21 May 2007

What now for the SNP?

This is the last of my looks at the parties, and now that we have an FM and a Cabinet, it's sensible to wrap it up and think about the SNP's performance.

In 2001, the SNP went into the Westminster Election defending six seats, and came out of the Election with only five. Having lost two MSPs in the second half of the First Scottish Parliament (Dorothy-Grace Elder and Margo MacDonald), the Party went into the 2003 Election with 33 MSPs. They came out with only 27, immediately lost another (George Reid) to the Presiding Officer's post, and then booted another out, leaving them with only 25. In 2004, the European Election result was enough to terminate John Swinney's leadership, and the Party turned back to Alex Salmond, but in 2005 the SNP came third in the Westminster Election, losing second place to the Liberal Democrats. So to come back from a severe case of the doldrums and actually come first in the Election with 47 MSPs is a big thing.

I suspect that people are beginning to tire of the word 'historic' being used. I've tried to steer clear of it myself, but the fact remains that this is a big deal, and for the SNP, this really is a special moment. The SNP's 32.93% of the Constituency vote is a record, surpassing the previous high of 32.57% in the 1994 European Election. The Party has won in a record number of Constituencies, 21, compared with the 'First Eleven' in the October 1974 General Election. They came first in four regions, compared with two in 1999 and 2003, and two European constituencies in 1994. They now have the largest number of Councillors (though STV helped that to happen), and one of the jibes levelled at the SNP before the election was the fact that the Party 'has never run anything bigger than Falkirk Council'. The SNP is now in Government, so, yes, this is a major event, at least for the Party.

And yet, this is also the major challenge. Not only is this the first time that the SNP have taken charge, but it's also the first time that Holyrood has been led by a minority government. Now, it's possible that in the minds of the public, the two could become linked, so if minority government succeeds, it's the SNP who will take the credit. If, on the other hand, it fails, it's the SNP who take the blame, unless they manage to get the LibDems on board for a time, as Labour did in Wales following 18 months of minority government which saw the end of Alun Michael as First Secretary. In short, it's a gamble. If this works, the SNP are set for a strong spell, with extra supporters in key positions (Councils and Holyrood) to launch a good tilt at the Westminster and European elections, and will go into the 2011 Election in a position of strength. If it doesn't, the consequences will be disastrous.

Basically, the SNP have to make it work. The first week has passed off without major incident, but we have four years to get through. It's not impossible, though.


Anonymous said...

Given that Salmond is already indulging in flag-waving tripe about a Scottish Olympic Squad, it seems unlikely that moderation and pragmatism will be the keynotes of this administration.

Richard Havers said...

I echo agent's views. First football, then the Olympics it's all rather predictable twaddle.