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  • Sidney Pycroft

Salmond v Sturgeon: A war that threatens to bring down the independence movement?


There is a war within the Scottish National Party (SNP), with some of the most shocking allegations in politics since the scandals of the 1970s. It is a war Nicola Sturgeon appears determined to win at any cost, with even the potential of destroying the party and the credibility of the independence movement with it. Surprising allegations in this worsening dirty war fuel a new chapter of this shameful story every day. Where it will be in a months’ time, let alone by this article’s publication, is anyone’s guess.

The troubles stem from an inquiry into the Scottish government’s botched handling of sexual assault allegations against former SNP leader, Alex Salmond. He has made claims since that Sturgeon, the current First Minister, and others waged a “malicious and concerted” attempt to rid him from public life. This goes as far as accusing her, the Scottish government, and SNP executives, including Sturgeon’s husband, of trying to have him jailed. Sturgeon now faces multiple allegations of breaching the ministerial code. Salmond had previously been acquitted of 13 charges in criminal court and proceeded to win a judicial review which found the investigation to be “tainted by apparent bias”.

The Spectator played a large role in recent developments and Andrew Neil laid out the long running saga in an article for the Daily Mail, outlining the the serious allegations made, which have had rather subdued national media coverage. The Spectator, which Neil edits, even had to go to court at one point to establish that there was a legal basis to publish Salmond’s long-awaited submission after the Crown Office objected and complained, demanding at least one section be removed. It was then reposted by the Crown Office with so many redactions it made it pointless, anything in those sections could no longer be questioned about or discussed, which some say has effectively neutered the inquiry.

Ms Sturgeon also claimed that Mr Salmond told her who "one if not both" of the complainants were. Yet Salmond refutes this and claims the name of one of the women was revealed to his former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein. If true, this would be a breach of the civil service code. In the latest bombshell two former special advisors, Duncan Hamilton and Kevin Pringle, have corroborated Salmond’s version of events, so it is yet to be seen how, or if, Sturgeon will avoid more accusations of misleading parliament.

Further to this Sturgeon is also under siege as emails have been published which confirm that the government continued their legal fight long after lawyers told them they were going to most likely lose. The government’s counsel urged them to concede by 6 December 2018, with lawyers threatening resignation by the end of the year, the case proceeded to collapse in the new year. Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, has now said that if Sturgeon is found to have broken the ministerial code she should resign. He said that “we have lost first ministers through resignations here in Scotland for far less than what Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of.” He called for the UK civil service to step in after the investigation to investigate the committee’s eventual findings and the conduct of Leslie Evan, the Permanent Secretary.

With allegations of breaching the ministerial code, accusations of lying, misuse of public funds, and dragging the independence of the Crown Office through the mud it is a miracle Sturgeon is, at this moment, still standing. Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, the chief executive of the SNP, has been accused by a Salmond ally of plotting with her and her chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, against Salmond. Everyone is being dragged into a dirty war that Sturgeon is unwilling to lose. So unwilling is she that she may even tear her party apart in the process.

Decency and honesty have left Scottish politics with this debacle and no one comes out clean of this fight. Indeed every major SNP name has been brought into the war and the resulting fallout has a very high chance of permanently damaging the very independence cause they so clamour for. If Scotland hands the SNP power once more so be it, but they are fast becoming a party devoid of credibility and professionalism. Westminster must step in at some point, but they are likely scared of charges of undoing devolution, but with Scotland like this that may well be what is required. All sides appear ready to fight to the bitter end, and that end will be a very bitter one indeed.

IMAGE - Flickr (the SNP)



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