Where do the SNP go when pit against a majority Tory government and an introspective opposition?
The post-election honeymoon period for the Scottish National Party is over. And whilst the election hangover still lingers over Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the SNP now have the mountainous challenge of transforming their anti-austerity, progressive agenda proclaimed during the campaign into meaningful and substantial opposition.
Politics in Scotland is ruthless. Jim Murphy will testify to that – with the extinguishing of Labour in the polls leading to his resignation merely five months into his leadership of Scottish Labour. The SNP should take heed; although buoyed by their electoral success in Scotland they will need to demonstrate efficacy in Westminster. With a majority Conservative government at the helm many will now question the SNP’s influence on pressuring policy given their campaign was heavily focused on their potential role as a pillar in an unstable minority Labour government.
A toxic combination of Lib Dem coalition cosiness and seemingly Conservative consorting by Labour warmed many Scots to thickly cross the ballot paper next to SNP candidates. The pertinent question now is: How do the SNP go from a noisy neighbour to a serious voice on the opposition bench in the Commons?
The Snoopers’ Charter, previously blocked by the Lib Dems, the British Bill of Rights, the presence of Trident and yesterday’s revelation by the Prime Minister that Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in are the biggest challenges set to face the SNP as the stage sets for some rowdy PMQ’s. Both parties will reluctantly be seeing more of each other around the table as the two governments with distinctive and polar opposite visions lock horns. On the scrapping of the Human Rights Act there is already solid speculation that the SNP have spoken to certain sympathetic Tory backbenchers in order to garner support to launch an effective opposition to the proposed British bill of rights.
With the Smith Commission all but dead in the water will the Conservatives satisfy the appetite for further Scottish devolution through full fiscal autonomy over the years or will Cameron utilise his majority occupation of Westminster and brave the tide of SNP pressure? The Holyrood elections in Scotland around the corner next May, the focus is on the SNP to demonstrate they can hold Cameron and Co to account. And with strong appointments in the Westminster leadership team – with Alex Salmond filling the role in International Affairs/Europe and Stewart Hosie as spokesman for the Economy – immigration and the EU referendum, the £12 billion cuts due to be unveiled and potential discussions around further financial levers for the Scottish Parliament will be the strategy focus for the Scottish Nationalists.
The election campaign was fuelled by an impassioned plea to reclaim an identity, propelled by animosity and alienation towards the Westminster system. Westminster can be a brutal and bloody battleground; Will the SNP emerge as a credible political force across the UK or will their fiery rhetoric all be hot steam? The Scottish electorate, fresh from punishing Labour, are watching intently.