Saturday, 12 January 2019

Start of Something

Lots has been written about the Alex Salmond affair in the past few days, but I found myself agreeing with Alex Massie's column in The Times in which he notes that this feels like 'just the start of something'.

If you ask me, it is completely inconceivable that Nicola Sturgeon could have met with and phoned Alex Salmond on several occasions to discuss the affair while wearing an SNP rather than a Scottish Government hat.

The obvious place to refer such a sensitive internal matter would have been to the SNP's general secretary, Peter Murrell, though this too would have had its complications since Peter is Nicola's husband as well as being the party's chief executive. 

So who knows where this will all end, but it's not helped by prominent figures in the SNP tweeting their support for Alex Salmond returning as party leader.

Chastened Sturgeon cuts a pitiful figure

By Alex Massie - The Times

If there was one thing everyone agreed on at Holyrood, it was this: no one could recall when Nicola Sturgeon looked so uncomfortable answering questions. This was a different first minister — downcast, defensive, even crestfallen.

Behind her, the SNP backbenchers were glum and silent. Usually the first minister can count on their enthusiastic applause whenever she tears into opponents; yesterday there was no tearing in and precious little applause. John Swinney tried to lead a cheer for her but although some ministers dutifully joined in, most backbench MSPs remained painfully silent.

The Alex Salmond Affair, as we must henceforth refer to it, is an evidently painful business for Ms Sturgeon. Time and again she insisted she did not intervene in the case. This was “self-evident”. But, under questioning from Jackson Carlaw and Richard Leonard, she struggled to explain how she could divide herself between her roles as leader of the Scottish government and leader of the SNP. Nor, in point of ticklish fact, could she explain why she had three meetings and two further telephone conversations with her predecessor. Neither Mr Carlaw nor Mr Leonard were in crowing or preening mode. Their questions were asked solemnly and quietly, almost as though they were reluctantly intruding into the first minister’s private grief. That only added to the weight of the moment and the fact that something had gone rather badly wrong.

There was a feeling, too, that this was just the start of something. A chastened first minister was compelled to throw herself on the mercy of Holyrood. If parliament wished to launch an inquiry into this mess then, she said, of course it could do so and she and government would co-operate fully. A gloomy day for Ms Sturgeon, but not a great one for Scottish public life either.