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Scottish National Party

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Scottish National Party
Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba
Scottis Naitional Pairtie
Leader Alex Salmond MSP
Deputy Leader Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Founded 1934
Headquarters Gordon Lamb House
3 Jackson's Entry
Student wing Federation of Student Nationalists
Youth wing Young Scots for Independence
Membership 15,000
Ideology Scottish independence,
Scottish nationalism,
Left-wing nationalism,
Social democracy[a]
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation None
European affiliation European Free Alliance
European Parliament group The Greens–European Free Alliance
Colours Yellow and Heather
European Parliament (Scottish seats)
2 / 6
House of Commons (Scottish seats)
6 / 59
Scottish Parliament
47 / 129
Local government in Scotland
362 / 1,222

Politics of Scotland
Political parties

The Scottish National Party (SNP) ( Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba; Scots: Scottis Naitional Pairtie) is the largest political party campaigning for the independence of Scotland.[b] Its stated aim is "to create a just, caring and enterprising society by releasing Scotland's full potential as an independent nation in the mainstream of modern Europe." The party's social democratic platform is largely considered centre-left in the Scottish/UK political spectrum. The SNP's left-wing nationalism, based on equality, popular sovereignty and national self-determination, is a characteristic shared with other Celtic Nationalist parties such as Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow, Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Féin.

The SNP was founded in 1934, and has had continuous parliamentary representation since Winnie Ewing's groundbreaking victory at the 1967 Hamilton by-election. With sporadic gains since, the SNP has tended to fare poorly in United Kingdom general elections and currently holds 6 of 59 Scottish seats in the UK Parliament.

In the last few decades, the party has usually polled the second highest number of votes for a political party in Scotland. This changed in 2007 when the SNP ended 50 years of Labour dominance in the country by winning 47 of the 129 seats in the third Scottish Parliamentary election. As a result of becoming the largest party in the Scottish Parliament the SNP sought to form a coalition government, but after talks broke down with the other parties they formed a minority administration. The first SNP administration has been noted for its relative stability compared to previous coalition administrations, due to only having two reshuffles within three years (the second of which was minor). The previous administrations had very frequent reshuffles, with very few members staying throughout the eight year rule of the Liberal-Labour Coalition of 1999-2007.

At the 2007 Local Elections, the SNP won 363 council seats of 1,224 (doubling its 2003 total of 181 councillors), making them the largest group in Scottish local government and helping form in coalition 12 out of 32 local administrations. The next council elections will be in 2012, due to legislative action taken by the SNP in the Scottish Parliament to divide the dates of the Holyrood and Local Elections into 2011 and 2012 respectively - on the advice of the Gould Report.

At the 2009 European Parliament election the party topped the poll for the first time in a European Parliament election since 1979, with almost 100,000 more votes than the Scottish Labour Party. The party holds 2 of 6 Scottish seats in the European Parliament, narrowly failing to win a Third seat by less than 1%.


The SNP was formed in 1934 from the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party. Professor Douglas Young, who was the leader of the Scottish National Party from 1942 to 1945 fought for the Scottish people to refuse conscription and his activities were popularly vilified as undermining the British war effort against the Nazis. Young was imprisoned for refusing to be conscripted. 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. The high point in UK General Elections thus far was when the SNP 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 it has had. The SNP's nationalism is left-wing nationalism, not right wing, a trait which it shares with other Celtic Nationalist parties such as Plaid Cymru and Sinn Féin.

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)

Parliamentary leaders

  • Alex Salmond (1999–2000)
  • John Swinney (2000–2004)
  • Nicola Sturgeon (2004–2007)
  • Alex Salmond (2007–present)

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 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, at which detailed discussion (but not finalising) of party policy takes place.

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 vested in its National Executive Committee (NEC) which is made up of the party's elected office bearers and six elected members (voted for at conference). The SNP parliamentarians (Scottish, Westminster and European) and councillors have representation 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 2008, the party had a membership of 15,097 in 2008, up from 9,450 in 2003. In 2004 the party had income of approximately £1,300,000 (including bequests of just under £300,000) and expenditure of about £1,000,000.

Policy platform

The SNP's policy base is, by and large, in the mainstream European social democratic mould. For example, among its policies are a commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament, progressive personal taxation and the eradication of poverty, free state education including support grants for higher education students and a pay increase for nurses. It is also committed to an independent Scotland being a full member state of the European Union, to the country joining the single European currency at the appropriate exchange rate and is against membership of NATO (however this remains controversial).

Contrary to the expectations of many outside the party, the SNP is not expressly republican, and its general view is that this is an issue secondary to that of Scottish independence. Many SNP members are republicans, however, and both the party student and youth wings are expressly so.

The SNP is committed to an independent Scotland within the Commonwealth of Nations.

