Scottish National Party

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: UK Politics & government

Scottish National Party
Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba
"Scottish National Party Logo"
Leader Alex Salmond
Founded 1934
Headquarters 107 McDonald Road
Political ideology Scottish independence, Social democracy
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation none
European affiliation European Free Alliance
European Parliament group Greens-EFA
UK Parliament affiliation None, cooperates with Plaid Cymru
Colours Yellow, " Heather"
See also Politics of Scotland

Political parties
Elections in Scotland

The Scottish National Party (SNP) ( Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba) is a centre-left, Social democratic political party which campaigns for Scottish independence. 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 2007 elections, it is the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, and is currently running a minority administration in the Scottish Government.

The SNP holds 47 of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, 2 of 7 Scottish seats in the European Parliament, and 6 of 59 Scottish seats in the UK Parliament.


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 general election and returned 11 MPs to Westminster, to date the most MPs they have had.

Party organization

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. A high profile and controversial donor to the party is the founder of Stagecoach Group Brian Souter.

By January 1, 2007, the party's membership had increased to 12,571, 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.

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, 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 gradualists and fundamentalists. In essence, gradualists seek to advance Scotland to independence through further 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 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.

National Executive Committee

  • President - Ian Hudghton MEP
  • Business Convenor - Angus Robertson MP
  • Leader - Alex Salmond MP/MSP
  • Deputy Leader - Nicola Sturgeon MSP
  • National Secretary - Dr Duncan Ross
  • National Treasurer - Cllr Colin Beattie
  • Local Government Convener - Cllr David Alexander
  • Organisation Convener - Cllr Willie Sawers
  • Ordinary Members of NEC Parliamentarians (2 elected)
    • Aileen Campbell MSP
    • Keith Brown MSP
  • Ordinary Members of NEC Non-Parliamentarians (6 elected)
    • Gerry Fisher
    • Cllr David Berry
    • Gareth Finn
    • Cllr Allison Hunter
    • Graeme Dey
    • Cllr Grant Thoms

Ministers and spokespersons

Portfolio SNP Spokesperson
Leader of the Scottish National Party
First Minister of Scotland
Alex Salmond MP/MSP
Deputy-Leader of the Scottish National Party
Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing
Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Minister for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford MSP
Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture Linda Fabiani MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth John Swinney MSP
Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Jim Mather MSP
Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop MSP
Minister for Schools and Skills Maureen Watt MSP
Minister for Children and Early Years Adam Ingram MSP
Minister for Public Health Shona Robison MSP
Minister for Communities and Sport Stewart Maxwell MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill MSP
Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead MSP
Minister for Environment Michael Russell MSP
President of the Party Ian Hudghton MEP
SNP Westminster Group Leader, Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and for Defence Angus Robertson MP
SNP Westminster Deputy Group Leader and Chief Whip Stewart Hosie MP
SNP Westminster Work and Pensions, Trade and Industry and Energy spokesman Michael Weir MP

Party leaders

  • Alexander MacEwan (1934-1936)
  • Andrew Dewar Gibb (1936-1940)
  • William Power (1940-1942)
  • Douglas Young (1942-1945)
  • Bruce Watson (1945-1947)
  • Robert McIntyre (1947-1956)
  • James Halliday (1956-1960)
  • Arthur Donaldson (1960-1969)
  • William Wolfe (1969-1979)
  • Gordon Wilson (1979-1990)
  • Alex Salmond (1990-2000)
  • John Swinney (2000-2004)
  • Alex Salmond (2004 - present)

Electoral performance

Election Percentage of Scottish vote Seats won Additional Information
1935 General Election 1.1% 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 High water mark, until 2007. Increased presence contributed to Labour holding a devolution referendum in 1979.
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 Poor performance compared to the two 1974 elections caused internal ructions during the 1980s.
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 (including 7 First Past the Post seats) First election to the re-constituted Scottish Parliament. Finished second to Labour and became the official opposition to the coalition of Labour and Liberal Democrats.
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 (including 9 First Past the Post seats)
2004 European Parliament Election 19.7% 2 seats
2005 General Election 17.7% 6 seats
2007 Scottish Parliament Election 32.9% 47 seats (including 21 First Past the Post seats) Largest party in the Scottish Parliament; formed the Scottish Government.


The SNP have been charged with being " Anglophobic". In 2000, the Labour party said that two SNP members of the Scottish Parliament were anti-English after they "registered their support for Germany's (2006 Football World Cup) bid on its official website". The SNP responded that they "have no position on where the World Cup is held" and that it was "silly to describe the website entry as anti-English".

In 1999, the comedian Billy Connolly was quoted as saying, "the Scottish Parliament is a joke", and of the SNP, "it's entirely their fault, this new racism in Scotland, this anti-Englishness". The SNP responded that Scots "are enthusiastic about the parliament and will dismiss his absurd remarks about the SNP for the nonsense they are."

Prominent figures in Scottish politics such as Labour's George Foulkes, Baron Foulkes of Cumnock and the Liberal Democrats' Jamie Stone and subsequently Danny Alexander have publicly apologised for calling the SNP "xenophobic".. SNP MSP Ian McKee has by contrast pointed out his own status in the Scottish Parliament chamber as an Englishman as evidence of there being no such anti-English feeling.

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