The Modern SNP
The 1997 General Election saw the SNP double their number of MPs from three to six and, with the return of the Labour Party to power at that General Election, saw the establishment of a devolved Scottish Parliament. This allowed for the SNP to firmly establish itelf as a political force in Scotland with the returning of 35 MSPs in the first Scottish Parliament Election. Later that year the party returned two members of the European Parliament, narrowly missing out on sending a third.
The first term of the Scottish Parliament did not offer the SNP much comfort. Two MSPs quit the party, the aforementioned Margo MacDonald and Dorothy-Grace Elder, citing the actions of some of their colleagues as reasons for their resignations. The SNP also performed poorly at the 2001 General Election, with a reduced share of the vote from 1997, and one less MP.
Despite optimism that the party would at least retain the same number of MSPs they gained in 1999, a downturn in electoral fortune at the 2003 Scottish Parliament Elections has weakened them somewhat. They currently have 27 elected members in the Scottish Parliament, making them the second largest party in Holyrood. They have five MPs in the Westminster Parliament and two members in the European Parliament.
The results of the election seem to indicate that the emergence of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and Scottish Green Party (both of whom also support independence) has undermined their vote a bit. It remains to be seen how the SNP will deal with the fact that they are no longer exclusively the party of Scottish independence.
Recent debate within the SNP has been marked by disagreements between the gradualist wing of the party, which believes in taking powers back bit by bit from the UK Parliament and returning them to the Scottish Parliament, as opposed to the viewpoint of the fundamentalist wing. The fundamentalists argue that a greater emphasis should be placed on the party's support for independence to enthuse their activists, as well as their core support. Former leader, Gordon Wilson has publicly stated that he believes it may be that these two wings find their views so irreconcilable that the party may split as a result.
Other political figures often characterise the SNP as trying to be all things to all people. They charge the SNP with trying to appear solidly left-wing in urban Central Scotland where they are trying to unseat the Labour Party, and with appearing more moderate in rural Scotland where their electoral challenge is more often than not against the Source | Copyright