Opinion: How to tell the SNP?

No yes scotland photo by kyoshi masamuneHow do we point out to SNP supporters that they should vote No next Thursday to save their party, without alarming No voters?

The survival of the SNP depends on a No vote.  The party exists to campaign, lobby and bully for independence achieved through a Yes vote in the referendum.  It has no other purpose.  If it wins the referendum, even by a single vote, it will have achieved its purpose and have no further reason to exist.

The SNP is not a liberation movement like the ANC or SWAPO, whose victory founded democracy in states where the previous oppression and authoritarianism meant there were no alternative democratic political parties and the liberation movements have continued while politics develops.

Scotland is a vibrant democracy.  Scottish Parliament elections change Scottish governments.  The Liberal Democrats – and Labour and the Conservatives and the Greens – have purposes related to improving people’s lives and pursue policies related to doing that in changing circumstances.

The SNP too wants to improve people’s lives, but this is ancillary to its fundamental purpose of independence through a Yes vote and that purpose will be achieved if it (I know, someone will post a comment saying this isn’t about the SNP: it is) wins next Thursday.  What will it do then?  What will its dedicated followers do?

It might win the next Scottish Parliament elections on a cocktail of euphoria and anti-London feeling and continue to rule by rhetoric.  But, being independent, who will there be to blame when things don’t go to plan?  Endlessly blaming London and recalcitrant No voters in Scotland will not work for a full Scottish Parliamentary term.  The recriminations and the singling out of groups to blame in the way nationalists have always done throughout history will go against the grain of the Scottish people.

The second election will be lost.  The drift away of SNP members, supporters and voters, mainly to Labour and the Conservatives, will become a rush.  The SNP will become a rump, meeting for reunions on Radio 4, when Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s North American lecture tours permit.

Ordinary SNP members, voters and supporters will be adrift, not quite at home in their new parties, even when they were in them before succumbing to the nationalist brew.  What is to be done?

The SNP’s ordinary members, voters and supporters’ only hope is a massive No vote.  It’s in their self-interest to vote No and get their family and friends to vote No too.

Then the SNP will continue moaning, misleading and mithering about independence indefinitely and SNP members, voters and supporters would have their party, somewhere to go and something to do.

The problem is: how to get this message across to the SNP before they do themselves a mischief, without giving No voters the idea that the way to get rid of the First Minister and his crew is to vote Yes?

Photo by Kyoshi Masamune

* Ian MacFadyen is a Liberal Democrat member. He is a co-editor of The Leeds Yellow Book: Essays on a Liberal Future for Leeds. He was formerly the chair of Leeds East North East Liberal Democrats.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Ellams 12th Sep '14 - 5:21pm

    Is this a joke?

  • Lib Dem Voice is its own little world, sometimes…

  • What.

    For goodness sake. This is ridiculous. Not ‘in my opinion’, it is simply demonstrably ridiculous.

    The small post Empire democracy I know most about, New Zealand, has two main parties. Labour is notionally on the left. Their main opposition is a little outfit called the National Party.

    Count the Tory MPs in Scotland and then tell me with a straight face that they are best placed to become the main centre-right group in Scotland if independence happens.

  • Also, no, it’s not about the SNP. And your pre-rebuttal, ‘it is’, is not an argument. Argument is an intellectual process of connecting a series of statements intended to establish a proposition. What you did there is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement anyone makes.

  • Let me get this straight. A party with one principal aim should give up that aim when they get the chance, because otherwise they would have achieved their purpose and therefore not be needed? Because the existence of their party is more important than the cause it was founded for? I literally cannot comprehend the stupidity of this logic!

  • Richard Church 12th Sep '14 - 7:12pm

    It’s a fair point delivered tongue in cheek. If independence secured, what will be the purpose of the SNP? It will have to move on from being a nationalist party or it will die.

  • Yes. I fully expect that politics in an Independent Scotland would change.

    Scottish Labour would undoubtedly improve when freed from the shackles of their New Labour leaders in London.

    And the Lib Dems would stop being blamed for the actions of Nick Clegg.

