SNP reveals membership has fallen by 30,000 in last two years
Membership of the SNP has plummeted by more than 30,000 in the past two years, the party has confirmed.
The figure was revealed as outgoing leader Nicola Sturgeon stressed the party is not “in crisis” as concerns were raised by two leadership candidates over the integrity of the vote to replace her.
The SNP hierarchy has been under pressure in recent days to release the membership figure, with all three candidates in the leadership race backing the move.
The party announced on Thursday that the membership had dropped to 72,186 as of February 15 this year, compared to 103,884 in 2021.
Membership sat at around 125,000 in 2018, meaning more than 50,000 party members have left in five years.
A spokesperson for the party 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.”
Change of direction
Michelle Thomson, manager of Kate Forbes’s campaign for the SNP leadership, said the “plummeting” figures show “the party needs a change in direction”.
She added: “Kate Forbes is the candidate offering a new start for Scotland – continuity won’t cut it.
“We need candour on the challenges facing the party and government, but we also need competence to fix them.”
Meanwhile rival candidate Ash Regan said in a cryptic statement: “I get things done.”
On Twitter, her campaign questioned if the drop in membership – which Ms Regan linked to the controversial gender reforms pushed by the Scottish Government – was a reason for Ms Sturgeon’s resignation.
The post read: “We are pleased to learn that SNP HQ has released the membership numbers, following Ash Regan’s call for greater party transparency.
“This victory for transparency demonstrates once again that Ash Regan is the candidate who gets things done.
“However, it is important to note that there has been a significant reduction in membership numbers since October 2022, following the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) fiasco.
“This was due to the previous administration’s resistance to listening to reason on the protection of women and girls.
“Such a significant drop in membership numbers must have been what quickened the outgoing First Minister’s resignation.”
The announcement comes after the campaigns of Ms Forbes and Ms Regan called for an independent auditor to oversee the election, citing a need for transparency.
Asked by journalists after First Minister’s Questions on Thursday if the SNP is “in crisis”, Ms Sturgeon said: “No, it is not.
“My party is having a democratic leadership election – growing pains for any organisation can be painful, but they are important.
“I think it’s incumbent for the three candidates standing to succeed me that they remember the task is to retain the trust of the Scottish people that we have won consistently over, not just the eight years of my leadership, but consistently since 2007.”
Asked if there should be an independent auditor appointed, the First Minister said the company currently undertaking the election process – Southampton-based Mi-Voice – is independent and has been used in selection processes for three SNP deputy leadership elections, “a range of internal elections” and for candidate selections.
Ms Sturgeon went on to say she is unclear about the allegations being made by the campaigns of Ms Forbes and Ms Regan.
“This is a tried and tested process that the party has trusted for years,” she said
“As far as I can tell, there are no specific concerns being raised, it’s a general concern, and I don’t think that general concern is justified.
“I have confidence, I have 100% confidence, in the integrity of that system.”
In a statement, an SNP spokesperson shot down the calls for an independent auditor, saying: “All three leadership candidates were successful in parliamentary selection contests using exactly the same voting system and independent ballot services firm.
“The national secretary has again confirmed all necessary safeguards are in place to protect the integrity of the ballot.”
It is understood that no-one in the SNP has access to live data from Mi-Voice, with the result to be sent to national secretary Lorna Finn after ballots close on March 27.
Ms Finn is also understood to have written to the three candidates offering a meeting on the operation of the election rules.
Also speaking to journalists after FMQs, Ms Regan was unable to give any specific examples of issues with the voting system. A senior source in her campaign last week said there were worries about votes from deceased party members or those who have allowed their membership to expire.
Addressing the use of Mi-Voice, Ms Regan said: “They are an independent company but they’re also on contract to the SNP.
“Just for the sake of increased transparency, my view is it should be a separate company that the SNP don’t have an ongoing relationship with, and we’ve also called for an independent observer, just to oversee the process.”
Asked if raising concerns without specific allegations is similar to the actions of former US president Donald Trump – who continues to cast doubt on the result of the 2020 US election – Ms Regan said: “No, I don’t think so.”
But the concerns were dismissed by fellow candidate Humza Yousaf, who hit out at the “baseless smears”.
He said on Twitter: “I have confidence in the process that uses an external third party company, a process we have used for many years.
“I am up for challenge & reform of the party, but let’s not indulge in baseless smears.”
SNP president Mike Russell tweeted that he has “full confidence” in the “external verification” of the election, adding that any allegations to the contrary “aids our enemies”.
