Could the SNP be a viable political party for England and Wales?

Both during the run up to and in the months following the 2015 General Election I watched the progress of the SNP with a touch of envy. Here was a party which was saying what I wanted to hear; a modern take on socialism but along with that an understanding of the needs of businesses in their country, a party wanting to strike a balance between the needs of the people and economic stability.

Of course, I had a problem with their original raison d’etre – Scottish independence – as I want to see Scotland remain part of the UK and I think all the home nations are stronger for it, but aside from that this was a party which spoke to me and whose views were fairly representative of my own.

It wasn’t too long ago that Labour and the Conservatives campaigned together to maintain the Union but now the SNP are a strong party in Westminster, the establishment parties – and I include Labour in that – are calling to exclude Scottish MPs from voting on English matters! Why is that though? Can any matter be truly Scottish or English only given that we have a single currency and so many shared resources and infrastructures?

The Conservatives are obviously scared of a strong, confident party which speaks up for the people; a party which is big enough to influence voting but also one which can influence the thinking of the nation with its strong, clear position on issues such as benefit reform, fox hunting and our nuclear deterrent.

What of Labour? The SNP seem to be presenting a traditional labour viewpoint on many matters but why is the party of the traditional working class so reticent to partner with them? I believe that many in the Labour Party truly believe that their route back to power lies in attracting idle class, middle-England voters from the Conservative Party; A New “New Labour” if you will. After years of being accused of being Tory-lite under Tony Blair many Labour figures such as Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt and Harriet Harman now seem to see this as their way forward rather than looking to their core party values and membership.

The rapid rise of Jeremy Corbyn demonstrates that party members new and old see him as being in touch with their core values, despite him being perhaps slightly too “left” for some.Party members recognise in him a sense of decency and a wish to do the right thing for those most in need. They see someone sharing some common ground with past Labour leading lights such as Tony Benn and John Smith and maybe even Dennis Skinner; someone willing to stand up and carry the fight across the floor of the commons without fearing a negative response from the right wing press.

Newly elected SNP MP Mhairi Black in her now famous maiden speech quite openly told the few Labour MPs present that the SNP was founded on the same strong socialist values of the Labour Party of old. The SNP were offering a hand to the Labour Party and many voters would have looked to them and said, “That’s it, that’s what we want!” but the Labour leadership are undecided, unsure of what they are, what they could be or even what they want to be.

So, is there a chance that the SNP could become a valid party for the other home nations? This article on a surge in SNP membership South of the border would seem to suggest it can.

The SNP message is attractive to voters from several parties – Green, Labour, Lib Dem and also Conservative. A party pushing for a more inclusive, fairer society. A welfare system which recognises that poverty and benefits might not be the lifestyle choice that the rhetoric of other politicians might seem to suggest. A party which sees a renewed, conventional nuclear deterrent as faintly ridiculous given the talk of a need to balance the books and wipe out the deficit.

In Nicola Sturgeon the SNP have a credible leader who refuses to be bullied, who doesn’t toe the establishment line and speaks out for those who need support. Is it a credible alternative though? Sturgeon performed incredibly well in televised debates in the lead up to the election and opinion pole ratings showed a party on a par with some established UK wide parties despite the fact that relatively few people could vote for them. I believe the SNP can build on May’s results and I also believe (and hope) that the quest for Scottish independence will be replaced by a party striving for a more Democratic UK, a more inclusive UK and an altogether more positive UK.

How long will it be before we see an SNP candidate South of the border? Only time will tell but many of us will be watching with interest.

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15 thoughts on “Could the SNP be a viable political party for England and Wales?

  1. Possibly, but something almost happened in the last UK general election that goes on regularly in most other democratic countries that aren’t tied to FPTP. Distinct smaller parties form alliances where they agree core policies, put that to the electorate and then the electorate can vote for the alliance. It could work in FPTP. SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru made noises about something like this, but then didn’t really do it.

    Having voted most of my life in the UK where my vote either never seemed to count or I’d hold my nose and vote tactically for someone was always a depressing experience. I’ve now voted in Spain in EU and Local Elections, and you feel like your vote counted for something. I could drill down on a website to see that my vote for Esquerra Unida els Verds helped get someone into the EU parliament. There is no Peter Snow to try and explain things here because it’s all very simple.

