The Early Years
The SNP’s origins can be traced back to several organisations advocating home rule for Scotland in the 1920s and 30s. In 1928 The Scots National League (formed in 1921) and the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association (formed in 1927) combined with the Scottish National Movement to form the National Party of Scotland.
In 1934 the National Party amalgamated with the Scottish Party to become the Scottish National Party.
A new sang
When the Scottish Parliament met for the first time on the 12th May 1999, it was given to Winnie Ewing, as the oldest member present, to open the proceedings. She did so with the words:
‘The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on the 25th March 1707, is hereby re-convened.’
When the Act of Union was given royal assent in 1707, the Earl of Seafield commented: ‘There’s the end of an auld sang.’ The election of a Scottish Parliament almost three hundred years later represented a new sang and a new start for Scotland. Expectations were high that devolution would deliver a real difference and MSPs were cheered into their temporary offices on the Mound.
The 2007 Scottish Parliament and local government elections represented the breakthrough for the SNP. After 8 years of low ambition and low achievement from the Labour/Lib Dem Executive the Scottish people were ready for fresh thinking and a new approach. The SNP provided both.
The SNP’s positive campaign was based on the key theme of making Scotland more successful, with vital health services kept local; more support for small businesses; safer communities; and lower and fairer local tax, leaving more money in peoples’ pockets at the end of every month.
When the votes were eventually counted, the SNP emerged the largest party in terms of both the popular vote and number of MSPs. The SNP had 32.9 per cent of the vote – the highest in the party’s history – compared to Labour’s 32.2 per cent and 47 MSPs compared to Labour’s 46. The SNP had won the election and went on to form a minority administration.
Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands
The 2014 independence referendum was Scotland’s greatest ever democratic event. In the months building up to the vote, the Yes campaign – spearheaded by the SNP and its then depute leader Nicola Sturgeon – engaged with every community in Scotland. Support for independence reached record highs and levels of political participation blossomed across the country.
While the result delivered in the wee small hours of September 19th fell short, with Yes taking 45 per cent of the vote, Scotland had changed forever and for the better. In the days following the referendum the SNP experienced an unprecedented membership boost with party numbers doubling from 25,000 to over 50,000.
By the end of this momentous year Nicola Sturgeon had been appointed Scotland’s first female First Minister, party membership had soared to new heights and the party had held a sold-out event at Glasgow’s Hydro arena.
The real opposition at Westminster
The referendum was quickly followed by the 2015 General Election, in which the SNP won an unprecedented 56 of 59 seats. As the second biggest party at Westminster the new SNP group, led by Angus Robertson, quickly established itself as the real opposition to the Tory government. Two years later the SNP again won the General Election in Scotland, winning 35 seats.
A historic third term
In 2016 secured an unprecedented third term in government – winning the Scottish Parliament election with the highest share of the constituency vote ever achieved.
Standing up for Scotland
In 2016 the SNP also successfully campaigned in the UK’s EU referendum for a remain vote in Scotland.
Yet despite 62 per cent of people in Scotland voting against Brexit – and a majority in every local authority area in Scotland in favour of remaining – the UK voted to leave and in doing so, drag Scotland out against its will.
Following the referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has made clear that the SNP government would explore all options to protect Scotland’s place in Europe, including a referendum on independence. The SNP has now begun a new conversation on how Scotland can reach its full potential as an independent country.
The SNP continue to lead opposition to a disastrous Brexit and any attempt to use it to grab Holyrood’s powers. As a result, SNP membership has reached a new record high – overtaking the Conservatives and making Scotland the second biggest party in the UK.