The SNP and Sturgeon are building for the future

Friday 23 October 2015

It’s over a year since Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom but since then the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) membership has quadrupled.

They continue to run the Scottish Government and the party won all but three of the 59 Scottish Westminster seats that were on offer at the General Election in May. Ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliament elections the SNP is now polling well above 50% of support in the polls.

Their success has overtaken Labour’s traditional heartlands in Scotland, fighting for what it sees as Scotland’s interests, including more power for the Scottish Parliament and pledging to reform the political system for everyone in the UK, not just Scots. They are also boosted by their leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who offers an image and persona that strikes voters as warm and most importantly, genuine.  

The party remains committed to independence, which has led to suggestions from some that the SNP is only in Westminster to use its influence to further that cause rather than governing in the national interest – the jury is still out on this but they are certainly making their mark in the House of Commons. 

More than 3,000 SNP members attended their party's conference in Aberdeen where Nicola Sturgeon explained how she has no plans to take her foot of the accelerator.

In her closing speech at Conference she talked about the party’s achievements and how the SNP has “…contested 24 local by-elections in the last few months. And we have won 22 of them” and “Our party membership has also continued to grow. Today, our membership stands at more than 114,000.”

However, she reiterated the need for the party to not get complacent because the party’s “responsibility - today, tomorrow and for as long as the Scottish people put their faith in us - is to govern wisely and well on behalf of every citizen in our land.”

The audience was told that the political climate was changing, “We face a Tory party that - despite its rhetoric - is shifting sharply to the right. And Labour? Well, they can't agree whether to move leftwards, rightwards or go round in circles. As a result, the only place Labour is going is deeper and deeper into the political wilderness.” Her conclusion is that the SNP are now the only effective opposition to the Conservatives at Westminster.

On policies Nicola Sturgeon talked about how the SNP has “protected and extended the Educational Maintenance Allowance so that more young people can stay on at school” and with the SNP in charge Scotland is “meeting our targets on renewable energy and cutting carbon emissions.”

In relation to housing at her opening speech to the Conference a couple of days earlier the First Minister championed the SNP’s record saying, “We have a good record on housing. In this parliament, we had a target of building 30,000 affordable homes and we are on track to meet it.”

50,000 new affordable homes

The First Minister also confidently announced a bold new commitment, “If we are re-elected next May, our target in the next parliament will be to build at least 50,000 new affordable homes.” She added that the commitment is “worth more than £3 billion - is a mark of the ambition we have for this country.”

And as the campaign for the Scottish Parliament elections next May hots up she said, “Ambition for Scotland and for everyone who lives here will be the hallmark of our campaign for re-election.”

It’s clear that Nicola Sturgeon is very keen to stress to the Scottish electorate that they should continue to judge the party on its record. But as the party moves closer to the Scottish Parliament elections next year, the SNP will be tested not only on their record in the Scottish Government, but also on their record in Westminster. Fundamentally, the challenge remains to convince every voter that the SNP is more than independence.

Read Nicola Sturgeon’s speech in full here: http://www.snp.org/_snp15_nicola_sturgeons_conference

Commenting on the announcement that the SNP would build at least 50,000 affordable homes in Scotland if they win the Scottish Parliament elections, Matthew Gray, National Association of Estate Agents, regional executive for Scotland said:

“We are pleased that Nicola Sturgeon has committed to building another 50,000 homes if the SNP win the Scottish elections in May 2016. Scotland, like the rest of the UK, faces a chronic lack of housing supply and any additional increase in stock is to be welcomed. However, this cannot be a one off.

“Scotland needs at least 23,000 extra homes a year to match demand, and a one off gesture to the electorate before an election will not solve the current crisis. NAEA calls on the Scottish Government to take the politics out of housing and implement a long term house building programme that will sustain demand for years to come.”

In her opening speech, Nicola Sturgeon was keen to point out that her party had also "...taken steps to safeguard social housing for the future by abolishing the right to buy."

John Swinney added that the SNP were also the party that had ended the controversial bedroom tax and frozen council tax. 

Infrastructure

Of course it's all very well investing in housing, but better infrastructure is just as important, and John Swinney addressed some of these concerns head on, saying:  

"What better way to invest in our infrastructure, than through projects like the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, now under construction by this SNP Government after decades of delay.

"Projects like the new crossing rising majestically from the waters of the Forth.

"And like the Borders Rail - opened just a few weeks ago – the longest new rail line in the UK in 100 years.

"For many years, it has taken too long to travel between this great city of Aberdeen and the UK’s fastest growing city of Inverness.

"We have started to change that, with our commitment to dualling the A96 linking by road these two growing cities.

"But I can tell conference that today we went further, this time by rail.

"This morning we signed the contract for work on upgrading the rail line from here to Inverness. It will deliver investment of 170 million pounds, providing jobs and economic growth to both cities for decades to come."

"Wherever I go in Scotland, people make clear to me the importance of digital connectivity - good mobile and broadband connections. 

"If we had left all of this to the market, only 66% of Scotland would have received Superfast Broadband - only 21% of them in the Highlands and Islands. That was not good enough for us. With over £400 million worth of investment, your SNP Government has put in place the support to make sure, from our main Broadband programme, that 95% of Scotland will be connected to Superfast services.

"But we won't leave it at that. Digital connectivity is crucial to creating economic, social and educational opportunity in every part of Scotland no matter how remote. So this Government has established Community Broadband Scotland with the funding and the mission to connect those communities BT won't reach."

With Broadband now being regarded by many house buyers as 'the fourth utility' and with houses selling for considerably less if they do not have good broadband speeds, the SNP seem to have a good understanding of what it is the electorate want.