The Americanisation of Scottish politics

Admittedly, I’m still absolutely struck by the enormity of Saturday’s major gathering of Scottish National Party members at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. The vast number of people, the musicality of the occasion and the emphatic volume of the message coming out from one of the world’s major exhibition venues secured the recognition and overall success of an event that dare I predict Scotland’s largest political party didn’t dare dream of facilitating. Just take a look at the photo below which was Tweeted on Twitter by the well known SNP activist Natalie McGarry.

The last phrase from the previous paragraph “Scotland’s largest political party” also has a significant relevance. Within the duration of the event, the SNP took a giant step towards the major milestone of 100,000 members when their membership tally jumped by approximately 2,000. The party itself is aiming to hit six figures before the next UK General Election, but frankly I will be gobsmacked if they don’t reach it by the time we arrive into 2015.

There are many reasons people can claim as to why the party of government at Holyrood has seen such a dramatic increase in it’s membership since Scotland rejected independence in September. Clearly, there is a renewed determination from many across the nation to keep the ultimate goal of independence in sight. And also, many have joined the party (or another party that backed Scottish independence such as the Scottish Green Party) in order to play their part in ensuring that Scotland remains a relevant matter for the politicians at Westminster when it comes to gaining new powers for the Scottish Parliament.

But I think one of the major reasons for the rise in membership of the SNP was Saturday’s occasion on Clydeside. It was live, loud and full of excitability. The old methods of politics are not just boring, but outdated and frankly irrelevant. I’m not suggesting for a second that parliamentary democracy and party conferences should be abolished – I actually think they remain fundamentally important within a healthy democracy.

But Scotland’s biggest political party has taken a leaf out of the United States. The Democrats and the Republicans hold their regular national conventions where they motivate their support to get out there and campaign hard to convince their fellow citizens that their policies are best for the governance of the nation. To an extent, the SNP have emulated their style with Nicola Sturgeon’s tour of Scotland, especially on Saturday in Scotland’s biggest city. The difference arguably was the fact that policies were discussed at other occasions e.g. the annual conference of the party in Perth approximately a week before.

Nevertheless, Saturday’s showpiece political event attracted a lot of attention. Alongside the Radical Independence Conference that took place inside the Clyde Auditorium, both events dominated the political activity taking place across the city and country. And as far as the SNP’s showpiece event was concerned, it was symbolic of the Americanisation of Scottish politics.

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