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Scottish National Party

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Scottish National Party

Scottish National Party
Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba
Scots Naitional Pairtie
Leader Nicola Sturgeon
Depute Leader Stewart Hosie
Westminster Group Leader Angus Robertson
Founded 1934 (1934)
Merger of National Party of Scotland
Scottish Party
Headquarters Gordon Lamb House
3 Jackson's Entry
Student wing Federation of Student Nationalists
Youth wing Young Scots for Independence
Membership Increase 92,187 [1]
Ideology Scottish independence
Scottish nationalism[2][3]
Civic nationalism[4][5]

Social democracy[6][7]
Political position Centre-left[8][9][10][11]
European affiliation European Free Alliance
European Parliament group Greens/EFA
Colours Yellow and Black
Scottish seats in the House of Commons
6 / 59
Scottish seats in the European Parliament
2 / 6
Scottish Parliament
64 / 129
Local government in Scotland[12]
421 / 1,223
Politics of Scotland
Political parties

The Scottish National Party (SNP) (Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Naitional Pairtie) is a Scottish nationalist[13][14] and social-democratic[15][16][17] political party in Scotland. The SNP supports and campaigns for Scottish independence.[18][19] It is the third largest political party by membership in the United Kingdom, behind the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.[20]

The SNP was founded in 1934, with the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party. The party has had continuous parliamentary representation since Winnie Ewing won the 1967 Hamilton by-election.[21]

As of 2014, the SNP is the largest political party in Scotland in terms of membership, MSPs and local councillors, with over 92,000 members, 65 MSPs and 424 councillors, comprising in total 1.6% of the Scottish gross population.[1][22][23] The SNP also currently holds 6 of 59 Scottish seats in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. The party has 2 MEPs in the European Parliament, who sit in The Greens/European Free Alliance group. The SNP is a member of the European Free Alliance (EFA).

With the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the SNP became the second largest party, serving two terms as the opposition. The SNP came to power in the 2007 Scottish general election, forming a minority government, before going on to win the 2011 election, after which it formed its first majority government.[24]

The leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, is the current First Minister of Scotland.


  • History 1
  • Constitution and structure 2
    • National Office Bearers 2.1
    • Membership 2.2
    • European affiliation 2.3
  • Party ideology 3
  • Leadership 4
    • Leaders of the Scottish National Party 4.1
    • Depute Leaders of the Scottish National Party 4.2
    • Presidents of the Scottish National Party 4.3
    • Leaders of the parliamentary party, Scottish Parliament 4.4
    • Leaders of the parliamentary party, House of Commons 4.5
  • Ministers and spokespeople 5
    • Scottish Parliament 5.1
    • United Kingdom Parliament 5.2
    • European Parliament 5.3
  • Elected representatives (current) 6
    • Members of the Scottish Parliament 6.1
    • Members of Parliament 6.2
    • Members of the European Parliament 6.3
    • Councillors 6.4
  • Electoral performance 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


The SNP was formed in 1934 through the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party, with Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham as its first president. Professor Douglas Young, who was the leader of the Scottish National Party from 1942 to 1945 campaigned for the Scottish people to refuse conscription and his activities were popularly vilified as undermining the British war effort against the Axis powers. Young was imprisoned for refusing to be conscripted.

The SNP first won a parliamentary seat at the Motherwell by-election in 1945, but Dr Robert McIntyre MP lost the seat at the general election three months later. They next won a seat in 1967, when Winnie Ewing was the surprise winner of a by-election in the previously safe Labour seat of Hamilton. This brought the SNP to national prominence, leading to the establishment of the Kilbrandon Commission.

The high point in a UK general election was when the SNP polled almost a third of all votes in Scotland at the October 1974 general election and returned 11 MPs to Westminster, to date the most MPs it has had. However, the party experienced a large drop in its support at the 1979 General election, followed by a further drop at the 1983 election.

In the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary general election the SNP emerged as the largest party with 47 seats, narrowly ousting the Scottish Labour Party with 46 seats and Alex Salmond became Scottish First Minister. The Scottish Green Party supported Salmond's election as First Minister, and his subsequent appointments of ministers, in return for early tabling of the climate change bill and the SNP nominating a Green MSP to chair a parliamentary committee.[25]

In May 2011, the SNP won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament with 69 seats. Overall majorities are unusual in the Additional Member system that is used for elections to the Scottish Parliament, which was specially designed by the Labour UK government in 1999 to prevent any party gaining overall control of the parliament.[26]

Constitution and structure

The primary level of organisation in the SNP are the local Branches. All of the Branches within each Scottish Parliament constituency form a Constituency Association, which coordinates the work of the Branches within the constituency, coordinates the activities of the party in the constituency, and acts as a point of liaison between an MSP or MP and the party. Constituency Associations are composed of delegates from all of the Branches within the constituency.