In August 2009 as part of its third legislative term in the Scottish Parliament, the Government proposes to debate the Scottish referendum bill 2010, which would set out a planned referendum for 30th November 2010 on the issue of Scottish independence. It was not however expected to pass, due to opposition from all the major opposition parties in the Parliament.

Party ideology

Although it is has a representative majority of the moderate left-of-centre politicians, this has not always been the case. Almost from the party's foundation there have been internal ideological tensions. This was largely a product of the way in which the left-of-centre National Party of Scotland amalgamated with the right-of-centre Scottish Party. Nowadays, ideological tensions within the SNP have been partially resolved.

However, by the 1960s, the party was starting to become defined ideologically. It had by then established a National Assembly which allowed for discussion of policy and 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 stay on the left of the Scottish political spectrum and be in a position to challenge Labour. However, the party's MPs, mostly representing 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 were further ideological and internal struggles 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. 79 Group members including current leader, Alex Salmond, were expelled from the party. This produced a response in the shape of the Campaign for Nationalism in Scotland from those who wanted the SNP to remain a 'broad church', apart from arguments of left vs. right.

The 1980s saw the SNP further define itself as a party of the left, for example running campaigns against the poll tax. It developed this platform to the stage it is 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 become too moderate.

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 camp of the former high-profile Labour Party MP Jim Sillars who left Labour to form the short-lived Scottish Labour Party in the 1970s (it had no connection with the UK Labour Party or the current Scottish Labour group in the Scottish Parliament). Sillars eventually joined the SNP, winning the Govan, Glasgow, by-election in 1988 to become an SNP MP. He lost the Westminster seat at the 1992 general election and expressed his disappointment by calling the Scottish people 'Ninety minute patriots'.

European Free Alliance

The SNP retains close links with Plaid Cymru and MPs of both parties co-operate closely with each other. They work as a single group within the House of Commons, and were involved in joint campaigning during the 2005 General Election campaign. Both are in the European Free Alliance (EFA), which works with the European Green Party to form a grouping in the European Parliament: the Greens - European Free Alliance. Although there is no coalition in the Scottish Parliament (the SNP having run a minority government since May 2007) the Scottish Greens supported the appointment of the government under an agreement which also specified areas of common policy and gave the Greens input to the budget process and convenorship of the parliamentary committee on transport, infrastructure and climate change.

Ministers and spokespeople

See also: Government of the 3rd Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government, Members of the 3rd Scottish Parliament
Portfolio SNP Spokesperson
Leader of the Scottish National Party
First Minister of Scotland
Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP
Depute 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 Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop 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 Michael Russell MSP
Minister for Schools and Skills Keith Brown MSP
Minister for Children and Early Years Adam Ingram MSP
Minister for Public Health and Sport Shona Robison MSP
Minister for Communities Alex Neil 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 Roseanna Cunningham 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, Economy and Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP
SNP Westminster Trade and Industry and Energy spokesman Michael Weir MP
SNP Westminster Work and Pensions Spokesperson John Mason MP

Elected representatives (current)

Members of the Scottish Parliament

MSP Constituency or Region
Brian Adam Aberdeen North
Alasdair Allan Western Isles
Keith Brown Ochil
Aileen Campbell South of Scotland
Willie Coffey Kilmarnock and Loudoun
Angela Constance Livingston
Bruce Crawford Stirling
Roseanna Cunningham Perth
Nigel Don North East Scotland
Bob Doris Glasgow
Fergus Ewing Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber
Linda Fabiani Central Scotland
Joe FitzPatrick Dundee West
Kenneth Gibson Cunninghame North
Rob Gibson Highlands and Islands
Christine Grahame South of Scotland
Chris Harvie Mid Scotland and Fife
Jamie Hepburn Central Scotland
Fiona Hyslop Lothians
Adam Ingram South of Scotland
Bill Kidd Glasgow
Richard Lochhead Moray
Kenny MacAskill Edinburgh East and Musselburgh
Tricia Marwick Central Fife
Jim Mather Argyll and Bute
Michael Matheson Falkirk West
Stewart Maxwell West of Scotland
Ian McKee Lothians
Christina McKelvie Central Scotland
Anne McLaughlin Glasgow
Stuart McMillan West of Scotland
Alasdair Morgan South of Scotland
Alex Neil Central Scotland
Gil Paterson Central Scotland
Shona Robison Dundee East
Michael Russell South of Scotland
Alex Salmond Gordon
Shirley-Anne Somerville Lothians
Stewart Stevenson Banff and Buchan
Nicola Sturgeon Glasgow Govan
John Swinney North Tayside
Dave Thompson Highlands and Islands
Maureen Watt North East Scotland
Andrew Welsh Angus
Sandra White Glasgow
Bill Wilson West of Scotland
John Wilson Central Scotland

Members of Parliament

Member of Parliament Surname, Firstname Constituency First elected Notes
Stewart Hosie Hosie, Stewart Dundee East 2005
Angus MacNeil MacNeil, Angus Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) 2005
Angus Robertson Robertson, Angus Moray 2001
Mike Weir Weir, Mike Angus 2001
Eilidh Whiteford Whiteford, Eilidh Banff and Buchan 2010
Pete Wishart Wishart, Pete Perth and North Perthshire 2001

Members of the European Parliament

Constituency MEP First elected
Scotland Ian Hudghton 1998
Alyn Smith 2004


The SNP has more than 360 councillors in Local Government elected from the Scottish local elections, 2007.

