With the “main players” in next years Westminster Elections having finished their conferences, all that remains are the minor parties. The one “minor” (in a UK sense) party who could seriously upset the applecart are the SNP, whose own autumn conference starts today.
The SNP have been in government at Holyrood and despite the twin circumstances of poor parliamentary arithmetic and worsening economic climate, they have been something of a success. Indeed, come the next Holyrood elections due in May 2011, the SNP could find themselves with more MSP’s and more clout in terms of coalition-building. Everything in the SNP garden looks rosy.
This however is not the case. The flagship policy of a referendum on Independence looks likely to fail to get through parliament & there have been mutterings from the opposition about broken promises (Promises broken for the above reasons). The next Westminster Election might also provide some discomfort for the SNP. Both of the “main” parties will be pushing the line that there are only two viable choices come the next Election, Tory or Labour. New Labour are already pushing the line that a vote for the SNP will let Cameron into power. Comedy Dave’s lot are pushing the line that only the Union is safe with them.
With the SNP likely to be squeezed, certainly in broadcasting airtime terms (before the normal campaign regulations kick in when the Election is called), this weekend will be crucial in formulating policy and strategy for the SNP. The question which needs to be answered thought is, in the post-devolution landscape, what do the SNP stand for at Westminster elections?
The really obvious answer to that question is independence. The post devolution landscape gives the SNP the ideal opportunity to develop two distinct strategies, with a more pro-independence streak reserved for Westminster Elections. I have previously put forward the argument that the SNP should turn the next election into a referendum on the Union. Turn the tables on Westminster’s gruesome twosome and ask them with national debt at record levels, with inequality rising, and both of them indulging in a game of my cut is bigger than your cut, why we should trust any of you.
The SNP have previously won seats with promising to fight for Scotland’s corner. With a convergence in views within the two big parties, only winning 4 (out of 59) Scottish seats is no longer good enough for Scotland’s party, and certainly will condemn the SNP to another 5 years (at most) of being sidelined at Westminster by the "big two". In order to reinforce the change in the Scottish political landscape, the SNP must change how they see the Westminster Election.