Yves here. The sudden implosion of Nicola Sturgeon and its implications for the Scottish National Party are important in and of itself and as a reference point for the US. Admittedly, there are stark differences between the US and UK systems, such as the way money-driven politics has turbo-charged the ability of special interests to punch above their weight, contrasted with a Parliamentary system allowing a governing party with a solid majority to enact and implement sweeping changes in a short period of time (the sprawl of the US means its “governing parties” are often not strong in internal cohesion).
Some background from the Financial Times, for readers who may not have been following this story closely:
Announcing her resignation as Scotland’s first minister and leader of the pro-independence Scottish National party, Nicola Sturgeon insisted she would step down with her nation in the “final phase” of the journey to end its three-century-old union with England….
But analysts said her push for independence was effectively stalled by the UK government’s steadfast refusal to permit a rerun of the 2014 referendum in which Scots backed staying in the union by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
Mark Diffley, an expert on Scottish political polling, said there was no short-term prospect of another plebiscite and Sturgeon’s “plan B” strategy of treating the next UK general election as a de facto independence vote was unpopular both with Scots and large swaths of the SNP itself….
As well as strains over independence strategy, leading members of the SNP are divided over her government’s attempts to make it easier to obtain official recognition for changes of gender.
Some in the party saw Sturgeon’s determination to push through the gender legislation despite indications of public concern as a sign she was losing her political touch, a view strengthened by news last month that a double rapist had been placed in a Scottish female-only prison.
She had also been the target of growing criticism of the SNP’s record during her time as deputy first minister from 2007 to 2014 and first minister since. Escalating public sector strikes, the winter woes of the NHS and business doubts about flagship plans for a recycling scheme have all undermined the SNP’s claim to competence in governing.
Sturgeon has also faced intensifying scrutiny over the handling of SNP affairs, following revelations that her husband, the party’s long-serving chief executive Peter Murrell, made a £107,620 loan to it that was not declared to the Electoral Commission until more than a year later — a breach of election finance rules.
This bit in from the post below caught my eye:
Sturgeon’s government has been endlessly caught between the triangulation of popular politics and the need to create an insurgent independence movement.
One can argue that this problem also stymied Sanders, whose situation was made worse by having to attempt a hostile takeover of the Democratic party, versus dominating the Scottish political arena and then trying to leverage that into independence (or the potential fallback I perhaps missed, more devolved powers).
By Mike Small, Editor of Bella Caledonia and Deputy Editor of DeSmogUK. Originally published at openDemocracy
The shock resignation today of Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon leaves Scottish politics in disarray and has wider ramifications for the UK’s ongoing constitutional crisis.
Sturgeon’s legacy over eight and a half years in office is a hotly disputed one, both in terms of domestic policy and the wider strategy for gaining independence. But she can rightly claim to have eviscerated her opponents and defeated a succession of Labour and Conservative leaders. Perhaps it is fair to say that she is far more successful as an electoral politician than a transformational one.
Sturgeon’s government has been endlessly caught between the triangulation of popular politics and the need to create an insurgent independence movement. But other factors have contributed to her being at the epicentre of a series of critical questions that have proved unsustainable. She has been exposed and divided on three critical fronts: she has been unable to navigate a path through the constitutional crisis, hemmed in by Westminster intransigence and suppression of democracy; she has been at the centre of the culture wars in Scotland, as she championed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill; and, thirdly, she has been the focus of the hostility of everyone who opposed independence (and many who support it).
In a sense, the party is a victim of its own success. There is no prospect of any other political party gaining power in Scotland. The media and the wider society do not discuss Labour policy or the Scottish Conservatives’ political ideas, not just because they are thin on the ground but just because there is zero possibility of them seeing the light of day. This has led to a relentless grind of a negative focus on Nicola Sturgeon herself. This is partly the fault of the SNP itself, which mimicked the New Labour template of promoting everything though the cult of a leader. This is a highly successful electoral ploy, but it does leave a political party an emptied out entity.