The annual National Conference is the supreme governing body of the SNP, and is responsible for determining party policy and electing the National Executive Committee. The National Conference is composed of:

The National Council serves as the SNP’s governing body between National Conferences, and its decisions are binding, unless rescinded or modified by the National Conference. There are also regular meetings of the National Assembly, which provides a forum for detailed discussion of party policy by party members.

The party has an active youth wing, the Young Scots for Independence, as well as a student wing, the Federation of Student Nationalists. There is also an SNP Trade Union Group. There is an independently-owned monthly newspaper, The Scots Independent, which is highly supportive of the party.

The SNP's leadership is vested in its National Executive Committee (NEC) which is made up of the party's elected office bearers and six elected members (voted for at conference). The SNP parliamentarians (Scottish, Westminster and European) and councillors have representation on the NEC, as do the Trade Union Group, the youth wing and the student wing.

National Office Bearers


According to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission for the year ending 2010, the party had a membership of 16,232,[27] up from 15,097 in 2008 and 9,450 in 2003.[28] Between 2003-2011 SNP membership increased by around 110%.[29] From 19-26 September 2014 (the week after the Scottish independence referendum) party membership more than doubled, surpassing the Liberal Democrats to become the third largest political party in the United Kingdom in terms of membership.[30] On 14 November 2014 an announcement was made to SNP conference that the party's membership as of that afternoon stood at 85,884.[1] In 2004 the party had income of approximately £1,300,000 (including bequests of just under £300,000) and expenditure of about £1,000,000.

European affiliation

The SNP retains close links with Plaid Cymru, its counterpart in Wales. MPs from both parties co-operate closely with each other and work as a single parliamentary group within the House of Commons. The SNP and Plaid Cymru were involved in joint campaigning during the 2005 General Election campaign. Both the SNP and Plaid Cymru, along with Mebyon Kernow from Cornwall, are members of the European Free Alliance (EFA), a European political party comprising regionalist political parties. The EFA co-operates with the larger European Green Party to form The Greens–European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) group in the European Parliament.

Prior to its affiliation with The Greens–European Free Alliance, the SNP had previously been allied with the European Progressive Democrats (1979-1984), Rainbow Group (1989–1994) and European Radical Alliance (1994–1999).

Party ideology

The SNP's policy base is mostly in the mainstream European social democratic tradition. Among its policies are commitments to same-sex marriage, reducing the voting age to 16, unilateral nuclear disarmament, progressive personal taxation, the eradication of poverty, the building of affordable social housing, free higher education, opposition to the building of new nuclear power plants, investment in renewable energy, the abolition of Air Passenger Duty, and a pay increase for nurses.[31][32]

The Scottish National Party did not have a clear ideological position until the 1970s, when it sought to explicitly present itself as a social democratic party in terms of party policy and publicity.[33][34] During the period from its foundation until the 1960s, the SNP was essentially a moderate centrist party.[33] Debate within the party focused more on the SNP being distinct as an all-Scotland national movement, with it being neither of the Left-wing politics or the Right-wing politics, but constituting a new politics that sought to put Scotland first.[34][35]

The SNP was formed through the merger of the centre-left National Party of Scotland (NPS) and the centre-right Scottish Party.[34] The SNP’s founders were united over self-determination in principle, though not its exact nature, or the best strategic means to achieve self-government. From the mid-1940s onwards, SNP policy was radical and redistributionist in relation to land and in favour of ‘the diffusion of economic power’, including the decentralization of industries such as coal to include the involvement of local authorities and regional planning bodies to control industrial structure and development.[33] Party policies supported the economic and social policy status quo of the post-war welfare state.[33][36]

By the 1960s, the SNP was starting to become defined ideologically, with a social democratic tradition emerging as the party grew in urban, industrial Scotland, and its membership experienced an influx of social democrats from the Labour Party, the trade unions and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.[35][37] The emergence of Billy Wolfe as a leading figure in the SNP also contributed to this movement to the left. By this period, the Labour Party were also the dominant party in Scotland, in terms of electoral support and representation. Targeting Labour through emphasising left-of-centre policies and values was therefore electorally logical for the SNP, as well as tying in with the ideological preferences of many new party members.[37] In 1961 the SNP conference expressed the party’s opposition to the siting of the US Polaris submarine base at the Holy Loch. This policy was followed in 1963 by a motion opposed to nuclear weapons: a policy that has remained in place ever since.[37] The 1964 policy document, SNP & You, contained a clear centre-left policy platform, including commitments to full employment, government intervention in fuel, power and transport, a state bank to guide economic development, encouragement of cooperatives and credit unions, extensive building of council houses by central and local government, pensions adjusted to cost of living, a minimum wage and an improved national health service.[33]

