What should we expect from the SNP’s 56 Members of Parliament?
Alex Salmond declared that “a Scottish lion is roaring” following the SNP’s election sweep.
Last autumn the Scottish referendum was done and dusted, the Scots had voted No and many in the Westminster establishment felt the tide of Scottish nationalism subduing. Instead, it gained frightening momentum through charismatic and feverish campaigning coupled with opposition collapse. Last Thursday, the SNP transformed the political complexion not just of Scotland but of Westminster too.
All 56 SNP MPs noisily gathered at Westminster this week, united behind their omnipresent leader, Nicola Sturgeon, in the first stage of their journey to shake up Westminster. The sheer number of SNP MPs commands formidable respect, and sets records. That 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats are now in the grips of the SNP clearly signals that Labour has been left bloodied north of the border.
What do we know about the MPs Scotland has so overwhelmingly chosen?
One familiar voice will hound the ears of David Cameron from the SNP’s benches, as Alex Salmond descends on the Parliament he so wanted to see the back of during the independence referendum. With Salmond’s huge personality, the media spotlight initially focused on potential wrangling between the SNP leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson, and the ever vocal former First Minister. All rumours were however laid to rest as Robertson was re-elected as leader of the group with Salmond’s backing.
Another prominent SNP figure is Stewart Hosie, MP for Dundee East since 2005. He is the Deputy Group Leader and Chief Whip at Westminster, and like Nicola Sturgeon, is married to an SNP colleague – MSP Shona Robinson, the Scottish Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport.
Alongside Hosie is Tommy Sheppard, former assistant general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party. Sheppard is the new MP for Edinburgh East, a city that vociferously voted No in the independence referendum that was therefore viewed as one of the more challenging seats for the SNP to win. Although new to the SNP’s ranks, Sheppard’s presence within the House of Commons will highlight the fallout from Labour’s approach to the referendum; voters saw Labour as too closely aligned to the Conservatives, and many defected to the SNP.
Then there’s Mhairi Black, who in a night of election shocks pulled off one of the most spectacular results. At the politically tender age of 20, in Paisley & Renfrewshire South, she was up against Douglas Alexander, Labour’s campaign chief and shadow Foreign Secretary. In the end, whilst attempting to orchestrate Labour’s election success in the UK, Alexander was defeated in his own backyard, paving the way for Black to become the youngest MP to grace the seats in the House of Commons since 1667.
Her response to those questioning her appetite or nervousness about the challenge she faces encapsulates the defiant SNP mind-set and determination to exert influence: “The nerves should be on their part. Not mine.”
He may have a majority, but David Cameron has an impassioned and undaunted group of Scottish Nationalists banging on the door of Number 10. Conservative plans for the Human Rights Act looks to be the first of many clashes on the cards.