Is Westminster Dancing to Salmond’s Tune?

You’ll remember the posters during the General Election campaign warning that a Labour Government would be in the pocket of Alex Salmond and the SNP, but what’s the reality and should we be paying attention to the SNP in Westminster and beyond?

A Family Affair

The SNP has been the dominant force in Scottish politics for the best part of a decade now. There’s nothing new in either their approach or style since they first assumed office in the Scottish Parliament eight years ago. For a party that has lost its key electoral platform, massively increased its membership and represents such a broad range of views they remain remarkably coherent and controlled and have lost little of their campaigning zeal.

Often it is best to think of the SNP as an extended family or clan – they remain very close as a party and often have intertwining family and friendship ties and you don’t need me to tell you who the mother and father figures are. Post-referendum, Nicola has, however, redefined the party’s focus as being on Prosperity, Participation and Fairness.

Impact in Westminster

The SNP has of course moved from being just the concern of those following the Scottish Parliament and local government to Westminster following their sensational electoral success in May’s General Election, sweeping aside every MP in Scotland bar three. So what have we learnt about this new group? The SNP have left nothing to chance. Its new Westminster group is being carefully controlled and trained up to maximise group effectiveness (even to the point of insisting their candidates agreed to tow the party line as part of their adoption process), though there is a wide range of political views across the SNP Group. Old hands, like Angus Robertson MP and Stewart Hosie MP (along with Salmond), remain very much at the helm.

The first and foremost test for the new SNP group has been the deliberations over the Scotland Bill, which sees the implementation of the Smith Commission. Early indications would indicate that while the SNP group are organised, they lack the ability to really force the Tory-led Government into major U-turns on critical issues, such as energy policy and the Scotland Bill. However, they did score one notable success when they managed to work with rebels to force Cameron to back down on proposed changes to the Human Rights Act and have had some successes on issues like English votes for English legislation and fox hunting. As Cameron’s majority slims over time, the SNP’s effectiveness will almost certainly increase further.

Why engage?

Why should organisations with a focus on English markets and issues be interested in the SNP? Put simply, because they have the potential to have significant clout; because they have a presence on Select Committees (and chair two of them) ; and they wish to grow their reach beyond the Scottish border to work on issues of common concern across the UK – be it welfare reform, immigration or HS2. However, while Westminster has consumed a lot of the SNP’s focus of late, the focus is quickly swinging back to Scotland as the party develops its policies for  the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. The SNP Party Conference takes place this October in Aberdeen. We expect it to be a much bigger and busier affair than usual, so make sure you are getting your messages in now.

If you would like to know more about how to engage with the SNP or in Scotland, please contact Ross Laird, ross.laird@grayling.com

 

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