The ‘60s also saw the beginnings of the SNP’s efforts to establish an industrial organisation and mobilise amongst trade unionists in Scotland, with the establishment of the SNP Trade Union Group, and identifying the SNP with industrial campaigns, such as the Upper-Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in and the attempt of the workers at the Scottish Daily Express to run as a cooperative.[33] For the party manifestos for the two 1974 general elections, the SNP finally self-identified as a social democratic party, and proposed a range of social democratic policies.[35][36] There was also an unsuccessful proposal at the 1975 party conference to rename the party as the Scottish National Party (Social Democrats).[16]

There were further ideological and internal struggles after 1979 with the 79 Group attempting to move the SNP further to the left, away from being what could be described a "social-democratic" party, to an expressly "socialist" party. Members of the 79 Group - including current leader Alex Salmond - were expelled from the party. This produced a response in the shape of the Campaign for Nationalism in Scotland from those who wanted the SNP to remain a "broad church", apart from arguments of left vs. right. The 1980s saw the SNP further define itself as a party of the political left, such as campaigning against the poll tax.[33]

The ideological tensions inside the SNP are further complicated by the arguments between the so-called SNP gradualists and SNP fundamentalists. In essence, gradualists seek to advance Scotland to independence through further devolution, in a "step-by-step" strategy. They tend to be in the moderate left grouping, although much of the 79 Group was gradualist in approach. However, this 79 Group gradualism was as much a reaction against the fundamentalists of the day, many of whom believed the SNP should not take a clear left or right position.[33]


Leaders of the Scottish National Party

Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of the Scottish National Party

Depute Leaders of the Scottish National Party

Presidents of the Scottish National Party

Leaders of the parliamentary party, Scottish Parliament

Leaders of the parliamentary party, House of Commons

Ministers and spokespeople

Scottish Parliament

See also: Government of the 4th Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government, Members of the 4th Scottish Parliament
Portfolio SNP Spokesperson
Leader of the Scottish National Party
First Minister of Scotland
Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland
Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Deputy First Minister of Scotland
Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth
John Swinney MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Angela Constance MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Keith Brown MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Shona Robison MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights Alex Neil MSP
Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP
Minister for Parliamentary Business Joe Fitzpatrick MSP
Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay MSP
Minister for Youth and Women's Employment Annabelle Ewing MSP
Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell MSP
Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages Alasdair Allan MSP
Minister for Public Health Maureen Watt MSP
Minister for Sport and Health Improvement Jamie Hepburn MSP
Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment Marco Biagi MSP
Minister for Housing and Welfare Margaret Burgess MSP
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Aileen McLeod MSP
Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf MSP

United Kingdom Parliament

Portfolio SNP Spokesperson
Westminster Group Leader
Defence and Foreign Affairs
Angus Robertson MP
Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party
Deputy Group Leader and Chief Whip
HM Treasury and Economic Affairs
Stewart Hosie MP
Culture and Sport; Constitution Peter Wishart MP
Business; Energy and Climate Change Michael Weir MP
Transport; Constitutional Reform Angus MacNeil MP
Fisheries; International Development; Women; Work and Pensions Eilidh Whiteford MP

European Parliament

Portfolio SNP Spokesperson
President of the Scottish National Party
Fisheries; Regional Development
Ian Hudghton MEP
Agriculture and Rural Development Alyn Smith MEP

Elected representatives (current)

Members of the Scottish Parliament

Members of Parliament

Members of the European Parliament


The SNP had 425 councillors in Local Government elected from the Scottish local elections, 2012.

