Tom Peterkin: There’s trouble in the SNP ranks

Top of his list of complaints was John Swinney's property tax, which he thought was penalising hard-working, aspirational Scots. Picture: TSPL
Top of his list of complaints was John Swinney's property tax, which he thought was penalising hard-working, aspirational Scots. Picture: TSPL
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THERE’S trouble in the ranks of the SNP despite optimism from the polls, writes Tom Peterkin

With the SNP soaring in the polls and looking as if it is going to trounce Labour in May, one could be forgiven for thinking that the mood in the party ranks was all sweetness and light.

Of course there is much unbridled optimism despite the referendum defeat. No wonder, given this week’s Sky poll suggesting the SNP is heading for 53 seats. Wow.

Nevertheless, a dissatisfied rump can be found dwelling in the grassroots.

Passing the time of day with a long-term SNP member and activist the other evening, it was surprising to detect some dismay. His problem was with what he saw as a lurch to the left by Nicola Sturgeon’s party.

Top of his list of complaints was John Swinney’s property tax, which he thought was penalising hard-working, aspirational Scots.

Although Swinney’s Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) does offer help to first-time buyers, his concern was with the punitive rates at the middle and upper ends of the market.

There was also anger at the SNP’s hugely controversial initiative to assign every Scottish child a state guardian – the so-called “named person” policy. The policy, giving a “named person” the right to interfere in family life if it is thought that a child’s welfare is at risk, was denounced by this SNP member as the nanny state at its worst.

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Elsewhere, there are concerns among businesses that income tax rates may follow the example of LBTT, thus making Scotland less attractive to wealth creators. To SNP members, Sturgeon’s strong left-wing credentials should come as no surprise. But perhaps those on the right of the SNP expected better from Swinney.

These disappointed members are often characterised by Labour as the Tartan Tories. They are the voters – many of whom live in rural areas – who believe that independence would be the best way to realign Scottish politics. To them, an independent Scotland would be a chance to create a business-friendly nation that rewards entrepreneurship and frees its inhabitants from the shackles of over-reliance on the state.

They tend not to be associated with angry Yes rallies outside the BBC or chucking eggs at Jim Murphy. They may be less visible and less vocal than many within the SNP, but they have found a home within the party nonetheless.

Their votes have also contributed to the success of the SNP, particularly when it has come to taking seats off the Conservatives in the North-east and places like Angus and Perthshire.

Their dismay does not seem to be reflected in the polls, but keeping the Tartan Tories on board the SNP band-wagon could prove challenging in the future.