Following the Scottish Referendum last week, the SNP have seen a surge in their memberhsip and claim this morning that they are now the 3rd biggest party in the UK, beating the Lib Dems into 4th place. The figures in this article certainly seem to bear this out.
However, a couple of notes. Firstly, we are only talking about 47,000 members…in a country approaching a population of 70m people that still smacks of a level of apathy in joining a political party. Equally, there are numerous pressure groups who have a greater membership than this – indeed the traditional example is that the RSPB have a membership of over 1m which is greater than all of the political parties combined.
This is a useful example that perhaps speaks to a resurgence in political interest and a lowering of apathy, but do not get carried away – there’s a long way to go.
On another note, Alex Salmond today was urging the lowering of the voting age to 16 for all elections. This could be an argument of increasing democracy in the UK, particularly with 16-17 year old’s taking part in the Scottish Referendum. However, again, don’t get carried away – the 18-25 age group routinely has the lowest turnout of any of the eligible electorate. It is fine to suggest this may be a positive move for democracy, but it should not be seen as a magic potion to cure low voter turnout.