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I don’t understand the Kate Forbes campaign at all. Does she realise the strength of the independence movement – until UK media decided to make storm in teacup over one human – has been the togetherness? Does she realises that the party will need to come back together as one family after this campaign? Families have disagreements, sure, but not to the extent of falling out with each other so totally they can’t come back together. She remains a very skilled politician and economic leader, although I wouldn’t want her having final say on key areas such as health, education,… Read more »
So membership drops by 10s of thousands and you’d favour the continuity candidate? The issue is with governance, internally and for their nation. Their message, once united, has flapped about in the winds of the culture war. The SNP brought this on themselves – thinking that they should govern the nation before they achieve their freedom should be the exact model for how NOT to do this. Watch carefully, Cymru fach. Also, perhaps the wording “storm in a teacup” is relating to the broader judicial and political landscape (to be kind) but sounds more like Tory minimisation of serious issues… Read more »
A pledge to introduce a gender recognition reform bill was included in the SNP’s manifesto for the 2021 elections. Has been strange to observe then the appalling abuse levelled at both nicola sturgeon and her SNP govt for actually implimenting a policy on which they were elected (would that other politicians and parties had stuck to their election promises down the years). A 2021 election to the Scottish Parliament it should be noted thay saw the SNP actually increasing its overall share of the vote and and its number of MSPs on the previous holyrood election (a considerable achievement in… Read more »
Cmon mum, Leigh! It’s hard to have to respond to a counterpoint made that misses the original point itself. It isn’t specifically about this particular bill (and I didn’t suggest it was), rather their overall strategy. They don’t have any good options now, both in leadership candidates or a path forward. Do you honestly think that the Scottish model is one we should follow, Leigh? Failure in a referendum , falling support and a perpetual state of putting policy and legislative horses before the indy cart? Being the least worst option isn’t a good vehicle for emancipation. Tens of thousands… Read more »
Thank you for the advice. I can assure you my motivations couldnt be nobler and trust me im the nicest person anyone could wish to meet 😉
No one voted for GRR (I couldn’t give a toss about it) we all voted for independence and indyref2. Sturgeon has been a complete disaster for the yes movement. She turned a wide spectrum highly motivated movement into balkanised factions. If you want to look at election promises how about ‘not allowing Scotland to be dragged out of Europe against its will’ or setting up a Scottish Government owned Energy company, or Setting up a National investment bank. The list of broken promises is endless. Eight wasted years.
So by what mechanism could the SNP have prevented Scotland from being taken out of the EU along with the rest of the UK? There were no such mechanisms available to the scottish govt. Legislation was tabled to stage a second indy referendum but the consent needed from the uk govt for it to go ahead was withheld (and the supreme court then backed the uk govt in this -citing provisions in the scotland act). So do tell us how nicola sturgeon’s govt could have gone ahead with a second indy referendum? And If you really are based in scotland… Read more »
I didn’t say it Leigh – she Sturgeon and blowhard Blackford said they “…would not allow Scotland to be dragged out of Europe against its will.” Their words not mine. As for the legislation being tabled as you put it – all critics said this was a piece of showbiz and we were told to stop carping. We knew there was no mechanism but SHE insisted there was, that’s what I call a broken promise or maybe a better word is just a lie. As for the National Investment bank being scuppered by the pandemic that is nonsense, it was… Read more »
85k members when Sturgeon was elected leader, 72k when she resigned. This year members have been leaving the party at a rate of 120 a day.
She has destroyed all the good work of her predecessor.
Go woke, go broke.
Let it be a lesson to Plaid, although I fear that they would choose the woke path if given the chance..
Haven’t you noticed ? They been on it for years. Steady downhill with no apparent bottom.
A political pArty with 72k membershio? Other parties would kill for this
And sturgeon and her mad policies are at fault. Talk about sh**ting yourselves in the foot. The same is happening here! It’s as if they don’t want to be independent.
Makes you wonder who’s really pulling strings.
If the people of Scotland want to be tied to Westminster’s coattails forever they are playing into Unionists hands. No parties other than the SNP & Greens want Independence. Unionist Labour, Tories, Liberals banded together in a declaration of deceit to keep Scotland a satellite state, petrol pump, and place to keep their nuclear arsenal. I suggest Scotland learn from Wales. We were gang raped by Whitehall, who stole our coal and water resources , ,damaged our beautiful countryside, enacted cultural & linguistic genocide, divided our nation. So Scotland don’t waste all the good done by both Alex Salmons &… Read more »