A quick guide to the Scottish National Party

A brief history

The Scottish National Party (SNP) was founded in 1934 with the aim of restoring Scottish independence which had come to an end in 1707 with the Act of Union creating one UK parliament.

The first major breakthrough for the SNP came in 1967 with a by-election win for Winnie Ewing and other highlights have included the election of 11 SNP MPs at Westminster in 1974.

Scotland regained its own parliament in 1999, when power was ‘devolved’ to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This allowed the SNP to fight elections ‘at home’ for the first time and resulted in 2007 with them becoming the largest party in Scotland, and going on to win an overall majority in 2011 which most thought impossible in a proportional representation system.

In September 2014, the SNP rose to particular prominence with the Scottish referendum in which around 85% of the Scottish public cast their vote on whether to stay a part of the United Kingdom. The SNP and their ‘Yes’ campaign was defeated, however, when 55% voted in favour of staying in the Union.

Following the referendum, SNP leader Alex Salmond stood down as party leader and First Minister and was replaced by Nicola Sturgeon who led the Party to a hugely successful 2015 General Election in which the Party secured 56 seats in Westminster, an increase of 50 from the previous election.

Is Scotland different from England?

Some people would argue that Scotland is just another region of England, but the SNP strongly disagrees. There are surface level differences, such as Scotland’s oil resources, her under-population, and the separate national sports teams. There are also traditional differences in terms of Education, the Law, and the Church.

The Reformation in Scotland took a distinct direction. Where many feel that Henry VIII simply replaced the Pope as head of the Church of England, the Church of Scotland under John Knox followed Calvin and adopted a Presbyterian system. Therefore, the church and state have not been as close in Scotland as they have been in England and in this regard some would say Scotland is closer in religious and cultural terms to the Netherlands or Switzerland.

Politically too Scotland has tended to vote differently to England. Having the SNP has meant there have been four main parties to choose from and up until recently the Conservatives have not been one of the two main players. However, they now seem to be making progress, mainly by adopting a strong unionist stance. Both Labour and Conservatives in Scotland have, until recently, been to the left of their parties in England and this has added to the complexity of Scottish politics although this now appears to be changing. Relationships with their parties across the border do, however, remain complicated.

Christian involvement in the SNP

The SNP seeks to be a totally inclusive political party and wants all strands of Scottish life to be represented within it. There is every opportunity for a Christian to become involved in the Party and this usually starts at a local level.

As Christians we are expected to be salt and light in society. This means that most organisations in society, be they in the private, public, or voluntary sectors, are valid places for Christian believers to be active and involved in. However, traditionally perhaps some Christians have been suspicious of the political realm and have seen it as a ‘dirty’ area which they were best to steer clear of! In Scotland, the Catholic church has possibly been the most enthusiastic about engagement but there are signs that Christians from other church backgrounds are now becoming more open to God leading them in this direction.

This developing engagement is true for all the main political parties including the SNP. There are a number of individuals with a strong Christian faith active in the Party at all levels, including in councils and the parliaments, and amongst activists and donors. Unlike some other parties the SNP has not had a formalised Christian grouping within the Party but there is a Scottish group known as ‘Christians for Independence’, formed in 2009, which is non-party political. Social media are www.christiansforindependence.weebly.com and on facebook ChristiansForIndependence and Twitter @Christians4Indy.

Most Christians would accept that God does not support any one political party. There are aspects of each party’s policies which more or less reflect Christian thinking and the Bible’s teaching. At the heart of the SNP is the desire to see an independent Scottish nation, and it is important that Christians are a voice that shapes and informs this agenda. Also, although the SNP has policy positions on many issues, there are a range of conscience issues where there is no party line and each member can vote according to their own values. Examples of these are euthanasia at the Scottish Parliament and abortion at Westminster.

How to get involved

The first step is often to meet an SNP member in your area who can talk through what is involved. At the most basic level you pay a modest annual subscription and receive all the mailing from the Party.

Next would be to start attending local branch meetings, where both political and organisational issues will be discussed. Social events help you to get to know other SNP activists.

Almost every part of Scotland has an SNP councillor, so there are opportunities to hear about what is happening in the local council area and what line their councillors are taking.

With European, Westminster, Scottish, and Council elections taking place (not to mention by-elections), it often seems that we are on a constant cycle of elections!

And elections means there is a need for delivering leaflets, knocking on doors, raising money and all the other aspects of a healthy democracy. With all the parties suffering from a lack of activists these days, it is easy to get as heavily involved as you want to be.

Party's website: www.snp.org

For further reading see The Scottish National Party in Theological Perspective.

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Why should Christians be involved in politics?

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