The Scottish National Party (SNP) is odds on to win parliamentary elections in May. But that didn’t stop tensions coming to the surface at the party’s conference in Glasgow last weekend.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon told delegates that there will be “a new initiative to build support for independence”.
SNP government “achievements” were recited faithfully to the crowd of up to 3,000.
But frustrations simmered away.
Dissenting delegate Dr Malcolm Kerr criticised the operation as “beginning to resemble the Labour Party during the Tony Blair era”.
He condemned the “self-congratulatory” motions, of which 80 percent were in the name of MPs and MSPs.
The Isle of Arran delegate also challenged the exclusion of off-message topics such as local government and further education.
Around 20 branch motions calling for a ban on fracking—about a fifth of all motions received—were blocked. The leadership declared that discussing them would “not be appropriate”.
The SNP Members Against Unconventional Gas group protested outside with anti-fracking activists. The party is vulnerable over the issue.
Last year “Frack Off” was exploited as a key general election slogan.
But Sturgeon’s relationship with billionaire energy boss and union-buster Jim Ratcliffe has been questioned.
Frack Off Fife activist Audrey Egan was sceptical of the SNP government’s “moratorium” on fracking. It is funding test drilling as part of research and has postponed any final decision until after the election.
Audrey thinks the SNP “is just buying time to create more loopholes to allow unconventional gas extraction”.
“There’s more than enough global evidence to show the methods are unsafe,” she said.
The SNP claims to be “anti-austerity”.
But cuts in further education and the first national college strike in over 20 years this week gives the lie to this.
There was real tension between delegates and education minister Angela Constance at an EIS union fringe meeting.
SNP members working in schools and colleges barely contained their anger at rising workloads and cuts. They know that SNP Holyrood, not Tory Westminster, is to blame.
One Glasgow college lecturer told Socialist Worker that a lot of lecturers sympathise with the SNP.
She said, “Some have lent their votes to us. And there are even members of our own looking at this dispute and wondering what Angela is doing about it.
“If the party’s not careful we could lose a lot of support over this—and they’d be right. It’s a disgrace and we should get it sorted.”
Uncritical support for the SNP will not hold politicians to account and weakens the struggle against austerity.