2010 Westminster candidates

The SNP has set itself a target of 20 Westminster seats for the next 2010 United Kingdom general election. There are in total 59 Scottish constituencies of the House of Commons of the UK Parliament - 19 Burgh constituencies and 40 County constituencies.

The party has stated its preference was for a hung parliament result, where a significant SNP presence would hold heavy sway of decisions affecting Scotland.

The SNP launched their General Election Campaign on 6 March 2010.

Constituency Candidate
Aberdeen North Joanna Strathdee
Aberdeen South Mark McDonald
Airdrie & Shotts Sophia Coyle
Angus Mike Weir
Argyll & Bute Michael MacKenzie
Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock Charles Brodie
Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk Paul Wheelhouse
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross Jean Urquhart
Central Ayrshire John Mullen
Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill Frances McGlinchey
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East Julie Hepburn
Dumfries & Galloway Andrew Wood
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweedale Aileen Orr
Dundee East Stewart Hosie
Dundee West Jim Barrie
Dunfermline & West Fife Joe McCall
East Dunbartonshire Iain White
East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow John McKenna
East Lothian Andrew Sharp
Constituency Candidate
East Renfrewshire Gordon Archer
Edinburgh East George Kerevan
Edinburgh North & Leith Calum Cashley
Edinburgh South Sandy Howat
Edinburgh South West Kaukab Stewart
Edinburgh West Sheena Cleland
Falkirk John McNally
Glasgow Central Osama Saeed
Glasgow East John Mason
Glasgow North Patrick Grady
Glasgow North East Billy McAllister
Glasgow North West Margaret Park
Glasgow South Malcolm Fleming
Glasgow South West Chris Stephens
Glenrothes David Alexander
Gordon Richard Thomson
Inverclyde Innes Nelson
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey John Finnie
Kilmarnock & Loudoun George Leslie
Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath Douglas Chapman
Constituency Candidate
Lanark & Hamilton East Clare Adamson
Linlithgow & East Falkirk Tam Smith
Livingston Lis Bardell
Midlothian Colin Beattie
Moray Angus Robertson
Motherwell & Wishaw Marion Fellows
Na h-Eileanan an Iar Angus MacNeil
North Ayrshire & Arran Patricia Gibson
North East Fife Rod Campbell
Ochil & South Perthshire Annabelle Ewing
Orkney & Shetland John Mowat
Paisley & North Renfrewshire Margaret MacLaren
Paisley & South Renfrewshire Andrew Doig
Perth & North Perthshire Pete Wishart
Ross, Skye & Lochaber Alasdair Stephen
Rutherglen & Hamilton West Graeme Horne
Stirling Alison Lindsay
West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine Dennis Robertson
West Dunbartonshire Graeme McCormick

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 Council Areas 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 Council Areas 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)
2003 Council Areas Election 24.1% 181 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.
2007 Council Areas Election 29.7% (of seats) 363 seats Largest party in local government (first ever Scottish local elections to be held under the Single Transferable Vote).
2009 European Parliament Election 29.1% 2 seats The first European Parliament elections in which the SNP won the most votes within Scotland
2010 General Election 19.9% 6 seats


Accusations of anglophobia

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, Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, a staunch Labour Party supporter, was quoted as saying, "the Scottish Parliament is a joke"; he also claimed that "this new racism in Scotland, this anti-Englishness" was "entirely their [the SNP's] fault". 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. Indeed, McKee is one of six SNP MSPs born in England, along with other prominent figures such as Christine Grahame and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Mike Russell.

Accusations of 'cash for policies'

The party has been criticised over a £500,000 donation from the transport businessman Brian Souter. One month later, in April 2007, the SNP's commitment (made at the party's 2006 conference) to re-regulate the bus network was not included in their 2007 manifesto, although the SNP denies any direct link. Opposition politicians suggested that the donation and policy shift were linked and that it was a case of "cash for policies", although no official accusations have been made.

Brian Souter went on to make a further donation of £125,000 to the SNP, making him their single biggest donor. Souter made approaches to the SNP government for a £3 million subsidy for his company, Stagecoach, to develop a hovercraft service between Kirkcaldy and Portobello in Scotland. The service had already received subsidy from the previous Labour administration for the pilot scheme, but was put on hold pending "clarification" of the public sector's involvement, as was the case with many large-scale public spending projets on account of the global recession.

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