    Due to the EU and UK nationality voting rules I’ll probably vote in the UK EU referendum and UK 2020 General Election, not the next Spanish General Election.

    SNP could stand in Northumbria, Carlisle, Newcastle, but what if they’re voted in in Luton, and then get independence?

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    • Hi Nacho, thanks so much for taking the time to read my ramblings and comment too, I’m glad it makes sense.

      Yes, I’ve wondered about the alliance of smaller parties approach too but it seemed like the conservative party also considered that and hence the obviously biased reporting of a Labour/SNP coalition earlier in the year – it scared voters (for no good reason) and and also scared the Labour Party too. The SNP saw what was coming and wanted to work with labour for the common good (cliche alert!) but it was ignored sadly.

      I really think there’s an opportunity for the SNP in traditional labour areas but the independence thing will need to be put to one side. Exciting times, hey?

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  2. I am afraid that if the SNP were to stand in England and it is only England. As we would never stand in Wales that is Plaid country. It would need to be done by SNP members living and working in England off their own backs. Know that is not to say that some within the party would not like to see those who subscribe to our view of a civic nationalism become involved in politic’s but to stand under an SNP ticket they would have to agree with Scottish Independence and be vetted by the Party.

    I suggest that those who want a center-left alternative to Tory and Red Tory rule get round a table with other groups such as Yorkshire First, T.U.S.C, Left Unity and others and hammer out a coherent policy platform then merge into a National Party of England (NPoE). However the first thing this new group would need to do would be to place a elected English Parliament as party policy that would allow the SNP to call them a sister party and offer advice on how to grow as a political force.

    These are just musings and perhaps will never come to pass but we can but dream.

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    • hello! thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts. Interesting idea but do you not think that the SNP would drop the independence ticket if it could be a true UK-wide party; one that could affect change?

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  3. In reply as a member I can only speak for those I know and have known for over 30 years as a member and the simple answer is no it is central to our very existence as a political force. However I have argued that we should stand a candidate in the London Mayor an assembly races as many Scots live and work there. I do think that the center left need to either take back the Labour party or form a new Independent English Labour Party/NPoE. There is another chance of SNP involvement if Osbourne and Cameron carry on with the austerity agenda and the Labour party continue to abstain then Some within the party may call on By-Elections in England be contested.

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    • I really do think that anti austerity candidates standing under the SNP banner in England wouldn’t be a bad thing. Whatever happens though it’s interesting times ahead – it’s difficult to predict accurately how it’s going to pan out other than something must change

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  4. What chances there are for a new left of centre voice in England can be related to the growth and change of SNP rather than an expansion. SNP has changed and is changing. For instance, I don’t recall Mhairi Black suggesting that SNP has socialism in its foundation in her superb speech and if so, she was only partly accurate. SNP grew out of a difficult relationship between strong Marxist elements alongside a less attractive form of nationalism than civic nationalism. In the past forty years it became more centrist and more credible and Alex Salmond, through a mixture of political aplomb, personality and bullying made it more credible. However, it went into the referendum much more centrist, in terms of social and economic policies, than it is currently. There was, for instance, a 6% cut in Corporation Tax promised in the White Paper, now dropped. Similarly, Fergus Ewing had a long record of playing the pipes for the oil industry, whereas the moratorium against fracking, while not completely ruling out unconventional gas extraction is a response to pressure from outside allied with new membership. This is the source of potential lessons. Contrary to the SNP versus Better Together model as represented by the BBC, the build up to the referendum brought many wider voices to the fore, in RIC, Common Weal, Yestivals, and National Collective, some with party roots, some from older activist campaigns and some from a newly politicised populace. SNP has seen the potential, taken it on, benefitted from it and, to a fair degree, given back to it. (It is noteworthy that SNP MPs like Black and Sheppard are from old Labour roots.)

