By: Andrew Fry
Andrew is a 2nd year French and International Relations student at the University of Aberdeen, but he also works seasonally in ASDA in his home town of Dundee. He has been involved in politics since the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
The Scottish National Party, or SNP, was formed in 1934. It is a party whose primary aim has been for increased autonomy for Scotland, and for the re-creation of an independent Scottish state. Although the party is based on Scottish Nationalism, note that it is the “national” party and not, as commonly mistaken, the “nationalist” party. The SNP have deliberately focussed on civic nationalism, i.e. nationalism that is driven on the grounds of citizen-led self-determination for everyone living in Scotland, and their political ideology has nothing to do with a Scottish ethnicity, culture or linguistics, which is why the SNP promote an inclusive and diverse society.
The SNP only try to win seats in Scotland, although that includes the role of MPs in London. In fact, the SNP are currently the largest and by far the most popular party in Scotland currently. In the 2015 election they won 56 out of the 59 seats in Scotland which makes them the third largest party currently active in the House of Commons. They also have approximately 120,200 registered party members which makes them the third largest UK party based on membership. More importantly, the SNP currently have a minority government administration in Scotland, controlling 63 out of 129 seats.
Scottish political landscape:
To understand the successes and failures of the SNP it is important to make some clear distinctions between the political situation in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK. Scotland, broadly speaking, tends to support more left-wing policies, however since the independence referendum in 2014, Scottish politics is no longer defined by the left vs the right. Instead, Scottish voters appear to be split along the lines of Unionism or Nationalism. We can see evidence for this in the 2015 election, most people attribute the SNP’s success to the 45% of people who supported Scottish independence in 2014 all voting for the SNP, whereas the 55% who backed Unionism split their vote amongst Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat. Under the first past the post system this clearly gives the SNP the advantage. But recently, the Labour party appears to be losing favour in Scotland, and the Conservative party is trying hard to consolidate the Unionist support base. Perhaps unfortunately, in Scotland if you are pro-independence you are expected to vote SNP and if you are pro-union you are expected to vote Conservative, although of course other parties have their own position on the issue, these two have risen to control the debate.
The SNP are generally considered to be centre-left, although public opinion polling indicates that the SNP support base is much further left than the party itself. The SNP have continued to deliver free tuition fees for Scottish and EU nationals, scrapped fees for medical prescriptions, introduced “baby boxes”, reversed the “bedroom tax” and provided free personal care for the elderly in Scotland. However, their position on taxation has been hesitant, when Scotland was granted increased power to control income tax in Scotland the SNP did not make any changes. Also, the SNP implemented a council tax freeze across Scotland at a time when local authorities were struggling to fund public services which did lead to widespread cuts on local provisions, including my high school. This is why, the SNP are criticised from the left, for being too right-wing, and criticised from the right for being too left-wing. I firmly believe that a fair analysis would be to say that they are centre-left. The SNP have long strived to make Scotland a more inclusive place, and have campaigned hard to improve rights of LGBT people, and the SNP government’s equal marriage law came into effect in 2014. The SNP have also argued to review the UK immigration system, consistently arguing the benefits of immigration. More specifically, they argue that Scotland should have more control of its own immigration system to encourage immigration to Scotland since population growth has stalled in recent years putting a strain on the country with a growing ageing population. The SNP were particularly opposed to removing the graduate visa scheme. The SNP are a Pro-European party, and campaigned for a remain vote during the EU referendum, they now want assurances that the UK will maintain access to the single market for the benefit of the Scottish economy. The SNP have suspended fracking in Scotland, while the long-term environmental impacts are under review and have continued to support the development of renewable energy in Scotland, however they do maintain that Scotland’s large oil and gas industry is a key part of the national economy. They also oppose the UK’s renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which is currently based at HM Naval Base Clyde, less than 40 miles from Glasgow.