Since the referendum, almost 17,000 new members have joined the SNP (as of 22nd September, according to the party’s website). This takes the nationalists’ membership total to 42,000, almost the 43,000 that the UK-wide Liberal Democrats have.
Additionally, for the Greens, their membership increased by 3,000 since the referendum. They now have over 5,000 members, according to their page; for a small party this is probably the more impressive feat.
Furthermore, a poll released in the Mail on Sunday, following the referendum, gave the SNP a boost.
The Survation poll gives the SNP 49% in the Scottish Parliament voting intention. This would put them up 4 points on their 2011 results. The SNP website welcomes the result, saying the party are ‘on track for [a] third term’.
As for 2015 UK-wide voting intentions, Labour have the lead with 39%, compared to the SNP’s 35%, which is up fifteen points from 2010. Clearly the SNP are gaining ground, but the pattern of ‘voting Labour in UK elections’ and SNP in Holyrood elections, is arguably apparent in this poll.
Speaking today, the First Minister, Alex Salmond, said this in the Scottish Parliament: ‘We have seen a generational change - in attitudes towards independence and greater self-government, and also in how politics should be carried out. We have a totally new body politic, a new spirit abroad in the land - one which is speaking loud and clear. All of us must realise that things cannot ever be the same again.’
Does this mean the SNP could return to power in 2016 under a new leader? It’s highly likely, especially if Nicola Sturgeon takes charge. Unless Labour can mount a successful campaign against the party then it is likely the nationalists will return to power, perhaps even with a majority once more - if Survation’s numbers are reliable.
Parti Quebecois returned to power in Quebec after their 1980 referendum defeat so there is a precedent for the referendum-setting party to return to power. The SNP could repeat this and win an historic third term.
However, it is worth noting that Scottish Labour enjoyed a similar double digit lead in the lead up to the 2011 election, something which changed dramatically, leading the SNP to form Scotland’s first majority government. The same could happen to the nationalists, but with increasing membership numbers, it feels as if momentum remains in the hands of the SNP.
The Survation poll was a telephone poll of 871 Scottish adults, conducted on Friday the 19th September.