Thursday, 26 March 2020

We Need To Talk About Alex (4)

Kenny Farquharson had a thoughtful column in The Times the other day highlighting the bitter divisions in the SNP in the wake of Alex Salmond's acquittal over alleged sex crimes.

Apparently, Alex Salmond is now writing a book which will presumably say much more about his claim that he was the victim of a political conspiracy, rather than being held to account for his behaviour while acting as First Minister.

So the scene is set indeed although I do struggle to see Alex Salmond as a victim.

Stage is set for civil war in the SNP

By Kenny Farquharson - The Times

The SNP is heading for a civil war. That seems unavoidable after the acquittal of Alex Salmond over alleged sex crimes.

Standing in the witness box last week, Mr Salmond said there was a political motive behind the lurid accusations he faced.

You might think a conspiracy against a former leader of the SNP would be the work of unionists, but no. Supporters of Mr Salmond believe those intent on destroying him come from within the party he once led.

Mr Salmond’s allies have demanded revenge. Kenny MacAskill, an SNP MP, tweeted: “Delighted for Alex Salmond. Some resignations now required.” Joanna Cherry, another nationalist MP, said: “His place in the party’s history must be restored.”

Yet there were just as many expressions of dismay at the verdict from SNP activists as there were of relief — a sign of divisions to come.

Supporters of Mr Salmond ultimately pin the blame for his trial on Nicola Sturgeon, his successor as SNP leader and first minister. They blame her for a change in Scottish disciplinary rules that made it possible to pursue former ministers even after they had left office.

The motive Mr Salmond spoke of in court is, they believe, a desire to thwart any attempt by the 65-year-old to return to the front line of SNP politics.

There is also a whiff of culture war at play. Ms Sturgeon’s supporters saw in the prosecution of Mr Salmond a parallel with the trial of Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul. This, they believed, was Britain’s MeToo moment. The jury thought differently.

The stage is set for a showdown for the soul, and perhaps leadership, of the SNP. Both Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that now was not the time for this saga to play out. We will shortly find out if any of their supporters were listening.