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  • Introduction

    The Scottish National Party (SNP) (Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba; Scots: Scottis Naitional Pairtie) is the largest political party campaigning for the independence of Scotland. Its stated aim is "to create a just, caring and enterprising society by releasing Scotland's full potential as an independent nation in the mainstream of modern Europe." The party's social democratic platform is largely considered centre-left in the Scottish/UK political spectrum. The SNP's left-wing nationalism, based on equality, popular sovereignty and national self-determination, is a characteristic shared with other Celtic Nationalist parties such as Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow, Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Féin.

    The SNP was founded in 1934, and has had continuous parliamentary representation since Winnie Ewing's groundbreaking victory at the 1967 Hamilton by-election. With sporadic gains since, the SNP has tended to fare poorly in United Kingdom general elections and currently holds 6 of 59 Scottish seats in the UK Parliament, due to the First-past-the-post electoral system operated at Westminster. For example, at the 2010 UK General Election, the SNP won nearly 20% of the popular vote, but only received around 10% of the seats available in Scotland.

    In the last few decades, the party has usually polled the second highest number of votes for a political party in Scotland. This changed in 2007 when the SNP ended 50 years of Labour dominance in the country by winning 47 of the 129 seats in the third 2007, Scottish Parliamentary election. As a result of becoming the largest party in the Scottish Parliament the SNP sought to form a coalition government, but after talks broke down with the other parties they formed a minority administration. The first SNP administration has been noted for its relative stability compared to previous coalition administrations, due to only having two reshuffles within three years (the second of which was minor). The previous administrations had very frequent reshuffles, with very few members staying throughout the eight year rule of the Liberal-Labour Coalition of 1999-2007.

    At the 2007 Local Elections, the SNP won 363 council seats of 1,224 (doubling its 2003 total of 181 councillors), making them the largest group in Scottish local government and helping form in coalition 12 out of 32 local administrations. The next council elections will be in 2012, due to legislative action taken by the SNP in the Scottish Parliament to divide the dates of the Holyrood and Local Elections into 2011 and 2012 respectively - on the advice of the Gould Report.

    At the 2009 European Parliament election the party topped the poll for the first time in a European Parliament election since 1979, with almost 100,000 more votes than the Scottish Labour Party. The party holds 2 of 6 Scottish seats in the European Parliament, narrowly failing to win a Third seat by less than 1%.

    The SNP was formed in 1934 from the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party. Professor Douglas Young, who was the leader of the Scottish National Party from 1942 to 1945 fought for the Scottish people to refuse conscription and his activities were popularly vilified as undermining the British war effort against the Nazis. Young was imprisoned for refusing to be conscripted. The SNP first won a parliamentary seat at the Motherwell by-election in 1945, but Dr Robert McIntyre MP lost the seat at the general election three months later. They next won a seat in 1967, when Winnie Ewing was the surprise winner of a by-election in the previously safe Labour seat of Hamilton. This brought the SNP to national prominence, leading to the establishment of the Kilbrandon Commission. The high point in UK General Elections thus far was when the SNP polled almost a third of all votes in Scotland at the October 1974 general election and returned 11 MPs to Westminster, to date the most MPs it has had. The SNP's nationalism is left-wing nationalism, not right wing, a trait which it shares with other Celtic Nationalist parties such as Plaid Cymru and Sinn Féin.

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