The effect of small parties has been to act as trailblazers for some developments but with little long term effect.
Small parties in Scotland have played a number of roles in the post-devolution party system.
In some areas they have been trailblazers for broader developments, whilst in others they have met some success but had little longer impact. Understanding this is crucial for a broader understanding of party competition and the Scottish party system.
The first section of the chapter addresses thorny theoretical issues around what counts as a ‘small’ party, and the relation between smallness and relevance. The second section discusses key small parties that have had some level of success in Scotland. These include the Greens, Scottish Socialist Party, UKIP, Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party, and the ‘Others’ who have also been successfully elected in Scotland, including the Liberal Democrats, given their changing fortunes over time. The final section considers reasons for the rise of smaller parties, whilst examining the broader effect on the Scottish party system and putting Scotland into comparative perspective in relation to the role of small parties.