Scottish National Party
The Scottish National Party (SNP; Scots: Scots National Pairty, Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba) is a Scottish nationalist, regionalist, and social-democratic political party in Scotland. The SNP supports and campaigns for Scottish independence within the European Union, with a platform based on civic nationalism. The SNP is the third-largest political party by membership in the United Kingdom, behind the Conservative Party and the Labour Party and it is the largest political party in Scotland, where it has the most seats in the Scottish Parliament and 48 out of the 59 Scottish seats in the House of Commons at Westminster. The current Scottish National Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, has served as First Minister of Scotland since November 2014.
|Leader||Nicola Sturgeon MSP|
|Depute Leader||Keith Brown MSP|
|Leader in the House of Commons||Ian Blackford MP|
|Deputy Leader in the House of Commons||Kirsten Oswald MP|
|Chief Executive||Peter Murrell|
|Founded||7 April 1934|
|Headquarters||Gordon Lamb House|
3 Jackson's Entry
|Student wing||SNP Students|
|Youth wing||Young Scots for Independence|
|LGBT wing||Out for Independence|
|Political position||Centre-left |
|European affiliation||European Free Alliance|
|Colours|| Yellow |
|Slogan||Stronger for Scotland|
|Anthem||Scots Wha Hae|
|House of Commons (Scottish seats)|
48 / 59
61 / 129
|Local government in Scotland|
418 / 1,227
Founded in 1934 with the amalgamation of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party, the party has had continuous parliamentary representation in Westminster since Winnie Ewing won the 1967 Hamilton by-election. With the establishment of the devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999, the SNP became the second-largest party, serving two terms as the opposition. The SNP gained power at the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, forming a minority government, before going on to win the 2011 Parliament election, after which it formed Holyrood's first majority government. It was reduced back to being a minority government at the 2016 election.
The SNP is the largest political party in Scotland in terms of both seats in the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments, and membership, reaching 125,482 members as of December 2019, 48 MPs, 61 MSPs and over 400 local councillors. The SNP is a member of the European Free Alliance (EFA). The party does not have any members of the House of Lords, as it has always maintained a position of objecting to an unelected upper house.
Foundation and early breakthroughs (1934–1970)
The SNP was formed in 1934 through the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party, with The Duke of Montrose and Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham as its first, joint, president. Sir Alexander MacEwen was its first chairman. Professor Douglas Young, who was the leader of the Scottish National Party from 1942 to 1945 campaigned for the Scottish people to refuse conscription and his activities were popularly vilified as undermining the British war effort against the Axis powers. Young was imprisoned for refusing to be conscripted.
The party suffered its first split during this period with John MacCormick leaving the party in 1942, owing to his failure to change the party's policy from supporting all-out independence to Home Rule at that year's conference in Glasgow. McCormick went on to form the Scottish Covenant Association, a non-partisan political organisation campaigning for the establishment of a devolved Scottish Assembly.
However, wartime conditions also enabled the SNP's first parliamentary success at the Motherwell by-election in 1945, but Robert McIntyre MP lost the seat at the general election three months later. The 1950s were characterised by similarly low levels of support, and this made it difficult for the party to advance. Indeed, in most general elections they were unable to put up more than a handful of candidates.
The 1960s, however, offered more electoral successes, with candidates polling credibly at Glasgow Bridgeton in 1961, West Lothian in 1962 and Glasgow Pollok in 1967. Indeed, this foreshadowed Winnie Ewing's surprise victory in a by-election at the previously safe Labour seat of Hamilton. This brought the SNP to national prominence, leading to the establishment of the Kilbrandon Commission.
Becoming a major force (1970s)
Despite this breakthrough, the 1970 general election was to prove a disappointment for the party as, despite an increase in vote share, Ewing failed to retain her seat in Hamilton. The party did receive some consolation with the capture of the Western Isles, making Donald Stewart the party's only MP. This was to be the case until the 1973 by-election at Glasgow Govan where a hitherto safe Labour seat was claimed by Margo MacDonald.
1974 was to prove something of an annus mirabilis for the party as it deployed its highly effective It's Scotland's oil campaign. The SNP gained 6 seats at the February general election before hitting a high point in the October re-run, polling almost a third of all votes in Scotland and returning 11 MPs to Westminster. Furthermore, during that year's local elections the party claimed overall control of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.
This success was to continue for much of the decade, and at the 1977 district elections the SNP saw victories at councils including East Kilbride and Falkirk and held the balance of power in Glasgow. However, this level of support was not to last and by 1978 Labour revival was evident at three by-elections (Glasgow Garscadden, Hamilton and Berwick and East Lothian) as well as the regional elections.
This was to culminate when the party experienced a large drop in its support at the 1979 general election, precipitated by the party bringing down the incumbent Labour minority government following the controversial failure of that year's devolution referendum. Reduced to just 2 MPs, the successes of October 1974 were not to be surpassed until the 2015 general election.
