Scottish National Party

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Scottish National Party logo

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Leader Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Country Scotland
Headquarters Gordon Lamb House
3 Jackson's Entry
Edinburgh
EH8 8PJ
Scotland
Colours Yellow and Heather
Website http://www.snp.org/

The Scottish National Party (SNP) is a far-left, nationalist and socialist political party which campaigns primarily for Scottish independence.[1] In the last few decades, the SNP has normally polled the second highest number of votes for a political party in Scotland, and as a result of the Scottish Parliament elections in 2007 and 2011 it became the largest party in that chamber.[2].

The SNP holds 64 of 128 seats in the Scottish Parliament[3], 2 of 6 Scottish seats in the European Parliament[4], and 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in the UK Parliament[5], just 4.7% of the UK national vote.[6]

History

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 at the Motherwell by-election in 1945, but Dr Robert McIntyre MP lost the seat at the general election three months later. They next won a seat in 1967, when Winnie Ewing was the surprise winner of a by-election in the previously safe Labour seat of Hamilton. This brought the SNP to national prominence, leading to the establishment of the Kilbrandon Commission. Their high point in UK General Elections thus far was when they polled almost a third of all votes in Scotland at the October 1974 United Kingdom general election and returned 11 MPs to Westminster, the most MPs they had ever had at that point.

At the UK general election of May 7, 2015, the SNP succeeded in virtually wiping out the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats Party in Scotland, securing 56 of the 59 seats in the UK Parliament at Westminster.

Party organisation

The SNP consists of 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 eight 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 an SNP Trade Union Group. There is an independently-owned monthly newspaper, 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 (Scottish, Westminster and European) and councillors have respresentation on the NEC, as do the Trade Union Group, the youth wing and the student wing.

According to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission for the year ending 2004, the party had a membership of 10,854 in 2004, up from 9,450 from 2003. It had income of about £1,300,000 (including bequests of just under £300,000) and expenditure of about £1,000,000. [7] A high profile and controversial donor to the party is the founder of Stagecoach Group Brian Souter.[8]

By January 1, 2007, the party's membership had increased to 12,571[9], representing a 16% year on year rise since Alex Salmond was elected leader for the second time. This boost in popularity has also been strengthened by a number of recent opinion polls that show support for independence is now on the increase and occasionally outstrips support for the union.[10][11]

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, free state education including support grants for higher education students, 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 at the appropriate exchange rate. They also stated their opposition to NATO.

Contrary to the expectations of many, the SNP are not an expressly republican party and the general view within the party is that this is an issue secondary to that of Scottish independence. Many 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.

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 have been ideological tensions present within the SNP. This was by and large a product of the way in which the party was formed, as an amalgamation of the left-of-centre National Party of Scotland, and the right-of-centre Scottish Party. Ideological tensions have largely been resolved over the lifetime of the party.

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 social democratic. Also, the emergence of William Wolfe (universally known as Billy) 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 Scottish Labour Party.

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 cooperative). It was during Wolfe's period as SNP leader in the 1970s that the SNP became clearly identified as a social-democratic political party.

There were some ideological tensions in the 1970s SNP. The party leadership under Wolfe was determined to keep the party clearly on the left of the Scottish political spectrum, 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 ideological 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 left-wing political party. This has itself not gone without internal criticism from the left of the party who still believe that the party has moderated itself too much.

The ideological tensions inside the SNP are further complicated by the arguments between gradualists and fundamentalists. In essence, gradualists seek to advance Scotland to independence through further devolution, in a 'step by step' strategy (which seems to be working). 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 fundamentalists 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, a former Labour MP, camp inside the SNP.

European Free Alliance

The SNP retains close links with Plaid Cymru, with both parties' MPs co-operating closely with one another. They work as a single group within the House of Commons, and were involved in joint campaigning during the 2005 General Election campaign. Both parties are part of the European Free Alliance (EFA). The EFA works with the European Green Party in order to form a grouping in the European Parliament: the Greens - European Free Alliance.

References

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.