Ewan Crawford: SNP MPs likely to be well disciplined

Picture: John Devlin
Picture: John Devlin
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In THE run-up to the independence referendum, I remember the SNP convener of a Holyrood committee sternly telling me she wouldn’t be running her inquiries in the manner of the House of Commons Scottish affairs committee.

In the year or so before the vote last September, various Commons committees became no more than slightly more upmarket branches of the No campaign. The Scottish affairs committee in particular churned out report after report detailing the catastrophe that would inevitably befall Scotland should people vote Yes.

It seemed like an abuse of the select committee system and I was quietly impressed that Holyrood committees with SNP majorities weren’t replying in kind.

Before the SNP won power in Holyrood, the cry from the party’s opponents was that the Nationalists would wreck the Scottish Parliament to prove it couldn’t work and therefore make the case for independence. That was about as comprehensive a misunderstanding of the SNP strategy as it’s possible to get.

Years ago, the party went through the sometimes difficult process of moving from a party of protest to a party of government. It thrives on demonstrating competence and on a spirit of co-operation. Its MSPs have been a disciplined force in the knowledge that the only people who gain from internal divisions are the SNP’s opponents.

There is, therefore, every reason to suspect the new batch of talented MPs will continue this tradition. The gracious tone of victory speeches in the early hours of yesterday were a useful indicator of how the SNP group is likely to conduct itself.

With a handful of MPs, the challenge is to make a noise and quite properly, on occasion, to pull stunts if this furthers your cause.

But a group of 56 SNP MPs will clearly operate differently – seeking to achieve as much of the SNP’s manifesto aims as possible. 
• Ewan Crawford is a former special adviser with the Scottish Government