Factional divisions and infighting (1980s)
Following this defeat, a period of internal strife occurred within the party, culminating with the formation of two internal groups: the proto-fascist Siol nan Gaidheal and left-wing 79 Group. Traditionalists within the party, centred around Winnie Ewing, by this time an MEP, responded by establishing the Campaign for Nationalism in Scotland which sought to ensure that the primary objective of the SNP was campaigning for independence outwith a traditional left-right orientation, even though this would have undone the work of figures such as William Wolfe, who developed a clearly social democratic policy platform throughout the 1970s.
These events ensured the success of a leadership motion at the party's annual conference of 1982, in Ayr, despite the 79 Group being bolstered by the merger of Jim Sillars' Scottish Labour Party (SLP) although this influx of ex-SLP members further shifted the characteristics of the party leftwards. Despite this, traditionalist figure Gordon Wilson remained party leader through the electoral disappointments of 1983 and 1987, where he lost his own Dundee East seat won 13 years prior.
Through this period, Sillars grew influence in the party, developing a clear socio-economic platform including Independence in Europe, reversing the SNP's previous opposition to membership of the then-EEC which had been unsuccessful in a 1975 referendum. This position was enhanced further by Sillars reclaiming Glasgow Govan in a by-election in 1988.
Despite this moderation, the party did not join Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens as well as civil society in the Scottish Constitutional Convention which developed a blueprint for a devolved Scottish Parliament due to the unwillingness of the convention to discuss independence as a constitutional option.
First Salmond era (1990s)
Alex Salmond had been elected MP for Banff and Buchan in 1987, after the re-admittance of 79 Group members, and was able to seize the party leadership after Wilson's resignation in 1990 after a contest with Margaret Ewing. This was a surprise victory as Ewing had the backing of much of the party establishment, including Sillars and then-Party Secretary John Swinney. The defection of Labour MP Dick Douglas further evidenced the party's clear left-wing positioning, particularly regarding opposition to the poll tax. Despite this, Salmond's leadership was unable to avert a fourth successive general election disappointment in 1992 with the party reduced back from 5 to 3 MPs.
The mid-90s offered some successes for the party, with North East Scotland being gained at the 1994 European elections and the party securing a by-election at Perth and Kinross in 1995 after a near-miss at Monklands East the previous year.
1997 offered the party's most successful general election for 23 years, although in the face of the Labour landslide the party was unable to match either 1974 election. That September, the party joined with the other members of the Scottish Constitutional Convention in the successful Yes-Yes campaign in the devolution referendum which lead to the establishment of a Scottish Parliament with tax-varying powers.
By 1999, the first elections to the parliament were being held, although the party suffered a disappointing result, gaining just 35 MSPs in the face of Salmond's unpopular 'Kosovo Broadcast' which opposed NATO intervention in the country.
Opposing Labour-Liberal Democrat coalitions (1999–2007)
This meant that the party began as the official opposition in the parliament to a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Salmond found the move to a more consensual politics difficult and sought a return to Westminster, resigning the leadership in 2000 with John Swinney, like Salmond a gradualist, victorious in the ensuring leadership election. Swinney's leadership proved ineffectual, with a loss of one MP in 2001 and a further reduction to 27 MSPs in 2003 despite the Officegate scandal unseating previous First Minister Henry McLeish. However, the only parties to gain seats in that election where the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) which like the SNP support independence.
After an unsuccessful coup attempt in 2003, Swinney stepped down following disappointing results in the European elections of 2004 with Salmond victorious in the subsequent leadership contest despite initially refusing to be candidate. Nicola Sturgeon was elected Depute Leader and became the party's leader in the Scottish Parliament until Salmond was able to return at the next parliamentary election.
Salmond government (2007–2014)
In 2007, the SNP emerged as the largest party in the Scottish Parliament with 47 of 129 seats, narrowly ousting the Scottish Labour Party with 46 seats and Alex Salmond becoming First Minister after ousting the Liberal Democrats in Gordon. The Scottish Green Party supported Salmond's election as First Minister, and his subsequent appointments of ministers, in return for early tabling of the climate change bill and the SNP nominating a Green MSP to chair a parliamentary committee. Despite this, Salmond's minority government tended to strike budget deals with the Conservatives to stay in office.
In May 2011, the SNP won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament with 69 seats. This was a significant feat as the additional member system used for Scottish Parliament elections was specifically designed to prevent one party from winning an outright majority. This was followed by a reverse in the party's previous opposition to NATO membership at the party's annual conference in 2012 despite Salmond's refusal to apologise for the Kosovo broadcast on the occasion of the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
This majority enabled the SNP government to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. The "No" vote prevailed in a close-fought campaign, prompting the resignation of First Minister Alex Salmond. Forty-five percent of Scottish voters cast their ballots for independence, with the "Yes" side receiving less support than late polling predicted. This was suggested as due to Salmond's unpopularity among women and Nicola Sturgeon won that year's leadership election unopposed.
