Whilst the media has been drawn to accusations of entryism in the UK Labour Party leadership race, convicted perjurer Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity Party has been quietly making inroads into SNP branches.
Like the UK Labour Party, the SNP experienced a membership surge on the back of electoral defeat with membership sitting at over 100,000 in March. Whilst this is of course a positive for any party, mass intake on this scale will inevitably put pressure on any party’s internal verification mechanisms.
Just last month, The Motherwell Times reported that an SNP branch meeting in Uddingston and Bellshill had to be abandoned after rowdy scenes broke out over a vote to allocate funding to the Sheridan-led organisation, ‘Hope Over Fear’. Indeed, since the fracas broke out Richard Lyle, SNP MSP for Central Scotland has tweeted claiming to have photographic evidence of new SNP members at Solidarity meetings.
Hope Over Fear is a pro-independence outfit established by Sheridan after his exclusion from the official Yes campaign. At an ultra-nationalist flag waving rally held by the organisation last year the former MSP dominated events with the customary Sheridan roar. It was also reported that many attendees complicit in facilitating Sheridan’s attempted political rehabilitation were paid up SNP members.
Interestingly, Sheridan’s party has recently announced that membership of other political organisations is not banned. Sheridan himself even encouraged voters to vote SNP in May’s General Election under the slogan: “Lend your vote to the SNP”. This approach can only be interpreted as a blatant effort to infiltrate the SNP with the goal of securing SNP voters’ second preferences for Solidarity and Sheridan at the Scottish Parliament elections next year.
For Sheridan and his supporters the national question trumps all others: social justice, they say, can only be delivered within an independent Scottish state. In fact it seems Sheridan has dropped all pretence of being a socialist at all these days: when he’s not indulging in wild conspiracy theories he can be found draped in a saltire eulogising William Wallace with members of the Scottish Resistance.
It is likely that Sheridan’s influence within the SNP will only grow. This timidity on the SNPs part of whether or not it wants a second referendum will likely push more people towards Sheridan’s charismatic “independence now” approach.
With the SNP and the Yes movement more generally regarding Sheridan as a political embarrassment, friction between the two is likely to increase in the lead up to the Scottish Parliamentary elections next May.