SNP-style democracy

·1 min read
Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell
Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell

The late Labour leader John Smith once hailed devolution as “the settled will of the Scottish people”. Given the appalling shambles currently unfolding in Edinburgh, however, it is plain that the supposed main aim of the project – to bring government closer to the people – has been distorted by the oligarchic and secretive style of government established by Nicola Sturgeon.

In the nine years since she became First Minister, hers has seemingly been the only voice allowed in the governance of Scotland. Now, Ms Sturgeon’s authoritarian style has culminated in remarkable claims that she had sought to control how party members chose her successor.

The SNP leadership election has been dogged by complaints from two candidates, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, that it has been run to the benefit of the third, Humza Yousaf, the health minister. He is the self-declared “continuity” candidate and has pledged to defend Ms Sturgeon’s legacy.

Peter Murrell, Ms Sturgeon’s husband and the party’s chief executive, resigned after admitting that the published figure on the size of the SNP’s membership had been wrong. Lurking in the background is a police investigation into the so-called “missing” £600,000 – the proceeds of an appeal by the party for donations to bankroll a new referendum, which has never been held.

John Smith’s Cabinet colleague George, now Lord, Robertson was wrong when he predicted that devolution would kill nationalism “stone dead”. Indeed, the rise of Scottish separatism as a political identity has arguably meant that the SNP has not been punished by voters for its failures as it would have been in a better functioning democracy. Let us hope this time will be different.