nationalist parties

nationalist parties
   The Scottish National Party (SNP) was founded in 1934 by supporters of self-government for Scotland. Support grew from the late 1960s, thanks to public dissatisfaction with the two-party system and the failings of the postwar consensus. The SNP benefited from the protest vote, and popularity was boosted with the discovery of North Sea oil in 1970. This increased the economic viability of an independent Scottish state, with the SNP claiming, ‘It’s Scotland’s Oil’. Support peaked in the October 1974 general election when the party won eleven seats and 800,000 votes.
   Plaid Cymru, literally ‘the Party of Wales’, was formed in 1925 and, like the SNP, experienced its greatest electoral popularity in October 1974 when it gained three seats and 170,000 votes. It stresses the importance of the Welsh language and culture, and seeks self-government for Wales within the European Union. Independence for Wales is seen as more difficult to achieve than Scottish independence, as Wales has fewer natural resources and no administrative apparatus separate from England. Nevertheless, Plaid Cymru is angered by Labour’s 1997 manifesto proposals for a devolved Scottish Parliament with legislative powers when a Welsh assembly would not have a similar capacity.
   Both nationalist parties have a left-of-centre political orientation. Plaid Cymru has an explicit commitment to ‘decentralized socialism’, and both parties advocate increasing income tax for higher earners, an economic priority of full employment, increased welfare spending, unilateral nuclear disarmament and constitutional and electoral change along the lines proposed by Charter 88. In Parliament, the SNP and Plaid Cymru have an alliance and undertook joint initiatives in the 1997 general election campaign.
   Nationalist popularity declined following the failure of the 1979 referenda for devolution to Scotland and Wales under Callaghan’s minority Labour administration. Only 20 percent of Welsh voters supported devolution, and although 52 percent of Scottish voters wanted the measure, 42 percent of the Scottish population had to vote for devolution to change Scotland’s constitutional status and only 33 percent did so. The 1990s witnessed a resurgence in nationalist support. Both parties increased their share of the vote in the 1992 general election and became the second parties of local government behind Labour in their respective countries during Major’s second term. At the 1997 general election the SNP won six seats, and Plaid Cymru four.
   Further reading
    Davies, C.A. (1989) Welsh Nationalism and the Modern State, New York: Praeger.
    Marr, A. (1992) The Battle for Scotland, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
   COLIN WILLIAMS

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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