    This is where the potential lies in England. There is certainly an appetite for a broadening of the narrow political discourse of Westminster, seen in organisational terms in groups like TUSC, Left Unity and Open Democracy. Its impact is currently in limbo and we will get a better sense after the leadership of Labour and its aftermath becomes clear. Corbyn certainly offers hope and gets support from the membership but even if he is successful in his bid, the task of shifting the glacial mass of Labour within the Westminster bubble is onerous. Many people still see the party as the best bet for an alternative to the Tories, even maintaining their alliance in the face of monetarist economics, chasing the mythical ‘middle England’ and bones being thrown to kippers. If he fails the resolution will come more quickly; if he succeeds in the first part resolution will take longer. As a fairly stereotypical old Labour supporter spending my campaigning energies on less party-led work in environmental, gender, LGBTI and anti-racist work, I can wish him and well-intentioned members hope against likelihood success. However, for a new left grouping in England these are good conditions. For anyone who had any trust in the motives of austerity before the last election, the rampant assault on social services and on the poor and vulnerable and its ideological roots is surely unignorable (Express and Mail readers aside) and the yes-but ‘opposition’ of Labour in Westminster less and less credible. The activism and opinion that is growing is coming from the ground level with the aid of social media and that finding of common ground from veteran activists and newly politicised people feeling unrepresented at Westminster is the only way that a party, an alliance, a movement is going to be able to survive without being dragged into the orthodoxies of Westminster.

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    • Good points all! You’re dead right that there’s opportunity for a new left leaning party or an existing party taking back what it used to stand for. The SNP is an example of what can be with a. But of clear thinking and also simply listening.

      Maybe a party can break away from conventional perception of left or right and position themselves as “social”; social not socialist as such. Representing all in society and aiming offer chances for all.

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  5. When I joined the SNP in 1974 one of its aims was an Independent Scotland, that has not, nor can it change. Given that we believe in the right of Scotland to be an Independent nation, we also believe in the right of England to be an independent nation. As long as we are part of the Union – and I believe that the No voters were wrong last September, we have a responsibility to play our part in the Westminster Parliament, abstentionism has no part in our philosophy, in a unitary state so much is tied into each part that we have to bring progressive policies to play.
    Were we to get involved in Westminster as you suggest – and thank you for the kind words, we would essentially be taking our eye off the ball. our 56 members are at Westminster to do themselves out of a job. You in England, a proud nation have to find your own salvation from the Post Thatcher, post Blair neoliberal state.

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    • Damn right sir, abstaining is a waste of time and betrayal of your voters, past and also potential. You should be proud of what your guys have achieved and what they’re standing up for

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  6. Richymills a very practical and well presented comment, I like many have voted SNP that’s the Scottish national Party, and not the nationalism, or nationalist party since the early 70s in fact all my working life, I could only drop my desire for an independent Scotland, if the alternative Federal system was enshrined in law, these Islands are to diverse in needs and nature to be governed centrally , I speak not as some See you Jimmy Anti English Anti Monarch, in fact I’m not particularly Anti anything, but Very Pro Scotland , Pro working closely with our friends and family of independent nations, I am sure the Establishment must hate forums such as this, they would much rather we only listened to them,I look forward to continuing on our destined course.

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    • Evening Harry and thanks for taking the time to comment, it’s great to see slightly differing views of the SNP from their supporters and understand what they offer to their supporters as well as how it looks to us in England.

      You’re right to about the establishment hating open discussion and opinion too – maybe why the manipulation of the media seems to be worsening?

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  7. I really feel for the English voters who see the SNP as a desirable thing. Truly, there is currently no equivalent voice for them south of the border – this must be very frustrating, even demoralising.
    The Labour Party under Corbyn might be an answer to all of this as he seems to have his heart in the right place, but the Establishment are powerful and will orchestrate every trick imaginable to thwart his chances of succeeding.
    The current situation is no fun for us SNP types either. We hoped for a strong alliance with other anti-austerity parties and with the Labour party of course. Unfortunately, for reasons known only to the upper echelons of the Labour Party, they are going out of their way to sabotage any effective opposition to the Tories.
    Maybe all of this will come back and bite them on the arse sometime soon. Perhaps the shenanigans we are witnessing in Westminster will galvanise the silent masses in England to make their wishes known. If this becomes a reality, the face of UK politics will receive a serious make-over and the same old, same old, status quo will be broken for ever.
    Depending on how things pan out, events may force a different direction and the continued austerity and lack of respect for the less well-off in our society will push Scotland into another referendum.

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    • Hi John, thanks for reading and joining in with your thoughts. You’re right about establishment shenanigans but it’s such a shame that the Labour Party themselves are guilty of this. Corbyn is being undermined by those on his own side as much as the RW press.

      Many in England are as sad you that an alliance between Labour, green, SNP and others isn’t taking it to the Tories. An opportunity missed and millions will suffer

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