Scottish political and media culture is now highly toxic and concentrated solely on one woman (and there is certainly a gender aspect to this phenomenon). While Nicola Sturgeon must be taken to task for her political failings and her policy legacy, we must also reflect on the types of cultures and forums we create to do our politics. Equally, we now have a situation where any and every criticism of the SNP and the Scottish government is conceived and rejected as an ‘attack on Scotland’ by independence supporters. This is not a good state for a healthy democracy to be in. The idea that Sturgeon was ‘hounded out of office’ is true – but so too is the principle that politicians must be held accountable by the media. These are issues that Scotland needs to grapple with, somehow beyond the binary dynamic that we exist in.
While Sturgeon’s resignation is a shock, it tellingly does not resolve any of the major problems she leaves to her successor and to the wider country. The problems at the heart of Scotland’s constitutional and social crisis are systemic. They are not about one individual and will not be solved by removing and replacing that individual. There is no magic solution to the muscular unionism of the Westminster parties – despite the froth and fury of the more enraged wing of the independence movement. Neither do the opposition parties in Scotland have any credible prospectus for office. They do not and cannot inspire support and are widely perceived to be one-dimensional and wholly negative actors operating in bad faith every day. Therefore the idea being put forward immediately today that Sturgeon’s removal suddenly creates huge opportunity for Labour (for example) is completely misguided.
What is at stake, and what may well change, is the idea of making the next UK general election into a de facto second independence referendum – which was Nicola Sturgeon’s preferred option. This tactic was to have been the subject of a special party conference next month to discuss and agree a way forward. That’s all up in the air now and may be postponed in the aftermath of Sturgeon’s resignation. But it won’t go away. The idea had always had an air of desperation about it as options for strategies to gain independence – or a referendum on independence – narrowed and closed. While previous Conservative governments were open at least to the option of a referendum, the governments of May, Johnson, Truss and Sunak have all been resolutely opposed, not least because the campaigning on such a referendum would start with support for independence at around 50%.
But the alternatives for the SNP and the wider independence movement aren’t clear. Stewart McDonald’s paper ‘A Scotland That Can Vote Yes’ is the only published coherent alternative, but it hardly sets the heather alight. It basically states that the de facto tactic is risky and likely to fail. His alternative: “I believe [SNP] members should embrace a strategy that will drive up support for independence, reinforce the mandate for a referendum and maintain our commitment to a legitimate process underpinned by democracy and law. This is what the public will expect of us.”
The idea of a de facto referendum at Holyrood has the advantage of a wider, deeper electorate, one that includes 16- and 17-year-olds (who are overwhelmingly pro-Yes). But it has the disadvantage of a potentially messier outcome as a result of its proportional structure. The routes forward are unclear. They may involve mass civil disobedience; a withdrawal from Westminster of the party’s cohort; the creation of a dual-power assembly in Edinburgh; or other options. But the reality is that there isn’t a clear successor – as there was after Salmond’s departure – with a clear alternative plan. To repeat: this isn’t about individuals.
As the parade of opposition MSPs and media commentators praise Sturgeon with all the sincerity they can muster, they will have forgotten how they pursued her with a relentless and toxic negativity. Some of the media’s coverage has been obsessive, highly personal and more than a little laced with misogyny.
Now what? The politicians spoken of to replace Sturgeon all have their own political baggage. Kate Forbes is too young, too inexperienced and doesn’t have the ‘heft’ required to unite a party in the wake of such a traumatic event as this. Joanna Cherry is a highly divisive figure. Angus Robertson and John Swinney are likely candidates, as are Stephen Flynn and Mhairi Black. It’s early days, but none at this moment have an articulated position or strategy that would unite a party or a movement around an alternative way forward. ‘Not being Nicola Sturgeon’ isn’t a game-changer.
Whoever replaces her will have to have fresh ideas and energy and realise that electoral success is not enough.
