After a difficult week, the Conservative Party may have to face up to some more bad news today. A massive surge in SNP membership means it’s likely now the UK’s second largest party, relegating Theresa May’s party to third place.
SNP members walked out of the House of Commons during Prime Ministers Questions (PMQs) on 13 June. In the following 24 hours, over 5,000 people joined the party.
According to the latest figures released by the SNP, at least 7,526 people have joined the party since the walkout. In April 2018, Conservative Party membership was reported at just 124,000, while SNP membership sat at 118,200. The influx of members takes the SNP’s estimated total to around 125,700.
During PMQs, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was thrown out the chamber, prompting the rest of the party’s 35 MPs to follow:
This is the moment the entire SNP group walked out of chamber during #PMQs. @IanBlackfordMP had just stated "The people of Scotland will not be disrespected by this Parliament" before being told to leave for not sitting down. pic.twitter.com/hWQpPShk09
— Stephen Paton 🍂 (@stephenpaton134) June 13, 2018
The move stemmed from anger towards the previous day’s debate. Only 15 minutes were allocated to discuss how Brexit issues related to the devolved administrations. And no Scottish MP was given an opportunity to speak.
The Scottish Parliament voted not to give its consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill. But the UK government pressed on regardless. Ministers at Holyrood accused the Conservatives of a “power grab”, with decision making over some previously devolved areas staying at Westminster.
If the Conservative Party has fallen behind the SNP in terms of membership figures, the blame will surely lie at the door of its MPs.
Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger shouted “suicide” when an SNP MP asked what options were available for Scotland post-Brexit. The comment caused outrage among members and mental health campaigners. But Grainger doubled down, calling the party a bunch of “petty wankers”.
Scottish secretary David Mundell also opened his party up to criticism north of the border. Responding to questions in the commons, Mundell said Scotland is “not a partner of the United Kingdom, but part of the United Kingdom”:
“Scotland is not a partner of the United Kingdom, Scotland is part of the United Kingdom” – David Mundell, 14 June 2018
Mark the date. I suspect the Secretary of State for Scotland just provided the opening line of the final epitaph of his beloved Union… pic.twitter.com/hRpu3eI1AQ
— DJ Johnston-Smith (@AddictedToTweed) June 14, 2018
Recent actions have even led to some in the media claiming the Tories are doing the SNP a “huge favour”:
Absolute uproar from government benches when SNP’s @StephenGethins speaks in EU Withdrawal debate, after mass SNP walkout during #PMQs. Frankly not great look for Commons. Tory MPs doing SNP a huge favour
— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 13, 2018
‘Hands off our Parliament’
Since the walkout, thousands across Scotland have been taking to the streets. In Glasgow, crowds gathered at the statue of Donald Dewar, who championed the creation of the Scottish Parliament:
— YesG78 (@YesG78) June 16, 2018
While hundreds took to the Scottish Parliament itself in Edinburgh:
— Alexia (@Sinethugcat) June 14, 2018
Four years after the referendum, the independence movement in Scotland seems to have found a renewed vigour. Record numbers marched through Glasgow at the recent All Under One Banner march. And the release of papers such as the Growth Commission has reignited the economic debate.
There has been much disagreement around the Growth Commission within the independence movement. And the SNP-led Glasgow City Council’s continued support for an arms fair in the city has also come under fire from both SNP members and the wider movement.
But the current fight-back against the Conservative government does seem to have truly brought the factions together under one loose banner again. The announcement of another vote on Scotland’s future seems inevitable if pressure from the grassroots is maintained. What happens then is anyone’s guess.
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