Sturgeon years (2014 onwards)
The SNP rebounded from the loss in the independence referendum at the 2015 UK general election, led by Nicola Sturgeon. The party went from holding six seats in the House of Commons to 56, mostly at the expense of the Labour Party. All but three of the fifty-nine constituencies in the country elected an SNP candidate in the party's most comprehensive electoral victory at any level.
At the 2016 Scottish election, the SNP lost a net total of 6 seats, losing its overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, but returning for a third consecutive term as a minority government despite gaining an additional 1.1% of the constituency vote, for the party's best-ever result, from the 2011 election however 2.3% of the regional list vote. On the constituency vote, the SNP gained 11 seats from Labour, but lost the Edinburgh Southern constituency to the party. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats each gained two constituency seats from the SNP on 2011 (Aberdeenshire West and Edinburgh Central for the Conservatives and Edinburgh Western and North East Fife for the Liberal Democrats).
This election was followed by the 2016 European Union referendum after which the SNP joined with the Liberal Democrats and Greens to call for continued membership of the EU. Despite a consequential increase in the Conservative vote at the 2017 local elections the SNP for the first time became the largest party in each of Scotland's four city councils: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, where a Labour administration was ousted after 37 years.
At the 2017 UK general election the SNP underperformed compared to polling expectations, losing 21 seats to bring their number of Westminster MPs down to 35 – however this was still the party's second best result ever at the time. This was largely attributed by many, including former Deputy First Minister John Swinney, to their stance on holding a second Scottish independence referendum and saw a swing to the Unionist parties, with seats being picked up by the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats and a reduction in their majorities in the other seats. Stephen Gethins, MP for North East Fife, came out of this election with a majority of just 2 to the Liberal Democrat candidate. High-profile losses included SNP Commons leader Angus Robertson in Moray and former party leader and First Minister Alex Salmond in Gordon.
The SNP went on to achieve its best-ever European Parliament result in the final election before Brexit, the party taking its MEP total to 3 or half of Scottish seats and achieving a record vote share for the party. This was also the best performance of any party in the era of proportional elections to the European Parliament in Scotland. This was suggested as being due to the party's europhile sentiment during what amounted to a single-issue election, with parties that lacked a clear message performing poorly, such as Labour finishing in 5th place and losing all of their Scottish MEPs for the first time.
Later that year the SNP experienced a surge in the 2019 general election, winning 45.0% of the vote and 48 seats, its second-best result ever. Although the party suffered a loss to the Liberal Democrats, it gained the seat of its then UK leader Jo Swinson, along with 7 from the Conservatives and 6 from Labour. This victory was generally attributed to Sturgeon's cautious approach regarding holding a second independence referendum and a strong emphasis on EU membership during the election. Despite this, the UK-wide Conservative majority ensured that the UK left the EU the following January.
Constitution and structure
The local Branches are the primary level of organisation in the SNP. All of the Branches within each Scottish Parliament constituency form a Constituency Association, which coordinates the work of the Branches within the constituency, coordinates the activities of the party in the constituency and acts as a point of liaison between an MSP or MP and the party. Constituency Associations are composed of delegates from all of the Branches within the constituency.
The annual National Conference is the supreme governing body of the SNP and is responsible for determining party policy and electing the National Executive Committee. The National Conference is composed of:
- delegates from every Branch and Constituency Association
- the members of the National Executive Committee
- 15 members elected by the National Conference
- every SNP MSP and MP (and previously MEPs)
- several SNP local councillors, and
- delegates from one of the SNP's Affiliated Organisations (Young Scots for Independence, SNP Students, SNP Trade Union Group and the Association of Nationalist Councillors)
The National Council serves as the SNP's governing body between National Conferences, and its decisions are binding unless rescinded or modified by the National Conference. There are also regular meetings of the National Assembly, which provides a forum for detailed discussions of party policy by party members.
The party has an active youth wing, the Young Scots for Independence, as well as a student wing, the Federation of Student Nationalists. 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 (Holyrood and Westminster) and councillors have representation on the NEC, as do the Trade Union Group, the youth wing and the student wing.
