Scottish National Party

Scottish National Party
  • Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba
  • Scots Naitional Pairtie

Leader Nicola Sturgeon
Depute leader Angus Robertson
House of Commons Group Leader Angus Robertson
Founded 1934 (1934)
Merger of
Headquarters Gordon Lamb House, Edinburgh, Scotland
Student wing Federation of Student Nationalists
Youth wing Young Scots for Independence
Membership  (2016) Increase 120,203
Ideology Scottish nationalism[1][2]
Civic nationalism[3][4]
Social democracy[6][7]
Political position Centre-left[9][10][11][12]
European affiliation European Free Alliance
European Parliament group Greens/EFA
Colours      Yellow
House of Commons (Scottish seats)
54 / 59
House of Lords
0 / 813
European Parliament (Scottish seats)
2 / 6
Scottish Parliament
63 / 129
Local government in Scotland[13]
405 / 1,223

The Scottish National Party (SNP; Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Naitional Pairtie) is a Scottish nationalist[14][15] and social-democratic[16][17][18] political party in Scotland. The SNP supports and campaigns for Scottish independence.[5][19] It is the third-largest political party by membership in the United Kingdom, as well as by overall representation in the House of Commons, behind the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, and is the largest party in Scotland, where it dominates both the Scottish Parliament and the country's parliamentary delegation to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, is the current First Minister of Scotland.

Founded in 1934 with the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party, the party has had continuous parliamentary representation since Winnie Ewing won the 1967 Hamilton by-election.[20] With the advent of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the SNP became the second largest party, serving two terms as the opposition. The SNP came to power in the 2007 Scottish general election, forming a minority government, before going on to win the 2011 election, after which it formed Scotland's first majority government.[21]

The SNP is the largest political party in Scotland in terms of membership, reaching over 120,000 members in July 2016,[22] around 2% of the Scottish population. Currently the party has 63 MSPs,[23] 54 MPs and approximately 400 local councillors.[24] The SNP also currently has 2 MEPs in the European Parliament, who sit in The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) group. The SNP is a member of the European Free Alliance (EFA). The party does not have any members of the House of Lords, in accordance with party policy.[25]


The SNP was formed in 1934 through the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party, with Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham as its first president. 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 SNP first won a parliamentary seat at the Motherwell by-election in 1945, but Robert McIntyre MP lost the seat at the general election three months later. They next won a seat in 1967, when Winnie Ewing was the surprise winner of a by-election in the previously safe Labour seat of Hamilton. This brought the SNP to national prominence, leading to the establishment of the Kilbrandon Commission.

The SNP hit a high point in the October 1974 general election, polling almost a third of all votes in Scotland and returning 11 MPs to Westminster. This success was not surpassed until the 2015 general election. However, the party experienced a large drop in its support at the 1979 General election, followed by a further drop at the 1983 election.

In the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary general election the SNP emerged as the largest party with 47 seats, narrowly ousting the Scottish Labour Party with 46 seats and Alex Salmond became Scottish First Minister. 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.[26]

In May 2011, the SNP won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament with 69 seats. Overall majorities are unusual in the Additional Member system that is used for elections to the Scottish Parliament,[27]

Based on their 2011 majority, the SNP government held 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.[28]

The SNP rebounded from the loss in the independence referendum at the UK general election in May 2015, led by Salmond's successor as first minister, 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. BBC News described the historic result as a "Scots landslide".[29]

Constitution and structure

The primary level of organisation in the SNP are the local Branches. 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:

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 discussion 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 (Scottish, Westminster and European) and councillors have representation on the NEC, as do the Trade Union Group, the youth wing and the student wing.

National Office Bearers


Since 18 September 2014 (the day of the Scottish independence referendum) party membership has more than quadrupled (from 25,642), surpassing the Liberal Democrats to become the third largest political party in the United Kingdom in terms of membership.[30] As of March 2015, the Party had well exceeded the 100,000 membership mark.[31]

According to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission for the year ending 2012, the party had a total income of £2,300,459 and a total expenditure of about £2,656,059.[32]

European affiliation

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. The SNP and Plaid Cymru were involved in joint campaigning during the 2005 General Election campaign. Both the SNP and Plaid Cymru, along with Mebyon Kernow from Cornwall, 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.

