'No evidence' splinter Scottish independence parties will hurt SNP's majority push

Scottish Independence supporters will have a choice of party at the Holyrood election in May.Scottish Independence supporters will have a choice of party at the Holyrood election in May.
Scottish Independence supporters will have a choice of party at the Holyrood election in May.
New political parties determined to increase the representation of pro-independence voices in Holyrood will face an uphill battle, political experts have predicted.

Ahead of the elections in May, Scottish voters will see at least two new names on the regional list, including Independence for Scotland and Scotia Future, as well as the traditional pro-independence parties the SNP, the Greens, Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

But not since 2003 and the SSP under Mr Sheridan winning six seats has a pro-independence party other than the SNP or the Greens won representation to Holyrood.

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Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde and one of the leading experts in the field of Scottish independence, told The Scotsman there was “no discernible evidence” new parties would impact the Holyrood results.

He said: “There is no discernible evidence to date that the various pro-independence parties other than the SNP and the Greens will have an impact on the outcome of May's election.”

This was echoed by Chris Hopkins, associate director at pollsters Savanta/ComRes, who said the “sheer resource” behind the larger parties would likely mean a lack of meaningful support on polling day.

He said: “In 2016 the smaller independence groups – RISE were one – had virtually no impact and I would be surprised if any of the 2021 versions have much cut-through.

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“There are two main reasons for this. One is sheer resource – I don’t expect the smaller pro-independence parties or movements to get much media traction or cut-through, it doesn’t feel like they have much time to make a name for themselves, and ultimately they’re going to end up being forgotten.

“The second is that splinter groups tend to do well when there is significant opposition to the status quo, and I just don’t get any impression of there being any sizeable pro-independence, but anti-SNP movement.

"I think that these splinter groups will have a hard time convincing voters to abandon the SNP and vote for them instead, because it doesn’t seem particularly clear what it is they’re offering that the SNP doesn’t.”

However, Neil Mackay, the founder of the grassroots independence organisation All Under One Banner, said he believed there was enough disquiet from within the independence movement to see the likes of Independence for Scotland return MSPs.

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He said: “The Yes movement is united on independence, but that is clearly the only point we agree on and the rest is all disagreed on.

"It is the SNP’s leadership’s fault that this has happened. For sure Nicola Sturgeon is a great First Minister, but she is also leader of the SNP and the lack of campaigning for independence has created real frustration and alienation among Yes supporters.

"There is no urgency whatsoever. That has led to a knock-on effect with people asking what do we do next?”

Mr Mackay, who is setting up a national membership group that will be dedicated to pushing for independence, said he believed splinter parties could see up to five or ten MSPs elected.

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He said: “There is enough of a groundswell amongst people who feel disenfranchised by the SNP’s vacuum of leadership on independence.

"This is an option that means they can express they want it quicker.”

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