20,000 SNP membership is icing on Nicola Sturgeon’s Christmas cake

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By a Newsnet reporter

SNP Depute Leader Nicola Sturgeon has thanked the people of Scotland for giving their support to the SNP over the last twelve months and the party’s ambitions for Scotland’s future.

The SNP ends its best ever year having won 69 seats in the Scottish Parliament elections in May, becoming the first party to form a majority government in Holyrood.

By a Newsnet reporter

SNP Depute Leader Nicola Sturgeon has thanked the people of Scotland for giving their support to the SNP over the last twelve months and the party’s ambitions for Scotland’s future.

The SNP ends its best ever year having won 69 seats in the Scottish Parliament elections in May, becoming the first party to form a majority government in Holyrood.

However this time last year, the party’s fortunes seemed much less positive.  The media predicted that Scotland would have a Labour government after May’s election and Labour were 16% ahead of the SNP in opinion polls.  In May though the SNP defied the odds and received 45.4% of the constituency vote and 44% of the list vote, the party’s best result ever.

The polls have continued to move in the SNP’s favour, and the party has increased its popularity even above the spectacular result in May’s ballot.  According to recent polls, the party is scoring 51%, backed by over half of the people of Scotland, and has a 25 point lead over Labour.

Throughout 2011 the SNP won over half of the council by-elections, winning 9 local authority contests, taking on the leadership of Aberdeen City Council as the largest party.  It ends the year with success in by-elections in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire.

Party membership has now exceeded the 20,000 mark, 4000 coming in the last year alone, making the SNP easily the largest party in Scotland in terms of membership.  

The Unionist parties have all experienced a loss in membership over recent years.  During the recent Scottish Conservative leadership election, the party issued some 8500 ballot papers.  However only 5676 members voted, giving a more accurate estimate of the party’s active membership.

Labour declined to publish a detailed breakdown of its recent Scottish leadership election results, which would have permitted the party’s active membership to be calculated.  However figures from the party’s UK leadership election in 2010 suggested that the party had just 13,135 fully registered members in Scotland, a dramatic decline from the 30,000 membership claimed by Labour in Scotland in 1997, and well short of the 18000 plus claimed by the party earlier in 2010. 

Most independent observers believe that Labour’s true membership has declined even further and the party enters 2011 facing a crisis of membership.

Only the SNP and other pro-independence parties buck the trend of declining membership.  With the SNP’s membership now reaching over 20,000 Ms Sturgeon said:

“This has been a momentous year for Scottish politics and for the SNP. 

“The festive period is a hopeful time and, as we celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another, I want to thank everyone across Scotland who has placed their trust in the SNP and have helped create the opportunity for Scotland to move forward toward independence.

“Across the country, and at every level of government, people chose to back our record, our team and a vision for Scotland that, thanks to their support we will now put to the people, in the second half of this parliament.

“As is clear from our historic win in the Scottish Parliament elections, and our local government successes, people increasingly recognise that Scotland can be more successful.

“Our 20,000 membership milestone is the icing on the Christmas cake for the SNP as we look towards the local Government elections next year.

“With 20,000 members all working to make Scotland better, the SNP is now the largest party in Scotland and is increasingly the natural choice of those wanting to build a better Scotland.  We are winning new members and public support as voters recognise the successes of the SNP in Government and our commitment to make Scotland smarter, fairer and wealthier.

“While 2011 was difficult for many, we must look back on this year with the knowledge that brighter days are ahead of us – because although our challenges are great, we have firm foundations to build on as we move into a new phase for our nation.

“We, the people of Scotland, have the greatest stake in our future.  That is why we are best placed to govern ourselves.  Now is a time for Scotland to keep moving forward, and if we do, prosperity and opportunity will come.”