Alex Salmond, the former leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland, has announced his intention to stand for a seat in next May’s General Election. The seat that Mr Salmond has decided to stand for is the Gordon constituency in Aberdeenshire which is currently held by the retiring Liberal Democrat MP Sir Malcolm Bruce.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) recently led the ‘Yes’ campaign in the referendum for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. Although the referendum was won by their opponents Alex Salmond led the SNP and its campaign to an impressive 44.7% of the vote but resigned as SNP Leader and First Minister of Scotland referring to his seven years in the role as “the privilege of my life” and stated the reason of his resignation being a desire to allow “someone else a chance to move that forward”.
Since the formation of the Scottish Parliament, the SNP served two terms as the opposition before 2007 in the Scottish General Election where it formed a minority government until 2011 when it formed the majority government. Alex Salmond’s service as party leader began in 2004 and lasted until 2014. Furthermore, he served as First Minister of Scotland from 16th May 2007 until he resigned on 19th November 2014.
Alex Salmond might have been seen as one of the main driving forces of the ‘Yes’ campaign during the referendum on Scottish independence. Salmond was involved in a national debate with Alistair Darling during the campaign for the independence referendum and was thought to have won the debate by many. Furthermore, the ‘Yes’ campaign was so unexpectedly popular that it forced the UK government into late last-ditch pledges of increased devolution which may involve greater control over taxation, finance and welfare. The referendum took place on a national spectrum and therefore in many ways worked to increase the stature of Alex Salmond and also the SNP, as it increased its membership and support and is within a strong position for next year’s General Election.
Smaller parties have seen growth in recent years within UK politics with other parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the more modest gains of the Green Party. When this is coupled with the increase in support of the SNP it highlights the potential of a coalition government where all parties may be unable to garner an outright majority in next year’s General Election. In this year’s European Elections UKIP won 24 MEPs with 27.49% of the vote with Labour trailing in second with just over 25% of the vote. Furthermore, in the same election both the SNP and the Green Party finished with a higher share of the vote than the Liberal Democrats. Newer parties such as these are showing that the traditional parties such as the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats might be seen to adhere to different values than the electorate.
Alex Salmond’s announcement that he is to stand for a seat in the UK parliament might be seen to embody a shift away from traditional ‘Westminster politics’. When the Conservative’s promised increased devolution for Scotland there was equally a demand for some areas of England and Wales to gain increased devolution as many believe that UK politics might be becoming too London dominated and look for more localisation.
With a coalition government in next year’s General Election perfectly likely parties such as the Green Party, SNP and UKIP may play a pivotal role in deciding the final outcome of the election in joining a coalition with, most probably, the Conservatives or the Labour Party in a similar way that the Liberal Democrats did in the previous General Election. The potential of another coalition government increases the opportunity for these parties to gain significantly within the next government. With growing support for the smaller parties it may seem that these parties have a real opportunity to challenge the traditional UK political parties.
How might the growth of parties such as the SNP impact politics in the United Kingdom?