7 for First Past the Post seats)
1999 Unitary Authorities Election - 28.9% - 201 seats
1999 European Parliament Election - 27.2% - 2 seats
2001 General Election - 20.1% - 5 seats
2003 Scottish Parliament Election* - 23.8% - 27 seats (9 for First Past the Post seats)
2004 European Parliament Election - 19.7% - 2 seats
2005 General Election - 17.7% - 6 seats

Further Reading

SNP:The History of the Scottish National Party, by Peter Lynch, 2002
The Flag in the Wind, by John MacCormick, 1955
Scotland Lives: the Quest for Independence, by Billy Wolfe, 1973
Scotland: the Case for Optimism, by Jim Sillars, 1985

External links

Template:British political partiesja:スコットランド民族党 nl:Scottish National Party sv:Scottish National Party fr:Scottish National Party


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