Regional & Federal Studies, 29(1) pp 1-23

This article examines the strategic behaviour of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in regional elections from 1999 to 2016. It builds on recent work that has theorized the kind of strategic tools regionalist parties have at their disposal in electoral competition, and the factors expected to determine the strategic choices these parties make. An in-depth case study of the SNP describes when and explores why the party makes strategic choices in an effort to bolster its electoral support in post-devolution Scotland. The analysis finds (i) that the SNP has consistently sought to ‘frame’ the issue of independence in economic terms, by advancing an economic case for separating Scotland from the UK and (ii) that this strategic approach is the result of competing constraints internal and external to the party. These findings suggest that the strategic behaviour of regionalist parties in electoral competition is more sophisticated than expected by extant theoretical accounts.