Labour defector's 'blueprint' helped SNP win election

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THE SNP's success in last Thursday's election is being largely credited as the work of a hitherto unknown Labour defector who masterminded the transformation of the Nationalists.

Scotland on Sunday has obtained a copy of a document written by former Labour candidate Gordon Guthrie which sources say acted as the "blueprint" for the party's campaign.

Guthrie switched allegiances in 2002 over the war in Iraq and a belief that Scotland's economic future was being jeopardised.

The computer expert had devised the Labour party's electoral software which allowed it to identify potential voters during campaigns.

In 2004, Guthrie wrote a paper, 'SNP Electoral System Review', which called for a complete overhaul of the party's internal structures. It said that the party needed to tear up its old way of campaigning and policymaking so that it began to build up a wider "coalition of support".

"The overall balance of this report demands a shift in the SNP away from mobilisation and towards electoral coalition building. This will require not only an organisational but also a major political and cultural shift," the report said.

Among the radical proposals in the report was that the SNP should engage with "avowed opponents" of the party so that they were better prepared for the onslaught from their political rivals.

"Their criticisms now will become our opponents' attack lines later. Early engagement with them will ensure we can find and fix our policy weaknesses, develop our defensive lines and be in better shape for the wider political engagement."

It added: "Detailed and complete policy proposals are the rock and foundation of the SNP's appeal as a party of government, but they must be boiled down to more simple messages for the purposes of mass communications."

During the campaign, the SNP unveiled several such policies, promising to "axe the council tax", "scrap student loans" and "save local hospitals". All are credited with having won crucial support among key new support groups.

Guthrie also recommended plundering the successful techniques of other political parties.

The paper declared: "If the SNP is to continue to undermine Labour in the key lowland heartlands then a politics of community involvement, development and political penetration needs to be adopted. Many of these techniques have been pioneered by the Liberal Democrats."

The paper also laid out the framework for the party's highly successful strategy on the regional list. In 2003, the party lost more than a dozen seats on the list to smaller parties. Last week, it won 26 such seats, double the number of the next largest party.

Guthrie's paper also recommended a far more advanced computer system which allowed the SNP to track sympathetic voters much more effectively.

One senior source in the party said: "The paper was the blueprint for winning the election. It is fair to say that it changed the way we ran the campaign."

The SNP election machine was universally regarded as being superior to Labour's in almost every regard.

Central to the Nationalists' success was the party's chief executive, Peter Murrell, who is also the partner of SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Another key member of staff was Kevin Pringle, Salmond's trusted media aide.