Leading Article: SNP begins to face reality

Share
Related Topics
THE Scottish National Party, whose annual conference opened yesterday in Inverness, might seem to be riding high after the summer's gains. The party won a record 32.6 per cent share of the vote in June's European elections. In Monklands East, John Smith's constituency, the nationalists achieved one of their largest by- election swings in 30 years and almost seized the seat.

Yet, in the short-run at least, the SNP is a long way from becoming the largest party north of the border and so furthering its goal of independence for Scotland. Monklands East was remarkable not for the swing to the SNP but for Labour's survival in the face of local scandals. Labour's support remains stubbornly strong: in the 1992 general election no SNP candidate came within 10 percentage points of the Labour victor. Tony Blair's succession means his party remains attractive, since it seems more likely to win power and so fulfil pledges to create a Scottish parliament.

For now the SNP would be foolish to concern itself with making electoral breakthroughs beyond taking Tory marginals such as Perth and Kinross, and Tayside North. The party should instead rethink its policies for the day when independence may be high on the political agenda - that is, once a Scottish parliament is established.

SNP efforts to outflank Labour from the left and exaggerate the benefits of independence have left it with an outdated, statist image. Its vision of a Scotland with a large public sector, funded by North Sea oil, needs rethinking. This prospect, reminiscent of old-style Scandinavian social democracy, is not affordable and damages the party's credibility.

There are signs that the SNP is beginning to face reality. Alex Salmond, the party leader, has ordered a rewriting of economic and budgetary policy. The SNP has also become more friendly towards Europe. Its view is that an independent Scotland should be a member of the European Union, implying that the country would neither be cut off from the international economy nor protected from the disciplines of free markets.

All of this takes place at a time when the political debate inside Scotland has moved well beyond the earshot of those who live south of the border. The suspicion is that Mr Salmond is content to see Labour win a Westminster election and to establish a Scottish Parliament. The SNP openly speculates about how it could then use the likely instability of this fledgling body to precipitate Scotland towards independence.

The fear must be that the SNP would attempt to sabotage a Scottish parliament by fomenting conflict with Westminster. This is what Slovak nationalists did to destroy Czechoslovakia and so create an independent but impoverished Slovak republic. Labour's second Scottish leader in succession will need to bear in mind the importance of providing the new parliament with sufficient powers, clearly defined. That is, if Labour continues to believe in the Union.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Because measles spreads so easily, 95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated  

Measles outbreak: Andrew Wakefield didn’t cause the MMR panic without the help of journalists

Will Gore
 

If I were Prime Minister: Unlike our current party leaders, I'd actually stand for something

Natasha Devon
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?