Prior to 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).

Party ideology

Historical ideology

The SNP's policy base is mostly in the mainstream European social democratic tradition. Among its policies are commitments to same-sex marriage, reducing the voting age to 16, unilateral nuclear disarmament, progressive personal taxation, the eradication of poverty, the building of affordable social housing, government subsidised higher education, opposition to the building of new nuclear power plants, investment in renewable energy, the abolition of Air Passenger Duty, and a pay increase for nurses.[33][34]

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.[35][36] During the period from its foundation until the 1960s, the SNP was essentially a moderate centrist party.[35] Debate within the party focused more on the SNP being distinct as an all-Scotland national movement, with it being neither of the left or the right, but constituting a new politics that sought to put Scotland first.[36][37]

The SNP was formed through the merger of the centre-left National Party of Scotland (NPS) and the centre-right Scottish Party.[36] 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 in relation to 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.[35] Party policies supported the economic and social policy status quo of the post-war welfare state.[35][38]

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.[39][40] The emergence of Billy Wolfe as a leading figure in the SNP also contributed to this movement to the left. 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.[40] 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.[41] 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 by central and local government, pensions adjusted to cost of living, a minimum wage and an improved national health service.[35]

The ’60s 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 cooperative.[35] 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.[42][43] There was also an unsuccessful proposal at the 1975 party conference to rename the party as the Scottish National Party (Social Democrats).[44]

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 poll tax.[35]

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.[35]

Current ideology

In its economic and welfare state policies, the party has in recent years adopted a markedly feminist profile, influenced by thinkers such as Ailsa McKay.[45] The SNP is against the renewal of Trident and wants to continue providing free university education in Scotland.[46]

The SNP is also a Pro-European party, in which it would like to see an independent Scotland as a member of the European Union.[47]


Leaders of the Scottish National Party

Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of the Scottish National Party

Depute Leaders of the Scottish National Party

Presidents of the Scottish National Party

National Secretaries of the Scottish National Party

Leaders of the parliamentary party, Scottish Parliament

Leaders of the parliamentary party, House of Commons

Ministers and spokespeople

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio SNP Spokesperson
Leader of the Scottish National Party
First Minister of Scotland
Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland
Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Deputy First Minister of Scotland
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
John Swinney MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution Derek Mackay MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Shona Robison MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown MSP
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing MSP
Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald MSP
Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP
Minister for Parliamentary Business Joe FitzPatrick MSP
Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf MSP
Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn MSP
Minister for Public Health and Sport Aileen Campbell MSP
Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt MSP
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing MSP
Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart MSP
Minister for Social Security (Scotland) Jeane Freeman MSP
Minister for International Development and Europe Dr Alasdair Allan MSP
Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe Mike Russell MSP

United Kingdom Parliament

Portfolio SNP Spokesperson
Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party
Group Leader in the House of Commons
Rt Hon Angus Robertson MP
Deputy Group Leader
Stewart Hosie MP
Group Secretary
Social Justice and Welfare
Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP
Justice and Home Affairs Joanna Cherry QC MP
International Affairs and Europe Rt Hon Alex Salmond MP
Defence Brendan O'Hara MP
Trade and Investment
Deputy Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh OBE MP
Fair Work and Employment Neil Gray MP
Transport Drew Hendry MP
Environment and Rural Affairs Calum Kerr MP
Energy and Climate Change Callum McCaig MP
Public Services and Education Carol Monaghan MP
Business, Innovation and Skills Hannah Bardell MP
Health Dr Philippa Whitford MP
Member of the Group Executive
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Pete Wishart MP
Chief Whip Michael Weir MP
Scottish Parliament/Scottish Government Liaison Deidre Brock MP

European Parliament

Portfolio SNP Spokesperson
President of the Scottish National Party
Fisheries; Regional Development
Ian Hudghton MEP
Agriculture and Rural Development Alyn Smith MEP

Elected representatives (current)

Members of the Scottish Parliament

Members of Parliament

Members of the European Parliament


The SNP had 425 councillors in Local Government elected from the Scottish local elections, 2012.