The experience of living under the British state, under perpetual Tory rule, requires transformative politics, and that will require risk and insurgency.
If and only if these lessons can be learned, then a renewed prospectus for independence can be built and won – because the case for self-determination is not and was never about one individual alone.
The dog that didn’t bark. The only politician of any substance in Scotland is Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon’s predecessor, who was acquitted of sexual assault charges profered by complainants closely linked to the SNP in Nicola Sturgeon’s period of office, and Craig Murray was gaoled for contempt of court for allegedly enabling “jigsaw identification” of the complainants when he merely reported on the trial and the fact of communication between the complainants. Is l’affaire Salmond/Murray mentioned? No, and that’s the fishy thing about this post’s take on Sturgeon.
A lot is fishy, including his lauding of Stewart McDonald who is another dirty player in these affairs, much of which will come out as his emails contents are divulged. The outrage of Murray’s prosecution and jailing for committing journalism is a shame on the SNP, Scotland and especially the Union.
So far as I’m aware, the Bella Caledonia blog is essentially an in-house source for Sturgeon loyalists and insiders.
If not a sub-branch of MI5/6. For example, this outlet was a strong supporter of the anti-Assad insurrection in Syria
I don’t follow Scottish politics much, but it seems very clear from the timing that Sturgeon could see the writing on the wall and jumped before she got pushed out. She went at pretty much the worst possible time in terms of preparing for a new leader and the next election, so it seems highly improbable that this was the result of internal consultations and a voluntary exit. There are at least two major scandals brewing – one relating to emails in the possession of Craig Murray, and another relating to probably fraud and theft of election money within the party. Sturgeons husband and right-hand-man seems to be up to his neck in both issues. Its possible of course, given the nature of Sturgeon and her crew, that there are other scandals we don’t know about to become public knowledge.
There are interesting parallels with Irish 19th Century politics, where an independence movement gradually became part of the establishment and stagnated even while they dominated elections, only to be pushed aside by radicals when it was clear that they had run out of ideas (in 1918). Scottish politics seems very rotten – the SNP are completely dominant without really doing much, while Labour and the Tories are rounding errors in the polls, mostly due to their own past incompetence. With respect to the most radical alternatives, none of them seem capable of pushing the old guard of the SNP off the scene, but events have a funny way of working out.
As for this comment:
Alex Salmond might have a wry smile about this.
Every politician at some point have to weigh self interest against the cause.
And few have the will to stay the path in the face of personal ruin.
“As for this comment:
Some of the media’s coverage has been obsessive, highly personal and more than a little laced with misogyny.
Alex Salmond might have a wry smile about this.”
Indeed. “Obsessive” coverage of the first minister of a nation — I guess he means they should’ve “left her alone™! If you want to be a powerful woman, you get the same treatment as any other powerful person. OT but this pernicious way out of responsibility was on full, disgraceful, display yesterday when Norfolk Southern refused to attend the New Palestine town hall due to “safety concerns”. When you wreck a town through your own greed and negligence you have to show up and attempt to show concern whether you “feel safe” or not. I remember when the media would hold up this kind of behavior as the utterly shameful thing it is. We no longer have media that represents the people in the west. A little bit of rough treatment, if that is indeed what Sturgeon received from the Scottish media, should be the norm for any powerful man, woman or whatever one decides to call oneself. Instead we get media harassment of normies and deference to power. Gross.
I watched the ITN news yesterday – in its extended coverage of her resignation, from Edinburgh no less, there wasn’t a single mention of the ongoing police investigation of the 600K spend ringfenced for the second referendum and the coincidental loan of 107K by Sturgeon’s husband who is also the chief exec of the SNP. Not even a whisper !
I was disillusioned ages ago with Sturgeon after seeing how, after losing the judicial review into the SNP’s handling of two misconduct complaints against Alex Salmond in 2018, 9 female SNP politicians/ Govt officials orchestrated the allegations into a criminal trial so that while “they lost the battle, they would win the war”.