    And we might even get some new parties, because we have a political system that supports that.

    But the idea that the SNP shouldn’t do the one thing they are _designed_ to do, because their party would become irrelevant, is just ridiculous tribalism. I expect that they care more about an Independent Scotland than they do about their political party. In much the same way that I care more about Liberalism than the Liberal Democrats, and most Labour voters care more about poverty than the Labour party.

  • Andrew Ducker and T-J inject some sense into this, however despite being 180° misconceived there is something in this article. Rather than worry about the consequences of a YES on SNP, we should be much more concerned about the consequences of (the still more likely NO vote). In fact what I find alarmingly cavalier is the lack of consideration of what a post NO landscape would be like. I fear very much for the Lib Dems in Scotland. I would not be surprised if Labour too will be severely dented in Scotland.

    I am really not sure how the damage can be repaired, I would like have seen more discussion about this.

  • Martin, you are right. The prospects for Liberal Democrats in Scotland after a NO vote might be worse than they are at the moment.
    Having aligned the party with all the unionist parties, the Liberal Democrats in Scotland may have difficulty and have driven away significant numbers of former supporters.
    Polls seem to indicate that one in four Lib Dem supporters in Scotland will vote YES.
    Will these one in four continue to vote Lib Dem if the party is seen to have sided with the unionists in the most important vote in Scotland for 300 years?

  • An independent Scotland would see an evolution of its party structure. I think there would be a good future for a Liberal democrat party, as it would have a distinctive line on a range of civil liberty and environmental issues. If there is a no vote then I do worry that even more of our voters will move over to the SNP.
    Can someone tell me when the Liberal Democrat belief in devolvong power and subsidiarity morphed into support for ‘me too’ Unionism? I thought I’d joined the party of Gladstone not the Party of Joseph Chamberlain!

  • You might get a slight drift to labour but there is zero evidence of a Conservative revival and hasn’t been in nearly 30 years. They Tories are virtually a fringe party in Scotland, What you might find is that UKIP start to erode its vote further,

  • Let’s not forget once or if Scotland is independant who in rUK will much care they go their way we go ours 260 years of union put aside for 30 years remaing oil

    Seems the yes just choose to forget the past focus on what they want rather than on what they need

  • In the event of a Yes vote the SNP will still exist because it will be an organisation and grass roots support. It is a centre left, social democratic party. Much of the ruins of the Scottish Labour Party will end up joining it. I guess what I’m saying is that there is a big ‘demand’ if that is the correct word, for a centre left party in Scotland and that is largely the SNP.

    The political right will cluster around the Scottish Conservative party.

    It’s actually the Lib Dems that struggle for a reason for existing. The Lib Dems stand for different things in different parts of the country, I voted Lib Dem believing they were left of the Labour Party, we got £9,000 tution fees and the bedroom tax from them. The Lib Dems stand for nothing at a national level. I would suggest that as a Lib Dem you look for reasons for your own parties survival, because I can see none.

  • @ James “Let me get this straight. A party with one principal aim should give up that aim when they get the chance, because otherwise they would have achieved their purpose and therefore not be needed? Because the existence of their party is more important than the cause it was founded for? I literally cannot comprehend the stupidity of this logic!”



Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Simon R
    I'm also rather puzzled by Michael's post to me. In particular, I've said a couple of times that any job guarantee scheme would have to somehow provide for peop...
  • Simon R
    The ONS figures (https://uk.indeed.com/career-advice/pay-salary/average-uk-salary) show £38 600 was the mean gross salary for full-time workers in 2020....
  • Paul Holmes
    @Mick Taylor. What happened post 2010 is an entirely different matter. The best Target Seat campaign in the world would have made little difference to the self ...
  • Paul Holmes
    @Mick Taylor. Except that what you say is totally untrue of the period I referred to. From 1997 to 2001 to 2005 to 2010 the number of Target Seats grew at each ...
  • Mary Fulton
    Nonconformistradical I would define ready as having our candidates in place in all constituencies. I don’t know how far down the road we are on this across t...