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SNP efforts to outflank Labour from the left and exaggerate the benefits of independence have left it with an outdated, statist image.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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Content Leader

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role requires a high level...

Day In a Page

Read Next
It is often not perceived to be very 'feminine' to study maths, physics and engineering  

The deafening silence on the Government's industrial strategy is ominous

Chuka Umunna and Vince Cable
George Osborne walks down the stairs from a submarine during a visit to the Royal Navy's submarine base at Faslane on August 31, 2015 in Faslane Scotland  

Sorry George Osborne, but it's Trident that makes us less safe, not Jeremy Corbyn

Kate Hudson
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent