As the news emerged yesterday that the SNP has now surpassed the Liberal Democrats to become the third largest party in the UK having grown by 24,000 since last Thursday’s referendum, the party’s business managers yesterday faced a headache as its majority dwindled to just one seat.
The development came following the news that one of its MSPs is resigning from the party in protest over its stance on NATO membership.
In October 2012, the SNP’s annual conference voted narrowly to approve a motion to support the idea of an independent Scotland joining the pro-nuclear military action. Such a policy was, according to the party’s leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson, essential to securing the support of Scots for independence.
The vote caused considerable controversy within the party, and led to the resignation of two of the party’s MSPs from the Highlands, John Finnie and Jean Urquhart.
It has been reported now that the Central Scotland MSP, John Wilson will also being resigning from the party over the NATO issue.
According to the Scotsman, Wilson had decided to save his resignation until now to avoid it becoming a distraction during the referendum campaign.
Speaking to the paper, he explained:
“I’ve made a decision to go to resign from the SNP and the SNP whip. It was in terms of policy about Nato. There was a divergence of policy differences. There were a lot of issues. Things were happening with local branches and complaints about the headquarters. It was about internal democracy.”
With his resignation effectively reducing the SNP’s majority to just one seat, Wilson has said that he would make decisions over whether to support the SNP on various policy matters on an “issues by issue” basis.
The resignation will come as a crumb of comfort to Scottish Labour in a week in which polling indicated that despite last week’s referendum result, the SNP are firmly on course for another victory in the 2016 elections to Holyrood.
Data prepared by Survation following the independence vote for the Scottish Mail on Sunday found that when asked how they would vote in the constituency vote for the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2016, 49 per cent said the SNP, an increase of 4 per cent on the 2011 election results; Labour have increased by 1 per cent to 33 per cent; the Conservatives stand on 13 per cent, down 1 per cent; whilst the Lib Dems languish on 3 per cent, down 5 per cent since 2011.
Asked how they would vote in the 2015 elections to Westminster, 39 per cent of Scots said Labour (down 3 per centsince the 2010 General Election); the SNP now stand on 35 per cent (up 15 per cent since 2010); the Conservatives were on 18 per cent (up 1 per cent) whilst the Lib Dems were put on just 3 per cent, a fall of 16 per cent since 2010.
Meanwhile, with Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon now the clear favourite to replace Alex Salmond, the polling found more people who felt changing to her leadership would make them less likely to vote SNP rather than more likely.
In total, 9 per cent of respondents said changing to her leadership would make them more likely to vote SNP, compared with 14 per cent who said it would make them less likely to do so.
However, crucially, given the difficulties the Yes Scotland campaign had in persuading women in particular to back their campaign, a larger proportion of female voters north of the border (13 per cent) said that Sturgeon’s elevation to SNP leader would make it more likely that they would vote for the party compared to the 5 per cent of male voters who said they would be more inclined to vote for the nationalists in such a situation.
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor of Left Foot ForwardLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.