Electoral performance

Scottish Parliament Elections

Year[48] Share of constituency votes Seats won Position Outcome Additional Information
35 / 129
(including 7 First Past the Post seats)
2nd Opposition First election to the re-constituted Scottish Parliament. Became the official opposition to the coalition of Labour and Liberal Democrats.
27 / 129
(including 9 First Past the Post seats)
2nd Opposition
47 / 129
(including 21 First Past the Post seats)
1st Minority Government Largest party in the Scottish Parliament; formed the Scottish Government.
69 / 129
(including 53 First Past the Post seats)
1st Majority Government Formed the first majority Scottish Government.
63 / 129
(including 59 First Past the Post seats)
1st Minority Government

District Council Elections

Year[49] Share of votes Seats won
62 / 1,158
170 / 1,158
54 / 1,158
59 / 1,158
113 / 1,158
150 / 1,158

Regional Council Elections

Year[49] Share of votes Seats won
18 / 524
18 / 524
23 / 524
36 / 524
42 / 524
73 / 453

Local Council Elections

Year[49] Share of votes Seats won Additional Information
181 / 1,222
201 / 1,222
171 / 1,222
200729.7% (first preference)
363 / 1,222
Largest party in local government (first ever Scottish local elections to be held under the Single Transferable Vote).
201232.33% (first preference)
425 / 1,223
Largest party in local government; received largest number of first preference votes.

UK General Elections

Year[49] Share of votes Seats won Additional Information
1935 1.1%
0 / 71
1945 1.2%
0 / 71
1950 0.4%
0 / 71
1951 0.3%
0 / 71
1955 0.5%
0 / 71
1959 0.5%
0 / 71
1964 2.4%
0 / 71
1966 5.0%
0 / 71
1970 11.4%
1 / 71
1974 (Feb) 21.9%
7 / 71
1974 (Oct) 30.4%
11 / 71
High-water mark, until 2015. Increased presence contributed to Labour holding a devolution referendum in 1979.
1979 17.3%
2 / 71
Poor performance compared to the two 1974 elections caused internal ructions during the 1980s.
1983 11.7%
2 / 72
1987 14.0%
3 / 72
1992 21.5%
3 / 72
1997 22.1%
6 / 72
2001 20.1%
5 / 72
2005 17.7%
6 / 59
2010 19.9%
6 / 59
2015 50.0%
56 / 59
Overall high-water mark and the first time the SNP gained an absolute majority of seats in Scotland.

European Parliament Elections

Year[49] Share of votes Seats won Additional Information
1979 19.4%
1 / 8
1984 17.8%
1 / 8
1989 25.6%
1 / 8
1994 32.6%
2 / 8
1999 27.2%
2 / 8
2004 19.7%
2 / 7
2009 29.1%
2 / 6
The first European Parliament elections in which the SNP won the most votes within Scotland.[50]
2014 29.0%
2 / 6
SNP won the most votes within Scotland.