Here is a more accurate and better contextualised piece on Sturgeon’s leadership an resignation than Mr Small’s post, in my opinion:
Yeah. That article more or less nails it. Thanks for the link, Anthony. Sturgeon has been a disaster for Scotland. She has shown a legalistic and timid attitude to independence. Craig Murray has pointed out at length that there are other perfectly legal routes to independence, through international and UN law, but these have been disregarded through lack of commitment and lack of courage. In my opinion she and her husband were either bought off or were subjected to some other kind of pressure from the ‘establishment’.
Thanks for this very informative comment. It boggles my mind what these pols think who push for broad “solutions” that any second glance will tell you have major pitfalls. Its as if western leadership can’t or don’t think. Especially self-described “liberals” like Sturgeon, who repeat dogmatic assertions and sound like wind-up toys.
Thanks for the post and to the commentariat for the comments. When I read the post about the problems in and of Scotland, it did make me ask ” why now” and PK and Bjarne offer what might be answers. Otherwise why go with such bad timing?
Because it will cause the most damage and gets her off the hook about her weird plans regarding independence.
The FM has said she is not leaving politics, though the police case might affect those plans.
For now, she is leader of the party/acting FM, and as the leadership can take up to 133 days and her creepy husband will be counting the votes, she can do a lot more.
She will want a safe pair of hands (ideally the execrable Angus Robertson and his strange young wife, though Forbes or Swinney might acceptably vapid) to shield her from some rather awkward skeletons left in the closet.
I think she may have over estimated her position her position as the people who have been so undeservedly indulged by her will swiftly take their rice bowls elsewhere.
PK is right. Bella caledonia has a readership limited to its contributors and mike small’s mum.
Doesn’t the United Nations have a statement that a people can determine their own sovereignty?
Bart Hansen: Doesn’t the United Nations have a statement that a people can determine their own sovereignty?
In the real world, Bart, which ‘people’ are you talking about? Because take a look at the opinion polls in Scotland–
‘Twenty-five polls were conducted in the year after the 2014 referendum, with seventeen of them having “No” as the predominant answer, seven having “Yes”, and one having an equal proportion of respondents for each opinion.
‘In the year from September 2016 to September 2017, 25 of 26 polls conducted showed “No” as the most popular answer and only one showed “Yes” … “No” continued to show a lead in opinion polls until July 2019, when one poll … showed a narrow majority for “Yes”. Professor John Curtice said after this poll was released that there had recently been a swing towards “Yes”, and that this was concentrated among people who had voted to “Remain” in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
‘This pro-independence trend continued into 2020, as three polls in the early part of the year put “Yes” support at between 50% and 52%. In October 2020, an Ipsos MORI/STV News poll saw support for independence at its highest ever level, with 58% saying they would vote “Yes”. As of December 2020, fifteen consecutive opinion polls had shown a lead for “Yes”. The run of polls showing a “Yes” lead continued into January 2021, although the average support for Yes was down by two percentage points compared to polls by the same companies in late 2020. Polls conducted in early March 2021, following testimony by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon at a Holyrood parliamentary inquiry, showed narrow leads for “No”.’
So support for Scottish independence has a majority that’s arguably at best as small and tenuous as that for Brexit was in England and Wales. But then it gets worse. Because two points follow from this — and pay attention to the second one because nobody ever talks about it: –
[1.] Should independence supporters somehow get Scottish independence over the finish line with that small and fractious a minority in favor, it will then be several orders of magnitude more economically damaging for Scotland than Brexit is now for the UK because more than 60 percent of Scotland’s trade is with the UK; Scotland runs an annual national spending deficit of 8 percent which is currently paid from London and which the EU will never countenance; and Scotland has no currency of its own that it controls ….