National Executive Committee
The 42 members of the current National Executive Committtee:
- President: Ian Hudghton
- Leader: Nicola Sturgeon MSP (Glasgow Southside)
- Depute Leader: Keith Brown MSP (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane)
- National Treasurer: Colin Beattie MSP (Midlothian North and Musselburgh)
- National Secretary: Dr Angus MacLeod
- Business Convener: Kirsten Oswald MP (East Renfrewshire)
- Organisation Convener: Stacy Bradley
- Local Government Convener: Cllr Ellen Forson (Clackmannanshire South)
- Women's Convener: Cllr Rhiannon Spear (Greater Pollok)
- Equalities Convener: Fiona Robertson
- Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Convener: Cllr Graham Campbell (Springburn/Robroyston)
- Disabled Members' Convener: Morag Fulton
- Member Support Convener: Douglas Daniel
- Policy Development Convener: Alyn Smith MP (Stirling)
- Tommy Sheppard MP (Edinburgh East) (Scottish Parliament and House of Commons parliamentary groups)
- Alison Thewliss MP (Glasgow Central) (Scottish Parliament and House of Commons parliamentary groups)
- Cllr Lynne Anderson (Stepps, Chryston and Muirhead) (Central Scotland Regional Association)
- Cllr Cameron McManus (Murdostoun) (Central Scotland Regional Association)
- Cllr Christina Cannon (Springburn/Robroyston) (Glasgow Regional Association)
- Alexander Kerr (Glasgow Regional Association)
- Munro Ross (Highlands and Islands Regional Association)
- Laura Mitchell (Highlands and Islands Regional Association)
- Roz Currie (Lothian Regional Association)
- Andrew Diack (Lothian Regional Association)
- Rhuaraidh Fleming (Mid Scotland and Fife Regional Association)
- Mireille Pouget (Mid Scotland and Fife Regional Association)
- Cllr Christian Allard (Torry/Ferryhill) (North East Scotland Regional Association)
- Dorothy Jessiman (North East Scotland Regional Association)
- Cllr Heather Anderson (Tweeddale West) (South Scotland Regional Association)
- Cllr Rob Davidson (Abbey) (South Scotland Regional Association)
- Emma Hendrie (West Scotland Regional Association)
- Robert Innes (West Scotland Regional Association)
- Ruth Maguire MSP (Cunninghame South) (Scottish Parliament parliamentary group)
- Chris Law MP (Dundee West) (House of Commons parliamentary group)
- Bailie Norman MacLeod (Pollokshields) (Association of Nationalist Councillors)
- Greg McCarra (SNP Trade Union Group)
- Jamie Szymkowiaka (Disabled Members Group)
- Cailyn McMahon (Young Scots for Independence)
- a member representing the SNP BAME Network
- Abdul Majida (Scots Asians for Independence)
- Julia Stachurska (SNP Students)
- Josh Mennie (Out for Independence)
Since 18 September 2014 (the day of the Scottish independence referendum), party membership has more than quadrupled (from 25,642), surpassing the Liberal Democrats and, briefly, Conservatives to become the second-largest political party in the United Kingdom in terms of membership. As of August 2018, the Party had 125,482 members.
The SNP retains close links with Plaid Cymru, its counterpart in Wales. MPs from both parties co-operate closely with each other and work as a single parliamentary group within the House of Commons. Both the SNP and Plaid Cymru are members of the European Free Alliance (EFA), a European political party comprising regionalist political parties. The EFA co-operates with the larger European Green Party to form The Greens–European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) group in the European Parliament.
Before its affiliation with The Greens–European Free Alliance, the SNP had previously been allied with the European Progressive Democrats (1979–1984), Rainbow Group (1989–1994) and European Radical Alliance (1994–1999).
As the UK is no longer a member of the EU, the SNP has no MEPs.
The Scottish National Party did not have a clear ideological position until the 1970s, when it sought to explicitly present itself as a social democratic party in terms of party policy and publicity. During the period from its foundation until the 1960s, the SNP was essentially a moderate centrist party. Debate within the party focused more on the SNP being distinct as an all-Scotland national movement, with it being neither of the left nor the right, but constituting a new politics that sought to put Scotland first.
The SNP was formed through the merger of the centre-left National Party of Scotland (NPS) and the centre-right Scottish Party. The SNP's founders were united over self-determination in principle, though not its exact nature, or the best strategic means to achieve self-government. From the mid-1940s onwards, SNP policy was radical and redistributionist concerning land and in favour of 'the diffusion of economic power', including the decentralisation of industries such as coal to include the involvement of local authorities and regional planning bodies to control industrial structure and development. Party policies supported the economic and social policy status quo of the post-war welfare state.
By the 1960s, the SNP was starting to become defined ideologically, with a social democratic tradition emerging as the party grew in urban, industrial Scotland, and its membership experienced an influx of social democrats from the Labour Party, the trade unions and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The emergence of Billy Wolfe as a leading figure in the SNP also contributed to the leftwards shift. By this period, the Labour Party were also the dominant party in Scotland, in terms of electoral support and representation. Targeting Labour through emphasising left-of-centre policies and values was therefore electorally logical for the SNP, as well as tying in with the ideological preferences of many new party members. In 1961, the SNP conference expressed the party's opposition to the siting of the US Polaris submarine base at the Holy Loch. This policy was followed in 1963 by a motion opposed to nuclear weapons: a policy that has remained in place ever since. The 1964 policy document, SNP & You, contained a clear centre-left policy platform, including commitments to full employment, government intervention in fuel, power and transport, a state bank to guide economic development, encouragement of cooperatives and credit unions, extensive building of council houses (social housing) by central and local government, pensions adjusted to cost of living, a minimum wage and an improved national health service.
