The 56 SNP MPs have caused a bit of a stir in the House of Commons over the past week.
Of course, that is exactly what they are there to do – ensure the rest of the UK hears Scotland’s distinct voice. However, the two incidents that thrust the MPs onto the front pages of UK newspapers did not relate to any political actions or demands.
What upset London-based editorial writers and political commentators was that SNP members had the temerity to ‘claim’ particular seats in the chamber and, shockingly, they applauded their group leader when he slapped-down a Labour MP who complained about the seats issue.
Are things really so quiet at Westminster that the metropolitan media has to manufacture outrage over such matters?
The SNP is now the third-largest political group in the UK Parliament: it therefore has every right to expect its 56 members are accommodated in accordance with that status. The media anger over where the SNP sit is not actually about particular seats, it’s about certain right-wing newspapers and broadcasters wishing the SNP – more accurately Scots in general – were not in England’s parliament at all.
Of course, Westminster houses the parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but the reality is that, after the parliamentary union between Scotland and England in 1707, the Scottish Parliament ceased to meet, while the English Parliament in London continued as usual, with some extra Scottish members accommodated as part of the agreement.
Westminster is England’s parliament and, for over 300 years, Scots have been tolerated within its environs, just so long as they kept relatively quiet and knew their subservient place.
The democratic decision of the Scottish people last May 7th changed that arrangement.
No longer is the Scottish contingent mainly comprised of British Unionist MPs whose loyalty is to parties headquartered in London. In fact, just three of Scotland’s 59 MPs now represent Unionist parties.
It is the democratic wish of Scots that our MPs now put first Scotland’s needs and aspirations: in particular, we elected SNP MPs because we want change, we want things done differently, we want elected members who will not be quiet and will not accept a subservient role at the Palace of Westminster.
Scotland’s MPs are now Scottish rather than British in political outlook, and if that fact ruffles feathers amongst the Westminster elite, then tough. Which brings us to the second ‘major’ incident of last week – those SNP MPs who clapped their approval instead of braying “hee-ah, hee-ah”, which is the accepted convention in the English Parliament.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, looked fit to burst as he chastised SNP members for their ‘unacceptable’ behaviour. His outrage at such ‘discourtesy’ by supposedly Honourable Members implied that he was struggling to comprehend how these oiks had been allowed access to the establishment’s seat of power.
Get used to it, Mr Bercow, the SNP is at Westminster to settle-up, not settle-down.