Electoral performance

Holyrood elections[38] Percentage of Scottish vote Seats won Additional Information
1999 Scottish Parliament Election 28.7% 35 seats (including 7 First Past the Post seats) First election to the re-constituted Scottish Parliament. Finished second to Labour and became the official opposition to the coalition of Labour and Liberal Democrats.
2003 Scottish Parliament Election 23.8% 27 seats (including 9 First Past the Post seats)
2007 Scottish Parliament Election 32.9% 47 seats (including 21 First Past the Post seats) Largest party in the Scottish Parliament; formed the Scottish Government.
2011 Scottish Parliament Election 45.4% 69 seats (including 53 First Past the Post seats) Formed the first majority Scottish Government.
Local elections[39] Percentage of Scottish vote Seats won Additional Information
1974 Regional Council Election 12.6%
18 / 524
1974 District Council Election 12.4%
62 / 1,158
1977 District Council Election 24.2%
170 / 1,158
1978 Regional Council Election 20.9%
18 / 524
1980 District Council Election 15.5%
54 / 1,158
1982 Regional Council Election 13.4%
23 / 524
1984 District Council Election 11.7%
59 / 1,158
1986 Regional Council Election 18.2 %
36 / 524
1988 District Council Election 21.3%
113 / 1,158
1990 Regional Council Election 21.8%
42 / 524
1992 District Council Election 24.3%
150 / 1,158
1994 Regional Council Election 26.8%
73 / 453
1995 Council areas election 26.1%
181 / 1,222
1999 Council areas election 28.9%
201 / 1,222
2003 Council areas election 24.1%
171 / 1,222
2007 Council areas election 29.7% (first preference)
363 / 1,222
Largest party in local government (first ever Scottish local elections to be held under the Single Transferable Vote).
2012 Council areas election 32.33% (first preference)
425 / 1,223
Largest party in local government; received largest number of first preference votes.
Westminster Elections[39] Percentage of Scottish vote Seats won Additional Information
1935 General Election 1.1%
0 / 71
1945 General Election 1.2%
0 / 71
1950 General Election 0.4%
0 / 71
1951 General Election 0.3%
0 / 71
1955 General Election 0.5%
0 / 71
1959 General Election 0.5%
0 / 71
1964 General Election 2.4%
0 / 71
1966 General Election 5.0%
0 / 71
1970 General Election 11.4%
1 / 71
1974 General Election (Feb) 21.9%
7 / 71
1974 General Election (Oct) 30.4%
11 / 71
High-water mark, until 2007. Increased presence contributed to Labour holding a devolution referendum in 1979.
1979 General Election 17.3%
2 / 71
Poor performance compared to the two 1974 elections caused internal ructions during the 1980s.
1983 General Election 11.7%
2 / 72
1987 General Election 14.0%
3 / 72
1992 General Election 21.5%
3 / 72
1997 General Election 22.1%
6 / 72
2001 General Election 20.1%
5 / 72
2005 General Election 17.7%
6 / 59
2010 General Election 19.9%
6 / 59
European elections[39] Percentage of Scottish vote Seats won Additional Information
1979 European Parliament Election 19.4%
1 / 8
1984 European Parliament Election 17.8%
1 / 8
1989 European Parliament Election 25.6%
1 / 8
1994 European Parliament Election 32.6%
2 / 8
1999 European Parliament Election 27.2%
2 / 8
2004 European Parliament Election 19.7%
2 / 7
2009 European Parliament Election 29.1%
2 / 6
The first European Parliament elections in which the SNP won the most votes within Scotland[40]
2014 European Parliament Election 29.0%
2 / 6
SNP won the most votes within Scotland

