Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science (MA)

Degree Level



Political Science


Donald Kelley

Committee Member

Fiona Davidson

Second Committee Member

Patrick Conge


Brexit, Devolution, Holyrood, Scottish National Party, Westminster


The United Kingdom is entering a period of great uncertainty, with the future of Scotland’s membership still in question. Following personal work experience in the Scottish Parliament, it became apparent to me that the Scottish National Party currently finds itself in a unique position. By utilizing constituency maps, this study will trace the evolution of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and explore how its changing nature allowed it to grow from a minute populist group seeking independence to a social justice party hoping to appeal to a more diverse group of voters by increasing credibility at the local level and then into a fully-fledged third party capable of entering into coalition with the political establishment at Westminster and holding a membership referendum. Focus will be placed on the changing political landscape of the United Kingdom and the SNP’s role within that scope. The paper will conclude with predictions of the possibilities for the SNP’s role in Scotland, within the UK and the European Union. The development of the SNP was aided and impacted by a number of variables. Firstly, devolution from Westminster following the creation of a Scottish parliament, Holyrood, in the 1990s gave the SNP a second arena in which to demonstrate their governing ability. Secondly, the role of certain personalities must be noted, with important figures having an impact in both Westminster and Holyrood. The most well-known of these figures is Alex Salmond, the first SNP First Minister, who was able to guide the SNP from obscurity to a governing party, capable of holding referendums. In addition, Nicola Sturgeon, the current First Minister and Salmond’s deputy First Minister, has been vital to continuing the party’s momentum in the wake of Brexit. Down in Westminster, other personalities will also be important, such as Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron and Theresa May. Thirdly, the British media’s coverage of the SNP had a dramatic impact on the viability of the party to the electorate.