The 1960s also saw the beginnings of the SNP's efforts to establish an industrial organisation and mobilise amongst trade unionists in Scotland, with the establishment of the SNP Trade Union Group, and identifying the SNP with industrial campaigns, such as the Upper-Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in and the attempt of the workers at the Scottish Daily Express to run as a co-operative. For the party manifestos for the two 1974 general elections, the SNP finally self-identified as a social democratic party, and proposed a range of social democratic policies. There was also an unsuccessful proposal at the 1975 party conference to rename the party as the Scottish National Party (Social Democrats). In the UK wide referendum on Britain's membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) in the same year as the aforementioned attempted name change, the SNP campaigned for Britain to leave the EEC.
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. Members of the 79 Group – including future party leader and First Minister 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 political left, such as campaigning against the introduction of the poll tax in Scotland in 1989; one year before the tax was imposed on the rest of the UK.
Ideological tensions inside the SNP are further complicated by arguments between the so-called SNP gradualists and SNP 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, though 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.
With the SNP's policy base being mostly in the mainstream Western European social democratic tradition, the party is committed to policies such as progressive personal taxation. This vision was achieved by the Sturgeon Government in 2017, reducing income tax rates for a slight majority of the population by shifting the tax burden to the wealthier. Previously the party had replaced the flat rate Stamp Duty with the LBTT, which is founded on progressive principles. Whilst in government, the party was also responsible for the establishment of Revenue Scotland to administer devolved taxation.
Having previously defined itself in opposition to the poll tax the SNP has also championed progressive taxation at a local level. Despite pledging to introduce a local income tax the Salmond Government found itself unable to replace the council tax and the party has, particularly since the ending of the council tax freeze under Nicola Sturgeon's leadership, committing to increasing the graduated nature of the tax. Conversely, the party has also supported capping and reducing Business Rates in an attempt to support small businesses.
It has been noted that the party contains a broader spectrum of opinion regarding economic policy than most political parties in the UK due to its status as "the only viable vehicle for Scottish independence", with the party's parliamentary group at Westminster including socialist such as Tommy Sheppard and Mhairi Black, and capitalist such as Stewart Hosie and former Conservative, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.
The SNP can be seen to be at the heart of the secularisation and liberalisation of Scotland with the party achieving the legalisation of same sex marriage in 2014, indeed under Sturgeon's leadership Scotland was twice in succession named the best country in Europe for LGBTI legal equality. Party policy aims to introduce gender self-identification to allow an easier process of gender recognition for transgender community. This is in stark contrast to Scotland's recent history as a deeply socially conservative country although this transformation can be seen to have taken place in the country's other main political parties largely simultaneously.
Particularly since Nicola Sturgeon's elevation to First Minister the party has highlighted its commitments to gender equality – with her first act being to appoint a gender balanced cabinet. The SNP have also taken steps to implement all-women shortlists whilst Stugeon has introduced a mentoring scheme to encourage women's political engagement.
Stressing that their brand of nationalism is civic nationalism, the SNP are keen to show their support for multiculturalism with Scotland receiving thousands of refugees from the Syrian Civil War. To this end it has been claimed that refugees in Scotland are better supported than those in England. More generally, the SNP take a liberal stance on immigration, seeking to increase numbers to combat a declining population and calling for a separate Scottish visa even within the UK.
Foreign and defence policies
Despite traditionally supporting military neutrality the SNP's policy has in recent years moved to support both the Atlanticist and Europeanist traditions. This is particularly evident in the conclusion of the NATO debate within the party in favour of those who support membership of the military alliance. This is despite the party's continuing opposition to Scotland hosting nuclear weapons and then-leader Salmond's criticism of both the Kosovo intervention and the Iraq War. The party has placed an emphasis on developing positive relations with the United States in recent years despite a lukewarm reaction to the election of Scottish American Donald Trump as President due to long running legal disputes.
Having opposed membership in the 1975 referendum, the party has supported membership of the European Union since the adoption of the Independence in Europe policy during the 1980s. Consequentially, the SNP supported remaining within the EU during the 2016 referendum where every Scottish council area backed this position. Consequently, the party opposed Brexit and sought a People's Vote on the withdrawal agreement, ultimately unsuccessfully. Indeed, the SNP would like to see an independent Scotland as a member of the European Union and NATO and has left open the prospect of an independent Scotland joining the Euro.
The SNP has also taken a stance against Russian interference abroad – the party supporting the enlargement of the EU and NATO to areas such as the Western Balkans and Ukraine to counter this influence. Indeed, the party has called for repercussions regarding the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and has criticised former leader Alex Salmond for broadcasting a chat show on Kremlin-backed network RT. Consequently, party representatives have expressed support for movements such as Euromaidan that support the independence of countries across Eastern Europe.
The party have supported measures including foreign aid which seek to facilitate international development through various charitable organisations. In recognition of Scotland's historic links to the country, these programmes are mostly focused in Malawi in common with previous Scottish governments. With local authorities across the country, including Glasgow City Council being involved in this partnership since before the SNP took office in 2007.
Health and education policies
The SNP have pledged to uphold the public service nature of NHS Scotland and are consequently opposed to any attempts at privatisation of the health service, including any inclusion in a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States. The party has been fond of increasing provision under the NHS with the introduction of universal baby boxes based on the Finnish scheme. This supported child development alongside other commitments including the expansion of free childcare for children younger than school age and the introduction of universal free school meals in the first three years of school.
