Has the SNP’s Westminster group failed to live up to it Holyrood counterpart?

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A common affliction of long-serving governments is that the party in power, no matter how popular at the polling booth or party conference, will eventually find itself rocked with squalls, in-fighting and accusations of political stagnation.

Undoubtedly, the SNP’s strength of position with Scottish voters has done little to protect them from this curse in recent times. In May’s General Election, the party changed the face of Scottish politics overnight as they claimed 56 out of 59 seats and won more than half of all votes cast in Scotland.

With this seemingly watershed victory, a charge of talented new nationalist parliamentarians rose to prominence within the party and made a name for themselves by standing out against the grain of their more prosaic Westminster colleagues.

However, this unprecedented success and influx of new faces would not come without a price. Along with the new names, a slew of would-be scandals arose and ultimately, resignations from the party whip beckoned.

Whether it is questions raised over Business Affairs spokeswoman Michelle Thomson’s property dealings or the involvement of Glasgow East MP Natalie McGarry in a police investigation into missing funds from the pro-independence campaign-group Women for Independence, these doubts, although yet unproven, have been enough to raise questions about the internal workings of the party.

Perhaps this should, at least to some extent, be expected from a group who has seen the incredible growth the SNP has experienced since the referendum. Although expectations were high in the weeks following the election, out of the “transformational” 56 nationalists who booked their places on the opposition benches last year, 49 had never before served as MPs.

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Stewart McDonald MP has been tipped for a bright future in the party

Whilst there have of course been concerns around a number of that new contingent, perhaps equally as striking is how quickly the majority of the pack have coalesced into a confident, highly-effective group and how some have gone on to stake their place as the rising stars of the party.

Take Mhairi Black, at the time of the election a 20-year-old politics student at Glasgow University, who as the youngest MP at Westminster since the 17th century, would have seemed out of place in any other party. She became a sensation nationwide when her maiden speech managed to encapsulate the spirit of the SNP which had already won over so many left-leaning voters north of the border.

Stewart McDonald, MP for Glasgow South, is another who has been tipped for a bright future with the party after a confident start to his first term in office. He joins a Westminster group that already boasts a highly-competent leader in Angus Robertson and a frequent voice-piece in newly rejuvenated former-First Minister Alex Salmond.

It is a striking turn of pace for the SNP who seem –perhaps to their own detriment – to buck the trend often ascribed to other parties of sending their most-accomplished politicians to Westminster and keeping the ‘B-squad’ back at Holyrood.

Time will tell whether the current crop at Westminster would have been best kept in the reserves after all but with such a competent group at Holyrood, one which has managed to avoid having many major scandals during its eight years in government, it was always going to be a tough task to maintain that level as the party’s more-experienced heads become spread increasingly thin.

Ultimately, although many of the SNP’s group at Westminster may well be of a similar calibre to their Holyrood counterparts, if not already part of a small contingent destined for the party top-brass, the group at large still contains too many wildcards.

This May’s Scottish Parliament election will no-doubt see new faces join the ranks of the SNP at Holyrood and perhaps they too may fall foul of some of the same trappings suffered by their inexperienced Westminster colleagues.

Others may follow the route of Mhairi Black, Stewart McDonald and others, who have managed to capture the imagination of the public and reinforce the SNP’s position among the Scottish Left.

With the SNP enjoying a position of such dominance in Scottish politics, they may well have to rely on their blossoming party membership and newest recruits if they want to continue fight political battles on multiple fronts.

 

You can watch Mhairi Black’s maiden speech below…

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