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SNP efforts to outflank Labour from the left and exaggerate the benefits of independence have left it with an outdated, statist image.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: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Etch, a Sketch

Jane Merrick
 

Something wrong with the Conservative Party’s game plan

John Rentoul
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing