LEADERSHIP: SNP reveals huge membership losses as 50,000 quit

Figure drops from 127,000 to 72,000 following pressure from all three SNP leadership candidates

The SNP has revealed huge membership losses after losing around 30,000 members in the last two years, the party has confirmed.

Following pressure from all three leadership candidates, the Scottish National Party announced yesterday that it currently has 72,186 members, 50,000 down on 2019.

First indications that the SNP wheels were coming off their wagon in West Dunbartonshire came prior to the Scottish parliament elections last May.

Local candidate Caroline McAllister was cruelly jettisoned at the eleventh hour from taking on Labour’s Jackie Baillie for the Holyrood seat.

McAllister, who was a self-styled woman’s issues champion and prominent in the campaign against domestic abuse, was replaced by Sturgeon favourite, Tony Giugliano, the SNP’s national policy chief.

Caroline McAllister, Jackie Baillie MSP, Nicola Sturgeon and SNP man Tony Giugliano.

It was said that McAllister had been dropped because of her opposition to the SNP policies on gender matters.

Giugliano – like a previous SNP candidate here, the then STV weatherman Lloyd Quinan, attempted to persuade local voters that he was a Dumbartonian, but the voters were not fooled and he failed to take the Holyrood seat from Baillie.

And neither were Helensburgh voters when he said he had family connections there.

Giugliano is from Edinburgh and works in the party’s controversial Edinburgh head office, which is headed up by Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell.

SNP party president Mike Russell came down from Argyll to a local party selection meeting at which McAllister was seen off.

This national membership figures which had to be wrung out of Peter Murrell is down from nearly 104,000 members in 2021, when the party last released membership numbers.

At its peak in 2019, the SNP had 125,691 members.

Humza Yousaf, Ash Regan and Kate Forbes had all called for the party to reveal the information ahead of the vote that will decide Scotland’s next First Minister.

The SNP had previously said it would only release the information following the vote outcome later this month.

On Wednesday, Regan released an open letter, backed by Forbes, calling on SNP CEO Peter Murrell to hand over the information “as soon as possible”.

Its release, they said, was necessary to “ensure a fair and transparent leadership election”.

Forbes’ campaign team said the drop in membership “underlines the need for change” within the party.

MSP Michelle Thomson, left, who is running the finance secretary’s campaign, said: “Whilst I’m pleased that common sense has prevailed with the publishing of the membership figures, the alarming drop in members shows that the party needs a change in direction.”

She continued: “[Forbes] will ensure that SNP members are empowered and policies reflect the diversity of the SNP membership.

“The SNP is a democratic institution and we need to ensure the grassroots have more of a say, in order to maintain trust and confidence of members.

“The membership numbers add weight to the fact that it’s time for change.”

Regan said: “The SNP has a tradition of attracting independent-minded and smart people who work together for Scotland.

“We’ve lost some good people and I want to see us build our membership numbers and attract people back to the party.

“The SNP I lead will recognise the hard work and dedication of our activists.”

Membership numbers for other Scottish parties show that in 2021, Labour had 16,467 members while the Greens had 7,500.

In 2020, the Liberal Democrats had 4,185 members.

The Scottish Conservatives have been contacted for their most recent membership numbers.

Yousaf said he welcomed the publication of the membership numbers.

“I’m pleased the SNP NEC has taken the right decision to release the party’s membership – reaffirming that the SNP remains by far the biggest political party in Scotland,” he said.

“I trust this decision will also put to bed claims and hearsay that seek to undermine our party’s integrity and benefits only our opposition.

“As a party, we now need a progressive leader who can command support – ensuring our membership are engaged in the future of the party as we look to unite, and strengthen, support for the SNP and the wider independence movement.

“With polling clearly demonstrating I am the SNP voters’ favourite to become Scotland’s next First Minister, I am the leader who can solidify our support and secure independence.”

A spokesperson for the SNP said: “After many years of delivering for people across Scotland and working towards a better future as an independent country, the SNP remains the biggest – and indeed the only mass membership – party in Scotland.

“We remain grateful to our large and committed membership for all their support which has done so much to fuel our electoral success.”

Meanwhile, in yet another set-back for the SNP, the The Scottish Conservatives have triumphed in the Dunblane and Bridge of Allan by-election, gaining the seat from the SNP.

Local resident Robin Kleinman won over 40 per cent of the first preference votes cast in Andy Murray country, with the party’s vote share increasing by almost 11 per cent.

The SNP were pushed into second place with around 26.9 per cent of the vote, with Labour in third on only 13.4% of the vote.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross says the result shows that voters have put a strong show of faith in his party and they recognise that only the Scottish Conservatives are strong enough to stand up to the SNP and hold them to account for their failings.

He added: “This is a terrific by-election win for the Scottish Conservatives and my congratulations go to Robin Kleinman as our party’s newest councillor.

“Having gained this seat from the SNP and significantly increased our share of the vote, it’s clear people have strong faith in our party. They have also recognised that only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength to stand up to the SNP and hold them to account for their failings at all levels of government.

“This by-election victory for the Scottish Conservatives – against the backdrop of the SNP’s bitter leadership contest – reaffirms that we are the real alternative for Scots who are tired of this out-of-touch and divided SNP government.”

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