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SNP efforts to outflank Labour from the left and exaggerate the benefits of independence have left it with an outdated, statist image.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

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

Recruitment Genius: Digital Printer

£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A specialist retail and brand c...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 HGV Driver - with CPC

£26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Haulage company based on the Thorpe Indu...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Just what the election needs – another superficially popular but foolish policy

John Rentoul
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to the super rich

Terence Blacker
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence