Feat of strength in Westminster will build muscle for Holyrood

Sunday 10 May, 2015

For Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, their newly confirmed dominance of Scottish politics brings fresh communication challenges.

The party has proved adapt at acting like an opposition even when it is in government – there is no doubt that this approach helped usurp Labour in Scotland. Going forward it going to have to juggle government in Edinburgh and opposition at Westminster while managing a fresh-faced group of MPs.

The SNPs ability to be fleet of foot in campaigning will be a strength in Westminster where they are in opposition with little chance of being asked for support on legislation. They will need this as they need to prove to voters in Scotland the point of electing so many SNP MPs and demonstrating that they are able to give Scotland a voice and influence at Westminster.

The Conservative majority government presents the SNP with opportunities and risks. The party’s key tool to continuing their success will be implementing a smart and targeted communication campaign aimed directly at Scottish voters between now and the Holyrood elections in 2016. They know that the next year can’t just be about demanding more constitutional change – that isn’t what all their new voters want to hear. They need to clearly communicate the impact they are making and demonstrate how only they can make a difference.

The SNPs new team of 56 contains some wise heads and experienced Parliamentarians, however there are also some who are very new not just to Westminster but also the pressures and demands that being an MP brings. The SNP will need to work hard to build a communication structure round their new group. This isn’t about Mandelson-esque control of message but ensuring that the group has all the tools it needs to thrive in a new and undoubtedly hostile environment.

Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership of the SNP has so far demonstrated that she is more than able to deliver the kind of campaign that she requires over the next year and beyond. Her key challenge will be how she leads the Westminster based campaign when clearly her focus will be leading the Scottish Government and winning the Holyrood election. She was the star of the 2015 election, not just in Scotland but across the UK, her job is now going to get tougher as she juggles her new found UK role and a huge new group of MPs with that of First Minister party leader in another election year.

Originally published in the Sunday Times Scotland, 10 May 2015