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Competence, Social Democracy or Independence? The Shifting Strategic Emphasis of the Scottish National Party in Post-Devolution Scotland

Nationalism
Political Competition
Political Parties
Kieran Wright
University of Kent
Kieran Wright
University of Kent
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Abstract

The Scottish National Party is an example of a regional nationalist party operating in a stateless nation that has achieved a substantial degree of success during the past decade. This paper presents an original empirical analysis of the party's tactical positioning in post-devolution Scotland conducted using a textual analysis of parliamentary discourse in the Scottish Parliament. In doing so it introduces an original dictionary specifically developed to measure the centre-periphery orientation of Scottish political texts. The analysis shows that the SNP moderated its position on the centre-periphery axis of competition in years when an election to the Holyrood parliament took place. It also presents evidence suggesting that the SNP shifted its stance to the left in economic terms during the latter part of the post-devolution era, when it held power at Holyrood while the UK Conservative Party held power at Westminster. The findings suggest that regional nationalist parties stand to gain from de-emphasizing constitutional issues when competing for power at devolved level, and by distancing themselves on the economic axis of competition from the party in power at state-wide level.