Previously, SNP governments have abolished hospital parking charges as well as prescription charges in efforts to promote enhanced public health outcomes by increasing access to care and treatment. Furthermore, during Sturgeon's premiership, Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce alcohol minimum unit pricing to counter alcohol problems. Recently, the party has also committed to providing universal access to sanitary products and the liberalisation of drugs policy through devolution, in an effort to increase access to treatment and improve public health outcomes.
The party also promotes universal access to education, with one of the first acts of the Salmond government being to abolish tuition fees. More cently, the party has turned its attention to widening access to higher education with Nicola Sturgeon stating that education is her number one priority. At school level, the Curriculum for Excellence is currently undergoing a review.
The foundations of the SNP are a belief that Scotland would be more prosperous by being governed independently from the United Kingdom, although the party was defeated in the 2014 referendum on this issue. The party has since sought to hold a second referendum at some point in the future, perhaps related to the outcome of Brexit, as the party sees a referendum as the only route to independence. The party is constitutionalist and as such rejects holding such a referendum unilaterally or any course of actions that could lead to comparisons with cases such as Catalonia with the party seeing independence as a process that should be undertaken through a consensual process alongside the UK Government. As part of this process towards independence, the party supports increased devolution to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government, particularly in areas such as welfare and immigration.
Official SNP policy is supportive of the monarchy however members are divided on the issue. The party does propose reducing the funds spent on the royal family. Separately, the SNP has always opposed the UK's unelected upper house and would like to see both it and the House of Commons elected by a form of proportional representation. The party also supports the introduction of a written constitution, either for an independent Scotland or the UK as a whole, going as far as producing a proposed interim constitution for Scotland during the independence referendum campaign.
Fundamentalists and gradualists
The SNP leadership generally subscribe to the gradualist viewpoint, that being the idea that Scottish independence can be won by the accumulation by the Scottish Parliament of powers that the UK Parliament currently has over time. It is also a philosophy that emphasises the election of an SNP government should bring about trust in the Scottish people in the ability to govern themselves, thus bringing increased support for independence.
Fundamentalism stands in opposition to the so-called gradualist point of view, which believes that the SNP should emphasise independence more widely to achieve it. The argument goes that if the SNP is unprepared to argue for its central policy then it is unlikely ever to persuade the public of its worthiness.
Leader of the Scottish National Party
|Leader of the Scottish National Party|
|Portrait||Political Office||Took Office||Left Office|
|Sir Alexander MacEwen
|Provost of Inverness (1925-1931)
Councillor for Benbecula (1931-1941)
founding member, Scottish Party
|7 April 1934||1936|
|Andrew Dewar Gibb
|Candidate for Combined Scottish Universities (1936, 1938)
former Scottish Party member
|Candidate for Argyllshire (1940)||1940||30 May 1942|
|Candidate for Kirkcaldy Burghs (1944)||30 May 1942||9 June 1945|
|Prof Bruce Watson
|9 June 1945||May 1947|
|Dr Robert McIntyre
|MP for Motherwell (1945)
Provost of Stirling (1967-1975)
Councillor for Stirling (1956-1975)
|May 1947||June 1956|
|Candidate for Stirling and Falkirk (1955 and 1959)
Candidate for West Fife (1970)
|June 1956||5 June 1960|
|Councillor for Angus (1946-1955)
Councillor for Forfar (1945-1968)
|5 June 1960||1 June 1969|
|Candidate for West Lothian (1970-79)||1 June 1969||15 September 1979|
|MP for Dundee East (1974-1987)||15 September 1979||22 September 1990|
|The Right Hon. Alex Salmond
|MP for Banff and Buchan (1987-2010)
MSP for Banff and Buchan (1999-2001)
|22 September 1990||26 September 2000|
|Deputy First Minister (since 2014)
MSP for Perthshire North (since 2011)
MSP for North Tayside (1999-2011)
MP for North Tayside (1997-2001)
|26 September 2000||3 September 2004|
|The Right Hon. Alex Salmond
|First Minister (2007-2014)
MSP for Aberdeenshire East (2011-2016)
MSP for Gordon (2007-2011)
MP for Gordon (2015-2017)
|3 September 2004||14 November 2014|
|The Right Hon. Nicola Sturgeon
|First Minister (since 2014)
MSP for Glasgow Southside (since 2011)
MSP for Glasgow Govan (2007-2011)
MSP for Glasgow (1999-2007)
|14 November 2014||Incumbent|
Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party
|Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party|
|Portrait||Political Office||Took Office||Left Office|
|Councillor for Stirling (1950s)||17 May 1964||5 June 1966|
|Candidate for West Lothian (1966)||5 June 1966||1 June 1969|
|Councillor for Calderwood/St Leonards (1974-1978)||1 June 1969||30 May 1971|
|MP for East Aberdeenshire (1974-1979)||30 May 1971||3 June 1973|
|MP for Dundee East (1974-1987)||3 June 1973||2 June 1974|
|MSP for Lothian (1999-2014)
MP for Glasgow Govan (1973-1974)
|2 June 1974||15 September 1979|
|MP for East Aberdeenshire (1974-1979)||15 September 1979||30 May 1981|
|Candidate for Dunfermline West (1983)||30 May 1981||15 September 1984|
|MSP for Moray (1999-2006)
MP for Moray (1987-2001)
MP for East Dunbartonshire (1974-1979)
|15 September 1984||26 September 1987|
|The Right Hon. Alex Salmond
|MP for Banff and Buchan (1987-2010)||26 September 1987||22 September 1990|
|MSP for South of Scotland (2003-2011)
MSP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (1999-2003)
MP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (1997-2001)
|22 September 1990||22 September 1991|
|MP for Glasgow Govan (1988-1992)
MP for South Ayrshire (1970-1979)
|22 September 1991||25 September 1992|
|MEP for North East Scotland (1994-1998)||25 September 1992||25 August 1998|
|MSP for North Tayside (1999-2011)
MP for North Tayside (1997-2001)
|25 August 1998||26 September 2000|
|MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire (since 2011)
MSP for Perth (1999-2011)
MP for Perth (1997-2001)
MP for Perth and Kinross (1995-1997)
|26 September 2000||3 September 2004|
|The Right Hon. Nicola Sturgeon
|Deputy First Minister (2007-2014)
MSP for Glasgow Southside (since 2011)
MSP for Glasgow Govan (2007-2011)
MSP for Glasgow (1999-2007)
|3 September 2004||14 November 2014|
|MP for Dundee East (since 2005)||14 November 2014||13 October 2016|
|The Right Hon. Angus Robertson
|MP for Moray (2001-2017)||13 October 2016||8 June 2018|
|MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane (since 2011)
MSP for Ochil (2007-2011)
Leader of Clackmannanshire Council (2003-2007)
Councillor for Alva (1999-2007)
|8 June 2018||Incumbent|
President of the Scottish National Party
- James Graham, 6th Duke of Montrose and Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (joint), 1934–1936
- Roland Muirhead, 1936–1950
- Tom Gibson, 1950–1958
- Robert McIntyre, 1958–1980
- William Wolfe, 1980–1982
- Donald Stewart, 1982–1987
- Winnie Ewing, 1987–2005
- Ian Hudghton, 2005–present
National Secretary of the Scottish National Party
- John MacCormick, 1934–1942
- Robert McIntyre, 1942–1947
- Mary Fraser Dott, 1947–1951
- Robert Curran, 1951–1954
- John Smart, 1954–1963
- Malcolm Shaw, 1963–1964
- Gordon Wilson, 1964–1971
- Muriel Gibson, 1971–1972
- Rosemary Hall, 1972–1975
- Muriel Gibson, 1975–1977
- Chrissie MacWhirter, 1977–1979
- Iain Murray, 1979–1981
- Neil MacCallum, 1981–1986
- John Swinney, 1986–1992
- Alasdair Morgan, 1992–1997
- Stewart Hosie, 1999–2003
- Alasdair Allan, 2003–2006
- Duncan Ross, 2006–2009
- William Henderson, 2009–2012
- Patrick Grady, 2012–2016
- Dr Angus MacLeod, 2016–present
Leader of the parliamentary party, Scottish Parliament
- Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan), 1999–2000
- John Swinney (North Tayside), 2000–2004
- Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow), 2004–2007
- Alex Salmond (Aberdeenshire East), 2007–2014
- Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow Southside) 2014–present
Leader of the parliamentary party, House of Commons
- Donald Stewart (Western Isles), 1974–1987
- Margaret Ewing (Moray), 1987–1999
- Alasdair Morgan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale), 1999–2001
- Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan), 2001–2007
- Angus Robertson (Moray), 2007–2017
- Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber), 2017–present
Chief Executive Officer
Current SNP Council Leaders
- Clackmannanshire: Les Sharp (Clackmannanshire West), since 2017
- Dundee City: John Alexander (Strathmartine), since 2017
- East Ayrshire: Douglas Reid (Kilmarnock West and Crosshouse), since 2007
- East Renfrewshire: Tony Buchanan (Newton Mearns North and Neilston), since 2017
- City of Edinburgh: Adam McVey (Leith), since 2017
- Falkirk: Cecil Meiklejohn (Falkirk North), since 2017
- Fife: David Alexander (Leven, Kennoway and Largo), since 2017
- Glasgow City: Susan Aitken (Langside), since 2017
- Moray: Graham Leadbitter (Elgin South), since 2018
- Renfrewshire: Iain Nicolson (Erskine and Inchinnan), since 2017
- South Ayrshire: Douglas Campbell (Ayr North), since 2017
- South Lanarkshire: John Ross (Hamilton South), since 2017
- Stirling: Scott Farmer (Stirling West), since 2017
- West Dunbartonshire: Jonathon McColl (Lomond), since 2017
Government Ministers and Shadow Cabinet
House of Commons
As of January 2020, the Shadow Cabinet of the SNP in Westminster is as follows.
