The SNP and Scottish nationalism

Sir, – Like most of your readers, I enjoy and admire the writing of Fintan O'Toole, but I hope that as a Scot, an Irish citizen and an SNP MP, I might be permitted to correct two aspects of his article about the SNP ("Brexit could help Scotland's first minister over some of the obstacles to independence", Opinion & Analysis, January 16th).

It is not accurate to say that the roots of the SNP lie “in a semi-fascist 1930s racialised nationalism”.

The founders of the SNP were a diverse group who included writers and intellectuals from the left, as well as those who were keen to preserve our country’s culture and traditions in the much the same way as those who founded the Irish Republic.

Our founding members included Robert Cunningham Graham, a writer, journalist, and adventurer who was the first socialist member of the Westminster Parliament and had previously founded the Scottish Labour party, and Sir Compton Mackenzie, a celebrated writer and raconteur who served as a British intelligence agent during the first World War and went on to defeat the notorious British fascist Oswald Mosley to become rector of Glasgow University in 1931.


Others, like the great poet Hugh MacDiarmid, may, like many in Britain and Ireland, have flirted with fascism in the 1920s but in the 1930s MacDiarmid was expelled from the SNP for being a communist.

It is also worth mentioning that, as in Ireland, women were to the fore, including Florence Marian McNeill, a folklorist, writer and suffragist. She was the first in a long line of shining female SNP lights, including Winnie Ewing, Margo MacDonald and, of course, our current leader, Nicola Sturgeon.

The second point I would like to make about Fintan O’Toole’s article is that it was strange to say the least to read an article about the history of the SNP without mention of Alex Salmond. Mr Salmond is the longest-serving leader the party has had. He led the party from 1990 to 2000 and again from 2004 to 2014 and he served as first minister of Scotland for over seven years. It was he who first led the SNP to minority government in 2007, secured an outright majority in 2011 and an independence referendum in 2014, which he very nearly won, and it was he who laid the foundation for the SNP landslide in the 2015 Westminster general election.

As a young man he was expelled from the SNP, along with others who were members of a left-wing faction known as the 79 Group. It was not until he and they were readmitted to the party that we started the rise to our current success.

During this time, it was Mr Salmond who moved the party to the left and who worked hard to woo traditional Labour voters, including Scots of Irish Catholic descent like myself.

While some have sought to airbrush Mr Salmond from our party’s history, those of us who believe in the rule of law would wish to remind everyone that Mr Salmond was last year acquitted of the charges of sexual misconduct laid against him and is thus an innocent man who deserves his place in history. – Yours, etc,


(MP for

Edinburgh South West),