[2.] Hence, if independence happens Scotland will become so broke and vulnerable that large chunks of it will go up for sale at firesale prices. Believe me, there are venture capital and PE elements salivating right now at the idea of Scottish independence because it’ll enable them to pick up large chunks of picturesque Scottish Highlands real estate at dirt-cheap prices and then turn it into estates for the new corporate aristocracy.
In other words, the Scots may not like being under the control now of Westminster, the City of London, and English capitalists — and who can blame them? — but Scottish independence will ironically play out as a far worse deal for them in that regard.
Exactly the same thing has been said for every country that left the english empire and for better or worse, none of them have have ever come back.
With Scotland being such a burden, why is westminster so reluctant to shed it? The calculations of Scotland’s economic position are certainly moot and the most cited; GERS, was a created by the conservative Ian Lang with the express intention of casting the union in a positive light.
Perhaps the long suppressed Mccrone report:
The McCrone report is a document on the Scottish economy written and researched in 1974 on behalf of the British Government. It was composed by Professor Gavin McCrone employed at the Scottish Office using some information that was publicly available at the time and some that was not. The document gave a favourable projection for the economy of an independent Scotland with a “chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree and its currency would become the hardest in Europe”. It also noted that the Common Market or EEC meant that Scotland could pivot away from the rest of UK (if required) for trade. The memo from UK Civil Servants to UK Government ministers was classified “secret”;some have argued that this was to avoid fuelling independence sentiment in Scotland. The report became public in 2005 when new freedom of information legislation came into effect.
If 60% of scotland’s trade is with the UK, is the rump UK going to refuse these outputs in the event of independence.
As for narrow margins between yes and no:
Ipsos MORI’s two final polls, no less than 88% of those who said they were Scottish and not British voted Yes, compared with 65% of those who said they were ‘More Scottish than British’ and 26% of those who felt ‘Equally British and Scottish’. Amongst the two remaining small groups, only 9% of those who said they were ‘More British than Scottish’ identified themselves as Yes voters, and just 13% of those who said they were British and not Scottish.Ipsos MORI’s two final polls, no less than 88% of those who said they were Scottish and not British voted Yes, compared with 65% of those who said they were ‘More Scottish than British’ and 26% of those who felt ‘Equally British and Scottish’. Amongst the two remaining small groups, only 9% of those who said they were ‘More British than Scottish’ identified themselves as Yes voters, and just 13% of those who said they were British and not Scottish.”>In Ipsos MORI’s two final polls, no less than 88% of those who said they were Scottish and not British voted Yes, compared with 65% of those who said they were ‘More Scottish than British’ and 26% of those who felt ‘Equally British and Scottish’. Amongst the two remaining small groups, only 9% of those who said they were ‘More British than Scottish’ identified themselves as Yes voters, and just 13% of those who said they were British and not Scottish.
Oops, bit of triple post in that last link,apologies.
Paul: With Scotland being such a burden, why is westminster so reluctant to shed it?
I don’t know. Frankly, if the Scots can agree that they want to leave and can develop a coherent program on how to do it, then good luck to them and they should leave.
But so far nobody’s developed a coherent program and in fact…
Paul: Exactly the same thing has been said for every country that left the english empire and for better or worse, none of them have have ever come back.
By talking in generalities about “every country that left the English empire” you’re studiously denying the specifics of Scotland’s situation. Let’s look at them —
One common proposal is that Scotland will join the EU and use the Euro. How will this work? After all, Scotland is running an 8 percent annual deficit, while the EU is more neoliberal than the Tories: on the German side, the organization was expressly created by German politicians who were Mont Pelerin society members in order to impose neoliberalism on Europe. See forex —
Saving the dangerous idea: austerity think tank networks in the European Union
So the EU will not tolerate annual 8 percent national deficits on a continuing basis.
Fine, you say, citing the McCrone report from 1974 (!?!) and insisting that Scotland is really a potentially rich country that’s the victim of English extractionism. Scotland will get there.
