As anticipation builds for the SNP’s annual conference, pressure mounts on the Scottish First Minister from advocates of independence. Concurrently, Humza Yousaf strives to establish meaningful connections with the diverse population of Scotland. He faces a choice between adhering to traditional approaches or devising a novel strategy centered around fostering prosperity in Scottish politics.
Scottish Labour on Rise
The Labour Party in Scotland has the potential to secure the SNP Westminster seat, evident from their victory in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, where the Labour candidate triumphed over the SNP contender. This outcome creates additional challenges for the SNP and puts pressure on First Minister Humza Yousaf. The by-election served as a significant electoral test for the first minister, who justified the loss by attributing it to the Labour Party capitalizing on a decline in the Conservative vote—a situation he acknowledges as challenging for the SNP.
Changes in SNP Independence Priority
A decline in support for the SNP signals a potential increase in opposition to the independence movement. The leadership of the SNP faces pressure to revise specific plans, notably the strategy for achieving independence. The SNP contends that securing most seats would bolster their mandate for independence discussions. Despite the repeated rejection of a second independence referendum by Conservative governments, the SNP is urged to reconsider and modify some of its independence strategies at next month’s upcoming SNP conference.
Financial Pressures on the Scottish Public
In Scottish politics, there is a clear stance from Labour’s shadow chancellor against engaging in immediate independence negotiations after emerging as the party with the most seats in the general election. Humza Yousaf, serving as both First Minister and leader of Labour, advocates for an independence strategy based on securing a majority of seats. Nevertheless, it is imperative for Yousaf to demonstrate a genuine commitment to addressing financial hardships faced by individuals and families. The First Minister anticipates that the next general election will be arduous and unsatisfactory, especially due to emerging challenges posed by Scottish Labour.
Labour Was Traditionally Dominant
Once the predominant political force in Scotland, the Labour Party wielded substantial influence through the Scottish Labour Party throughout the last century. As a crucial player in Scotland’s governance, the Labour Party has held a significant role in the nation’s societal and political landscape. From the 1960s onward, Labour consistently secured a majority in both seats at Westminster and a share of votes. A resurgence of Labour to prominent positions has the potential to reshape Scottish politics and influence strategies related to independence.
First Minister Faces Challenges
Losing votes in the by-elections would challenge First Minister Yousaf’s position and the party’s independence strategy. The SNP has become the largest party in the Scottish Parliament since 2007, and the party formed a minority government. The party experienced a landslide victory in 2011 and held the first independence referendum in 2014. Despite a NO vote to the independence referendum, the SNP leadership pursued independence strategies after Brexit. However, losing seats in by-elections could result from opposition to independence.
A Challenging General Election
The Labour Party’s strength in Scotland may play a pivotal role in securing a majority in the upcoming general election, potentially granting Labour the authority to supplant the Conservative Party after over a decade. Despite the SNP’s dominance in Scottish Westminster MPs since the 2014 independence referendum, shifts are occurring in Scottish politics, and the SNP’s popularity is changing. An early poll has indicated that the SNP could relinquish 23 of its seats to Labour in the Westminster elections.
SNP Strategy Switch
Although the independence strategy will dominate the SNP conference, the leadership plans to change the system. The previous process focused on winning the most seats in the next general election. The Scottish Labour hopes to take a few dozen seats in the next general election. Therefore, the SNP should switch its independence strategy to winning fewer but critical seats. Nevertheless, the first minister faces several challenges, and predicting where the independence movement would go is difficult.
First Minister in Crisis
The first minister faces an internal revolt from the SNP parliamentarians. He is caught between demands to concentrate on solving the financial pressures and calls for pursuing independence. Humza Yousaf is in a challenging situation and might lose his position as the SNP leader. For the people who have been dealing with the cost-of-living crisis, independence negotiations are not a priority. However, SNP members and independence activists demanded that Yousaf ditch his previous strategy.
SNP Annual Conference
On the eve of Humza Yousaf’s first annual conference as the SNP leader, the first minister faces challenges to unite the party under one strategy. The SNP lost its seat in Rutherglen and Hamilton West to the Labour, a blow to the Humza Yousaf leadership. Losing a chair after a decade dominated by the pro-independent party, the SNP and the first minister face the dominance challenge. The Rutherglen by-election result is also an anti-independence voting.
Nationalists Leave SNP
The SNP has lost votes and members in recent years. During the SNP leadership contest, the party announced around 72,000 eligible members to vote. The party had more than 125,000 members in 2018. The sharp drop in the SNP membership exposed a crisis for the party. In the recent by-election, 20.4% of the SNP voters turned to Labour, a distressing challenge for the first minister. Now, hopes of the nationalists’ winning seats in the next general election look out of reach.
Any threat to the first minister’s authority could diminish the party’s strength in the immediate future. Humza Yousaf faces the decision of aligning with either the nationalist agenda or addressing the public’s primary demands. While planning for future independence talks is an option, the priority should be showcasing tangible improvements in the daily lives of the people of Scotland. The nationalist party must demonstrate its capabilities before articulating the merits of independence. While it might be tempting to follow the path of his predecessor, the SNP’s agenda should prioritize fostering a more prosperous and equitable life for the public.