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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A Letter to my MP on Changes to the Hunting Act

There is a lot in the news right now about changes to the 2004 Hunting Act, specifically to allow hunters to use a full pack of hounds to flush out foxes for the purposes of pest control. Currently only a pair of dogs may be used.

Dr Brian May and many others are campaigning tirelessly on this as many, myself included see this as a way of returning to full hunting with dogs. A cynic might also think that this is a change being pushed through by a Conservative party looking to appease landowners, donors, friends and countryside voters still aggrieved since the act became law 10 years ago.

If the government wants to repeal the act then propose to do it in full rather than weaken and dilute it and then debate it and vote freely!

I’ve written to my MP to let him know my feelings, as below. Take the time to do the same if you feel strongly about it or they will never know what you think.

Dear Mel Stride,

I hope this finds you well. I am writing to you regarding the forthcoming vote on changes to the hunting act. As I understand it the amendment is to bring us in line with Scotland where a full pack of hounds can be used to flush out a fox before shooting it rather than a pair currently.

I agree with many campaigners that this will lead to a return to full hunting rather than aiding pest control; that hunts will quickly be able to return to the old ways of full, traditional meets chasing down a fox rather than a scent trail.

The argument seems to be framed as “the countryside” vs. “lefty” animal rights campaigners, that those in towns don’t understand the need to manage the countryside and its wildlife and that can often lead to it being a left vs. right argument or Labour vs. Conservative which i think is wrong and also a shame that either side might look to simplify it so.

As I remember, the vote on the hunting act in 2004 was complicated and the culmination of many years of proposals but now it is law I believe it would be a backward step to ease the law and potentially allow full hunting to resume.

I understand the need to control certain species but believe that this can be done humanely, with no element of “sport” and without a sense of enjoyment in the hunting to exhaustion and killing of a terrified animal with a pack of dogs. I also do not believe that any of the previous arguments about tradition, a country way of life or the economic impact of not hunting can apply any longer given that it is now 10 years since the act became law.

I obviously don’t know your thoughts on this, you were not an MP at the time of the original vote, but I do know that you like to know and will bear in mind your constituents feelings when voting or discussing with the Whips office.

Yours sincerely,

Rich Mills