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The SNP ‘needs to have a period in opposition’ and a ‘refresh’, says Edinburgh University expert

SNP conference 2018 - Image credit: Jenni Davidson/Holyrood

The SNP ‘needs to have a period in opposition’ and a ‘refresh’, says Edinburgh University expert

The SNP needs a period in opposition and a refresh, Professor James Mitchell has said in an interview for Holyrood’s Politically Speaking podcast, talking about the current state of the party.

The University of Edinburgh academic said the SNP was likely to do well at the Holyrood elections next year but that was only because there was “no alternative”.

He said: “The SNP to me looks like a political party that needs to have a period in opposition. It needs a refresh. It sounds tired. Its, frankly, policy profile is not exciting.

“However, it looks like the other parties are conspiring to keep the SNP in office. They are so poor.

“So the truth of the matter is that if you look around the political parties and leadership in Scotland, it’s not a pretty sight at all.”

Elsewhere in the podcast Mitchell said the SNP was “a very small ‘c’ conservative government” and the only areas it had been radical in was on issues such as gender recognition and hate crime, which are “niche issues” that don’t resonate with the public at large or wider membership.

It “talks a good game”, he said, but added that the SNP reminded him of “old-style Conservative governments, pre-Thatcher governments that didn’t want to rock the boat”.

Mitchell also noted that often these policies had been “incredibly poorly articulated” and “poorly developed” and the fact that some of the flagship policies such as named person have had to be revised or withdrawn suggested they “didn’t do their homework properly”.

The party is also much less happy internally than it has been in many years, Mitchell said.

He suggested three causes for this unhappiness: frustration that that there is increased support for independence but a lack of clarity about how it will be delivered, unhappiness with the party management and “dysfunctional” headquarters, and competition for constituencies and list places for next year’s election, with the party now attracting people who are “very career minded” and looking for a future in politics.

All of these things are creating “a lot of unhappiness, a lot of unease, a sense of frustration” among party activists and that has not been well managed by the leadership, he said.

You can listen to the full interview in the Politically Speaking podcast.

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