Anyone who has watched the BBC’s Michael Cockerell documentaries on the operation of the House of Commons might be tempted to agree with Joyce McMillan’s view (Perspective, 13 February).
There is a danger that an enlarged contingent of SNP MPs might be absorbed into an arcane, cumbersome, patronage-filled forum which might impair their effectiveness. But that is to assume that the Nationalists have learned nothing over the past 40 years.
Their increased presence in Westminster will not surely be about adapting to its more quaint procedures. It will be about leadership and focus.
That focus will be about using its systems to get enhanced powers for the Scottish Parliament and protecting the economic interests of people north of the Border.
The lessons of the period since devolution and the independence referendum should be clear. The SNP needs now to use Holyrood and Westminster in tandem. It will only disgust its new-found supporters if it falls precisely into the trap that Cockerell’s programmes depict – that is, to bow to the more obscure parliamentary traditions that have been built up over centuries and have proved very difficult to reform.
It will be a test of its character to use the chamber to best effect to hold to account whoever leads the government after the general election. I do think Nicola Sturgeon is well aware of these challenges of dangers; that she, Angus Robertson, current SNP leader in the Commons, party deputy leader Stewart Hosie and former leader Alex Salmond know that the stakes are very high, and that they will never allow the cobwebs of the House of Commons to smother a radical project.
Joyce McMillan’s piece once more delivers her version of reality. No-one, least of all me, would pretend that much does not need changed. All I will say is that if she and others like her believe that the SNP offers a “reasonable and proven competence in government” then I have to wonder where she has been for the past seven years. Simply look at health and education in Scotland for a start.
What progress in their rule? In fact what rule? All they work to achieve is to score against Westminster at the expense of governing Scotland.