‘SNP recruits may soon be disillusioned and quit’

The SNP's new members could be alienated by its rigidity, says John Wilson. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The SNP's new members could be alienated by its rigidity, says John Wilson. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE tens of thousands of Yes supporters joining the SNP after the referendum could become disillusioned with the party, with many quitting in frustration, a pro-independence MSP has claimed.

Central Scotland MSP John Wilson says the “centralised” nature of the SNP and its “centre-right” politicians would alienate left-leaning Yes supporters who joined the party, swelling its membership by more than 60,000 to over 90,000.

Mr Wilson quit the SNP just days after the referendum, citing an “increasing conflict” over the SNP’s defence policy, including its position on Trident and membership of Nato.

A large number of the SNP new recruits could become alienated by the way the party is dominated by its leading figures, he claimed.

The MSP, who now sits as an independent at Holyrood, left the SNP which he joined because of what he viewed as Labour’s right-ward drift under Tony Blair in the late 1990s.

Mr Wilson said the new, more radical and left-wing SNP members may fall out with the party’s leadership, which is known for its firm discipline and for quashing even the slightest hints of rebellion.

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New members would be disappointed if nothing happened over moves to select pro-Yes alliance candidates and such figures as human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, who joined the party for the first time after the referendum.

Mr Wilson suggested there could be a major exodus of new SNP members if the party props up a minority Labour government in the event of a hung parliament.

He said: “A lot of people who want to give Labour a bloody nose because they sided with the Tories on the referendum could get disillusioned if the SNP effectively goes into a coalition deal with Labour.”

Mr Wilson went on to say that the SNP may fail to select people not fully signed-up to party policy on issues such as Nato, even if they back independence.

He added: “Despite apparently making offers to well known activists, the SNP will still want to control the bulk of the candidates for Westminster and have leadership over the campaign.

“People could become disillusioned once they realise that the selection process, unlike the Yes campaign, is not a broad alliance, and that the party’s political structure is tied to party policy.”

Mr Wilson said that left-wing supporters of independence joining the SNP would find themselves at odds with party policies such as the pledge to reduce corporation tax for big business.

He said: “Once people realise the policies of the SNP, despite the rhetoric and speeches by the First Minister, are not what they thought they could get disillusioned.

“They might think about some of the recent appointments to ministerial posts and how it is very much dominated by those on the centre right.”

He also suggested the SNP’s influx of new members could be similar to that of the surge in membership Labour saw in the mid-1990s, soon after Tony Blair was elected party leader, with many of those joining later quitting – and “this could happen sooner than many think”.

An SNP spokesman last night said: “SNP membership has gone from 25,000 on referendum day to over 93,000 and it continues to rise, which rather speaks for itself.”

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