The Scottish National Party (SNP) is often seen as a Scotland-only party. Considering their name, and their complete emphasis on Scottish affairs, this is not surprising. During the course of this general election, Nicola Sturgeon and her MPs have consistently stated that they are the only ones who could deliver a better future for Scotland.
Recently, however, there has been a change in tune. During the launch of the SNP manifesto on 30th May, Nicola Sturgeon stated that the SNP were the only party that could truly stand up to the Conservative Party, both in Scotland and Westminster, and that they would always vote for the betterment of the British people, regardless of other issues that might contradict their traditional position.
In this regard, the SNP manifesto featured several interesting points.
Like all other parties, the SNP promises to bring in more funding for the NHS, but not just across Scotland, as many might expect, but across UK. This may have been promised to ensure they are seen as looking out for everyone, not just Scottish voters – something that might work well should they enter into the much-rumoured coalition with Labour.
Another policy, which mirrors Labour’s manifesto, is the promise to protect the triple-lock on pensions and protect the winter fuel allowance. Considering the ageing population across the UK, and the outrage that came from the Conservatives’ proposed ‘dementia tax’ and amending of the winter fuel allowance, including this promise is no doubt meant to resonate with older voters, and make them feel more comfortable supporting the SNP, be it in Scotland or in the UK.
Finally, much like Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the SNP would support a UK-wide increase in the higher rate of taxation from 45p to 50p.
Whilst the SNP, unlike Labour, stray away from directly stating what they see as a ‘high income’, they are clearly trying to play upon the public’s disgruntlement at high earners seemingly getting away with paying little to no taxation. That the SNP have made the point that they support increased higher rate of taxation across the whole of the UK, once more emphasises their new attempt to show themselves as a party not just for Scotland, but for all of the United Kingdom, in opposition to the Conservatives.
Further to this point, during the manifesto launch, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The manifesto has fairness and opportunity at its heart, and is a manifesto for a country that is welcoming and outward-looking”. A clear change of tack from previous statements from Sturgeon where she had called for a second referendum on independence to be held sometime during the Brexit process.
Indeed, during the manifesto launch, Sturgeon tried to focus on other points, only briefly mentioning the independence referendum. Even then she stated that she wished for it be held once the negotiations with the EU over Brexit had finished, so that the people of Scotland could have the final say over their fate.
The constant emphasis throughout the manifesto and the launch, that the SNP are the party for the country to stand up to the Conservatives, not just in Scotland, is a very new approach by the SNP, who previously had only stood for issues to do with Scotland. One must think that this new approach, which includes SNP MPs voting against any cuts to services in England, or an increase in costs for English voters, must be related to the fact their support in Scotland is falling. Recent figures show their support hovering around 41 % down a full fourteen points from the high of 55% of April, 2015. Meanwhile, support for independence currently hovers below 45%.
Should the SNP win a majority of Scottish seats in the upcoming election, it would strengthen their mandate to demand a great many things from Westminster, something Sturgeon and her supporters are well aware of. Whether the SNP would truly seek to work with other parties in Westminster to stymie a Conservative government remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, the SNP might mean well, but independence is always going to be at the forefront of their mind, and so they must be treated with caution.