The SNP enjoyed some creative license at their party conference. But can they capitalise on anti-Brexit feeling—without losing support?by Dominic Hinde / October 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Peter McNally has the kind of political access most journalists at a party conference can only dream of. The freelance art photographer, who cut his teeth shooting music and fashion, came to prominence in 2014 as he travelled the country photographing the “Yes” campaign to leave the UK. When Nicola Sturgeon took over the SNP leadership he was brought in not only to produce press photos—many of which have become iconic images—but to provide an intimate record of what the party hoped would be a defining moment in it and Scotland’s history.
Skip forward three years and McNally is still shooting the UK’s second most powerful politician. He is one of a road crew who have trailed Nicola Sturgeon since 2014 as she relentlessly tours the country, reinforcing the image of the First Minister as both a stateswoman and someone who you could, literally, just bump into in the street. At the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow, he glides around snapping SNP ministers and members for the party’s insomniac social media team and his own private archive.
The front of the SNP’s conference programme, and the video screens around the hall, proclaim ‘Progress’ in huge letters, backed by a list of achievements ranging from the protection of free bus passes to the building of a second road bridge over the Firth of Forth.
The official line is that the last ten years have been a period of hard work and consolidation as the party have crafted the country in their own image. Some of the claims are more dubious than others, but the conference programme was printed just late enough to include last week’s headline-grabbing fracking ban on its list of merits.The SNP have, in effect, written a CV in which some of their work experience is creatively expressed for maximum effect.
Other things are conspicuous by their absence. The party also has a strong paternalistic instinct characterised by its need to centralise power to Holyrood and act in what it sees as the best interests of the country. Scotland’s interests range from free tuition and providing free baby boxes to new mothers to cutting aviation tax and overruling planning applications after intensive private lobbying—as happened with Judy Murray’s controversial private property and tennis development. None of these are mentioned in the conference material.