The growth of the third party support in Britain : a comparative study of the electoral bases for Liberal and Scottish National Parties' successes during the 1970s.
This thesis exam~nes common bases to the growth in third party
support during the 1970s. It is argued that the British elements have
been either neglected or else under-developed in earlier studies of
Scottish National Party support. To rectify this the present study
attempts a comparative investigation of the social, political, spatial
and attitudinal aspects of both Liberal and SNP support. The focus is
upon direct and indirect evidence insofar as Liberal support is viewed
both in England and Scotland. Third party support in 1974 is placed
within the broader time perspective of 1967 to 1981 so as to
facilitate identification of the source of growth for these parties.
In addition a distinction ~s drawn between 1974 supporters in terms of
when they were first attracted to the part~, so that in the time-bound
part of the analysis the new element can be distinguished from the
In terms of social composition a large amount of convergence
rather than divergence in third party support is shown to have taken
place by the mid-1970s. Politically the SNP is shown to have
benefited from different sources at different times. By 1974 it drew
upon the same support base as the Liberal Party. Furthermore, when
account is taken of the distinction between 'early' and 'late' third
party converts the similarity of support base becomes even clearer.
Spatially also the SNP fell into the general British pattern of third
party support in the 1970s.This is especially noticeable in the
relationship between the political complexion of constituencies and
the level of class-party defection to third parties.Finally attitudinal evidence of a short-term and long-term
nature is used to illustrate respectively the protest and centrist
elements present in third party support. It is suggested that
Scottish voters turned to the SNP in 1974 as much to express their
British concerns as their peculiarly Scottish ones. The circumstances
of the 1974 General Elections placed Btitish concerns firmly in the
minds of the electorate both north and south of the border. Indeed
late SNP vote deciders in Scotland are shown to be motivated more by
these matters than purely Scottish ones.
The thesis concludes by suggesting that the rlse of the Social
Democratic Party has hindered SNP progress in Scotland since the 1979
General Election precisely because it draws on this British dimension.
"!::t is suggested that t~le SUP is a3 c.ependent as any other third
party upon a volatile political environment. Finally the analytic
success of distinguishing between early and late vote deciders
indicates that more campaign based surveys are needed in the study of
third party support.