But then how will that work? Because Scotland will then have to go cap in hand to international capital for investment. In return, international capital will want large chunks of Scottish real estate and infrastructure on very extractive terms — think Cargill etc. in Ukraine — and that investment will be in large measure supervised through the City of London. Scotland will in effect be swapping control by Westminster for control by international capital and the City.
Same old tired and meaningless Project Fear guff. Why did successive UK governments hide the McCrone report for 30 years, until it was released in 2005 after an SNP FOI request. Using North Sea oil revenues to shore up the ‘UK’ desperate finances was one thing, lying about the true extent of oil wealth for 30 years is something else. After that, who would trust anything a UK government says about Scotland.
Why has the UK not made a positive case for the uk? Because there isn’t one. Others can see why the ‘UK’ (England) is so against Scotland’s independence. Because it effectively means England’s independence (Northern Ireland & Wales have their own strong cases for independence too) and that is where the real fear lies.
Replace ‘oil’ with ‘energy’ (ie renewable, largely wind generated energy) and this article remains spot on. And that was before Brexit, which Scotland massively rejected by 62-38%. As for the so called deficit, isn’t it strange that this is only ‘calculated’ (ie guessed at) for Scotland but not England, Wales or Northern Ireland. But then it’s origin was political not economic.
Here we go.
I don’t know.
That is a strange assertion.
The triple link I so carelessly posted suggests that they,the scots, do want to decide on things.
A colony is never able to do so.
I would hope you could cite a coherent program from westminster.
From where does that ‘common proposal’ come?
From which identifiable community and where their proposal is patent?
I would never suggest that we kneel to canadian ideal of the euro.
There has been a concereted capital strike towards russia, it has seemed to weather it better than its antagonists,notably germany.
I welcome your facetious typographic knocking.
How is that so different from the current arrangements?
As a punter, westminter and the city are the same.
As for your earlier assertions, Scotland has has the most complete,unregulated and opaque private land ownership in the global west, within the glorious union.
The people who deplore the natives have been here for a while,and they really want it to keep working for them..
I thought she was Fan Dabbie Dozie!
How could a husband and wife both be in major positions of power in the SNP? It certainly gives the impression that the party is run by a small clique.
We should ask the Clintons.
The clique is slightly larger,but highly concentrated ;
You could check robin macalpine’s series
For many Scots voters, the independence debate is eerily similar to Brexit. We are expected to vote for a broad principle without knowing the detail. Trust us, the pols say.
What is required to move the debate forward is a detailed, painstaking document covering all of the key issues. Last time I noted them down there were 28 – starting with the minor matter of the constitution. Far too much work for an SMP that can’t even build a couple of ferries.
For me, that is upside down thinking.
There has been a union,and while it has suited some on both (in)sides, it has been an unhappy marriage
Independence comes first, without that, no decisions can be commissioned.
Never forget the 5th columnists – don’t ignore their strenuous efforts; those foreigners resident in the UK working to break up the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the British Commonwealth pushing for a ‘Republic’!
Amongst them the Portuguese. From Almeida (the Portuguese origin EU ambassador to the UK) down to the lowliest Portuguese delivering Scottish Independence leaflets from door to door.
Portugal’s National Anthem until 1957 was all about marching against the British (UK) on land and sea …
Às armas, às armas!
Sobre a terra, sobre o mar,
Às armas, às armas!
Pela patria lutar!
Contra os Bretões marchar, marchar!
Elections in Scotland. Portuguese woman distributes campaign leaflets in Edinburgh
SIC News 06.05.2021
Wales and Scotland elect a new parliament, but it is the Scottish elections that are the focus of attention because of the implications the outcome may have on the future of the UK.
Because of the pandemic, the traditional door-to-door campaign has disappeared.
This Wednesday, SIC followed the Portuguese Martha Mattos Coelho in a campaign action alone in Edinburgh.
Craig Murray’s take:
..and his latest on the death of Willie McRae, a very able but troubled politician that shot himself in the back of the neck and then threw the gun away.
The union is rough.