See also


  1. ^ a b c "SNP Tour, Glasgow Hydro Tweet". Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Hassan, Gerry (2009), The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, Edinburgh University Press, pp. 5, 9 
  3. ^ Christopher Harvie (2004). Scotland and Nationalism: Scottish Society and Politics, 1707 to the Present. Psychology Press.  
  4. ^ Mitchell, James; Bennie, Lynn; Johns, Rob (2012), The Scottish National Party: Transition to Power, Oxford University Press, pp. 107–116 
  5. ^ Keating, Michael (2009), "Nationalist Movements in Comparative Perspective", The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power (Edinburgh University Press): 214–217 
  6. ^ Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck". 
  7. ^ Hassan, Gerry (2009), The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, Edinburgh University Press, pp. 4–5 
  8. ^ Robert Garner; Richard Kelly (15 June 1998). British Political Parties Today. Manchester University Press. p. 187.  
  9. ^ Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko; Matti Mälkiä (2007). Encyclopedia of Digital Government. Idea Group Inc (IGI). p. 398.  
  10. ^ Josep M. Colomer (25 July 2008). Political Institutions in Europe. Routledge. p. 26.  
  11. ^; International Business Publications, USA (1 January 2012). Scotland Business Law Handbook: Strategic Information and Laws. Int'l Business Publications. p. 29.  
  12. ^ "". Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Amir Abedi (2004). Anti-political Establishment Parties: A Comparative Analysis. Psychology Press. p. 72.  
  14. ^ Political Systems Of The World. Allied Publishers. p. 122.  
  15. ^ "About Us". 
  16. ^ a b Eve Hepburn (18 October 2013). New Challenges for Stateless Nationalist and Regionalist Parties. Routledge. p. 9.  
  17. ^ Bob Lingard (24 July 2013). Politics, Policies and Pedagogies in Education: The Selected Works of Bob Lingard. Routledge. p. 120.  
  18. ^ Frans Schrijver (2006). Regionalism After Regionalisation: Spain, France and the United Kingdom. Amsterdam University Press. p. 285.  
  19. ^ Michael O'Neill (22 May 2014). Devolution and British Politics. Routledge. p. 92.  
  20. ^ Sophie Warnes. "The Scottish National Party is now the third largest party in the UK". mirror. 
  21. ^ "About SNP". Retrieved 20 April 2010. 
  22. ^ "Current State of the Parties". Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  23. ^ "Vote 2012: Scotland - Councils". BBC News. 
  24. ^ Carrell, Severin (11 May 2011). "MSPs sworn in at Holyrood after SNP landslide". London: Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  25. ^ "SNP and Greens sign working deal". BBC News Scotland. 11 May 2007. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  26. ^ "alex-salmonds-snp-wins-majority-in-scottish-elections". Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  27. ^ [1]
  28. ^ SNP's membership surges by 60%, The Scotsman, 1 January 2009
  29. ^ "Percentage change in party membership url=". twitter. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ Scottish National Party Manifesto "Re-elect a Scottish Government working for Scotland". Scottish National Party. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  32. ^ Scottish National Party "Cut to APD vital for Scotland's future success". Scottish National Party. Retrieved 6 December 2014. 
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h Peter Lynch (2002). SNP: The History of the Scottish National Party. Welsh Academic Press. p. 60. 
  34. ^ a b c Jack Brand (1978). The National Movement in Scotland. Routledge and Kegan Paul. pp. 216–17. 
  35. ^ a b c Jack Brand (1990). ‘Scotland’, in Watson, Michael (ed.), Contemporary Minority Nationalism. Routledge. p. 28. 
  36. ^ a b Gerry Hassan (2009). The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power. Edinburgh University Press. p. 120. 
  37. ^ a b c James Mitchell (1996). Strategies for Self-government: The Campaigns for a Scottish Parliament. Polygon. p. 208. 
  38. ^ "The Scottish National Party". 30 March 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2010. 
  39. ^ a b c "The Scottish National Party". 30 March 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2010. 
  40. ^ "Salmond hails 'historic' Euro win". BBC. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2009. 

Further reading

  • Brand, Jack, The National Movement in Scotland, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978
  • Brand, Jack, ‘Scotland’, in Watson, Michael (ed.), Contemporary Minority Nationalism, Routledge, 1990
  • Winnie Ewing, Michael Russell, Stop the World; The Autobiography of Winnie Ewing Birlinn, 2004
  • Richard J. Finlay, Independent and Free: Scottish Politics and the Origins of the Scottish National Party 1918-1945, John Donald Publishers, 1994
  • Hanham, H.J., Scottish Nationalism, Harvard University Press, 1969
  • Christopher Harvie, Scotland and Nationalism: Scottish Society and Politics 1707 to the Present, Routledge (4th edition), 2004
  • Gerry Hassan (ed.), The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, Edinburgh University Press, 2009, ISBN 0748639918
  • Lynch, Peter, SNP: The History of the Scottish National Party, Welsh Academic Press, 2002
  • John MacCormick, The Flag in the Wind: The Story of the National Movement in Scotland, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1955
  • Mitchell, James, Strategies for Self-government: The Campaigns for a Scottish Parliament, Polygon, 1996
  • Mitchell, James, Bennie, Lynn and Johns, Rob, The Scottish National Party: Transition to Power, Oxford University Press, 2011, ISBN 0199580006
  • Jim Sillars, Scotland: the Case for Optimism, Polygon, 1986
  • William Wolfe, Scotland Lives: the Quest for Independence, Reprographia, 1973

External links

  • Scottish National Party - Official website
  • SNP Conference Autumn 2009 - BBC Coverage
  • SNP Manifesto - 2007 Holyrood General Election
  • SNP Manifesto - 2005 Westminster General Election 'Make Scotland Matter'
  • Scots Independent newspaper website 'Flag in the Wind'
  • The Scotsman newspaper - newsfeeds - 'SNP' - XML, RSS, JavaScript
  • Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division Collection of material relating to the Scottish National Party
  • Scottish Politics - Information about election results in Scotland.
  • European Free Alliance website
  • The Greens/European Free Alliance Group in the European Parliament - website
  • Scots vote reinforces antinuclear position
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