Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

John Cramsie




Scottish National Party


This research analyzes the growth of the Scottish Nationalist Party, currently Scotland’s main party in Scottish Parliament. The growth of the nationalist movement began in the 1920s and took a long period of formative years before the movement grew into the Scottish Nationalist party seen today. The nationalist movement was most successful in the latter years of the 20th century, but the most important stages of the nationalist movement were its formative years in from the 1920s through the 1940s. This thesis analyzes the nationalist’s developmental process of determining the goal of the nationalist movement and the methods the movement would take to achieve that goal. This project uses original newspapers and critical articles and monographs to chart the formative years of the nationalist movement in early 20th century and their impact on the modern political dynamics of the Scottish National Party. The success of the Scottish National Party as a modern nationalist movement rests on this earlier period of organization, joined with its determination that independence offers the best future for the Scottish people. Chapter one describes the political situation that encouraged the nationalist movements. The fall of the century long Liberal party dominance occurred through Prime Minister William Gladstone’s Irish Home Rule Bill in 1886. The bill divided the Liberal party between those who were in favor of Irish Home rule and those against. The division led to Liberal party disorganization and a vacuum in Scottish politics in the early 20th century, which allowed for the Labour Party to rise and gain a presence. The Labour Party was a socialist organization that focused on the large Scottish working class. Ideas of Home Rule grew through Labour’s rhetoric and small nonparty nationalist groups began to form, most notably the Scottish Home Rule Association. The chapter considers the changes in politics and industrialization in relation to the Scottish identity. The Scottish identity grew amongst the newly enfranchised voting population. The Scottish working class began to understand their importance and influence in Scotland through their large voting population. Working class influence could be seen in the form of political movements and unionization, which all contributed to the beginning of the nationalist movement because the general population began to advocate for their personal interests. The start of the nationalist movement expands in the second chapter. The Scots National League (SNL) and the Scottish Home Rule Association (SHRA) were the first nationalist parties to campaign for Home Rule. The chapter traces the growth and merger of various nationalist parties from the 1920s throughout the 1930s. By tracing the paths of the various national movements, the differing opinions of Home Rule and the best ways to achieve Home Rule are introduced. Despite their fragmentation and lack agreement on Home Rule and how to achieve it among the nationalist movement, the nationalists ultimately combined their efforts in the form of the Scottish National Party in 1934. The consolidation of the nationalist parties into the SNP forced the movement to determine its goals and political methods. John MacCormick led the SNP for a long period and preached for a gradual and inclusive Scottish movement for devolution in the hope that the SNP could achieve Home Rule in a faster route than building a competitive presence in 69 Parliament. Other SNP leaders like Douglas Young and Robert McIntyre believed that Scotland should be independent and that the SNP would lead the movement for independence in Parliament. The SNP struggled through these conflicting ideas in the late 1930s and 1940s, but emerged as a unified party with independence as their main goal. The SNP that reorganized in the 1940s was the start of the modern version of the party today. The SNP wanted to achieve independence through gaining a majority in Parliament and passing an independence bill. Chapter four reflects on the key ideas and methods during the formative years of the nationalist movement. The conflicting methods and ideas of Scottish Home Rule and independence impeded on party progress at times, but all contributed to the SNP’s resilience and success. The growth of nationalist ideologies led to the SNP’s influence in the passing of the 1998 Scotland Act through triggering a referendum, which granted Scotland a devolved Parliament. Reassessing the key changes and ideas in the nationalist movement reveals that the nationalist movement is robust and successful because of the long years of determining goals and ways to achieve those goals. The SNP now have the attention of Scotland and Westminster and can bring the change they believe is best for Scotland because they emerged from the long and difficult formative years of the nationalist movement.