|Westminster Leader||The Right Hon. Ian Blackford MP
(Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
|Westminster Deputy Leader
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Wales
|Kirsten Oswald MP
|Shadow Chancellor||Alison Thewliss MP
|Shadow Foreign Secretary||Alyn Smith MP
|Shadow Home Secretary
Shadow Justice Secretary
|Joanna Cherry QC MP
(Edinburgh South West)
|Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU
|Dr Philippa Whitford MP
|Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport||John Nicolson MP
(Ochil and South Perthshire)
|Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland||Mhairi Black MP
(Paisley and Renfrewshire South)
|Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government||David Linden MP
|Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities||Anne McLaughlin MP
(Glasgow North East)
|Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade||Stewart Hosie MP
|Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy||Drew Hendry MP
(Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)
|Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions||Neil Gray MP
(Airdrie and Shotts)
|Shadow Defence Secretary||Stewart McDonald MP
|Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Minister for Immigration||Stuart McDonald MP
(Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East)
|Shadow Secretary of State for Transport||Gavin Newlands MP
(Paisley and Renfrewshire North)
|Shadow Secretary of State for Education
Shadow Minister for Military Personnel and Veterans
|Carol Monaghan MP
(Glasgow North West)
|Shadow Secretary of State for International Development||Chris Law MP
|Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs||Deidre Brock MP
(Edinburgh North and Leith)
|Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
|Pete Wishart MP
(Perth and North Perthshire)
|Shadow Leader of the House of Commons||Tommy Sheppard MP
Present elected representatives
Members of the Scottish Parliament
Members of Parliament
|Year||Leader||Regional Members||Constituency Members||Total seats||Change||Position||Government|
MSP for Banff and Buchan
28 / 56
7 / 73
35 / 129
|Labour–Lib Dem coalition|
MSP for North Tayside
18 / 56
9 / 73
27 / 129
|Labour–Lib Dem coalition|
MSP for Gordon (2007)
MSP for Aberdeenshire East (2011)
26 / 56
21 / 73
47 / 129
16 / 56
53 / 73
69 / 129
MSP for Glasgow Southside
4 / 56
59 / 73
63 / 129
House of Commons
|1935||Sir Alexander MacEwen
Candidate in Western Isles
0 / 71
Candidate in Kirkcaldy Burghs
0 / 71
Candidate in Motherwell (1950)
Candidate in Perth and East Perthshire (1951 and 55)
0 / 71
0 / 71
0 / 71
Candidate in Stirling and Falkirk
0 / 71
Candidate in Kinross and Western Perthshire
0 / 71
0 / 71
Candidate in West Lothian
1 / 71
7 / 71
11 / 71
2 / 71
MP for Dundee East
2 / 72
3 / 72
MP for Banff and Buchan
3 / 72
6 / 72
MSP for North Tayside
5 / 72
MP for Banff and Buchan (2005)
MSP for Gordon (2010)
6 / 59
6 / 59
MSP for Glasgow Southside
56 / 59
35 / 59
48 / 59
181 / 1,222
201 / 1,222
171 / 1,222
363 / 1,222
|Single transferable vote introduced.|
425 / 1,223
431 / 1,227
Results by council (2017)
19 / 45
21 / 70
9 / 28
|Argyll and Bute||27.7%||
11 / 36
8 / 18
|Dumfries and Galloway||21.6%||
11 / 43
14 / 29
14 / 32
7 / 22
|SNP minority (2017-2018)|
|Opposition (since 2018)|
6 / 22
5 / 18
|City of Edinburgh||27.0%||
19 / 63
12 / 30
29 / 75
39 / 85
22 / 74
7 / 22
6 / 18
9 / 26
|SNP minority (since 2018)|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||19.2%||
7 / 31
11 / 33
33 / 77
0 / 21
|Perth and Kinross||31.2%||
15 / 40
19 / 43
9 / 34
1 / 22
9 / 28
27 / 64
9 / 23
10 / 22
13 / 33
European Parliament (1979–2020)
1 / 8
1 / 8
1 / 8
2 / 8
2 / 8
|Proportional representation introduced.|
2 / 7
2 / 6
2 / 6
3 / 6
|Last European election before Brexit.|
Two-tier local councils (1975–1996)
|District Councils||Regional and Island Councils|
|Year||Votes||Seats won||Councils won||Year||Votes||Seats won||Councils won|
62 / 1,158
1 / 53
18 / 524
0 / 12
170 / 1,158
5 / 53
18 / 524
0 / 12
54 / 1,158
0 / 53
23 / 524
0 / 12
59 / 1,158
1 / 53
36 / 524
0 / 12
113 / 1,158
1 / 53
42 / 524
0 / 12
150 / 1,158
1 / 53
73 / 453
0 / 12
- Culture of Scotland
- Politics of Scotland
- History of Scottish devolution
- It's Scotland's oil
- Radio Free Scotland
- Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
- The National (Scotland)
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