See also


  1. Hassan, Gerry (2009), The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, Edinburgh University Press, pp. 5, 9
  2. Christopher Harvie (2004). Scotland and Nationalism: Scottish Society and Politics, 1707 to the Present. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-32724-4.
  3. Mitchell, James; Bennie, Lynn; Johns, Rob (2012), The Scottish National Party: Transition to Power, Oxford University Press, pp. 107–116
  4. Keating, Michael (2009), "Nationalist Movements in Comparative Perspective", The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, Edinburgh University Press, pp. 214–217
  5. 1 2 Frans Schrijver (2006). Regionalism After Regionalisation: Spain, France and the United Kingdom. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 261–290. ISBN 978-90-5629-428-1.
  6. Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe".
  7. Hassan, Gerry (2009), The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, Edinburgh University Press, pp. 4–5
  8. Scotland to campaign officially to remain in the EU.
    The Guardian [online]. Published 3 March 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2016. Author - Severin Carrell.
  9. Robert Garner; Richard Kelly (15 June 1998). British Political Parties Today. Manchester University Press. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-7190-5105-0.
  10. Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko; Matti Mälkiä (2007). Encyclopedia of Digital Government. Idea Group Inc (IGI). p. 398. ISBN 978-1-59140-790-4. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
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  12.; International Business Publications, USA (1 January 2012). Scotland Business Law Handbook: Strategic Information and Laws. Int'l Business Publications. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-4387-7095-6.
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  14. Amir Abedi (2004). Anti-political Establishment Parties: A Comparative Analysis. Psychology Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-415-31961-4.
  15. Political Systems of the World. Allied Publishers. p. 122. ISBN 978-81-7023-307-7.
  16. "About Us".
  17. Eve Hepburn (18 October 2013). New Challenges for Stateless Nationalist and Regionalist Parties. Routledge. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-317-96596-1.
  18. Bob Lingard (24 July 2013). Politics, Policies and Pedagogies in Education: The Selected Works of Bob Lingard. Routledge. p. 120. ISBN 978-1-135-01998-3.
  19. Michael O'Neill (22 May 2014). Devolution and British Politics. Routledge. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-317-87365-5.
  20. Heisey, Monica. "Making the case for an "aye" in Scotland". Alumni Review. Queen's University. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  21. Carrell, Severin (11 May 2011). "MSPs sworn in at Holyrood after SNP landslide". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
  22. "Scotland 'on the brink of independence' says SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson". The Herald. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
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  27. "alex-salmonds-snp-wins-majority-in-scottish-elections". Retrieved 12 July 2011.
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  30. Gavin Stuart. "Thousands join pro-independence SNP, Greens and SSP after referendum – News – Scotland Decides". STV Scotland Decides.
  31. "The SNP on Twitter". Twitter.
  32. "Search – The Electoral Commission".
  33. "Re-elect a Scottish Government working for Scotland. Scottish National Party Manifesto" (PDF). Scottish National Party. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  34. "Cut to APD vital for Scotland's future success". Scottish National Party. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  35. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Peter Lynch (2002). SNP: The History of the Scottish National Party. Welsh Academic Press.
  36. 1 2 3 Jack Brand (1978). The National Movement in Scotland. Routledge and Kegan Paul. pp. 216–17.
  37. Jack Brand (1990). ‘Scotland’, in Watson, Michael (ed.), Contemporary Minority Nationalism. Routledge. p. 28.
  38. Gerry Hassan (2009). The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power. Edinburgh University Press. p. 120.
  39. Jack Brand (1990). ‘Scotland’, in Watson, Michael (ed.), Contemporary Minority Nationalism. Routledge. p. 32.
  40. 1 2 James Mitchell (1996). Strategies for Self-government: The Campaigns for a Scottish Parliament. Polygon. p. 208.
  41. James Mitchell (1996). Strategies for Self-government: The Campaigns for a Scottish Parliament. Polygon. p. 194.
  42. Jack Brand (1990). ‘Scotland’, in Watson, Michael (ed.), Contemporary Minority Nationalism. Routledge. p. 27.
  43. Gerry Hassan (2009). The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power. Edinburgh University Press. p. 121.
  44. Eve Hepburn (18 October 2013). New Challenges for Stateless Nationalist and Regionalist Parties. Routledge. p. 143. ISBN 978-1-317-96596-1.
  45. Alex Salmond to pay tribute to late academic Ailsa McKay,, 22/01/2015
  46. "Election 2015: Scottish National Party manifesto at-a-glance".
  47. "Nicola Sturgeon calls for Scottish veto on EU referendum". The Guardian. 29 October 2014.
  48. "The Scottish National Party". 30 March 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  49. 1 2 3 4 5 "The Scottish National Party". 30 March 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  50. "Salmond hails 'historic' Euro win". BBC. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2009.

Further reading

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