What a bizarre situation we’ve reached in the politics of Scotland when we have elements of the Greater England press in London making common cause with their previous bête noire, Alex Salmond, in their campaign to attack, discredit and ultimately bring down the current leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon. And quite possibility with her any hope in the near future of an independent nation-state in the northern half of the island of Britain. In a way it’s all very Parnellian,* reeking of the sometimes real but more often fake scandals that were used by successive United Kingdom governments against their Irish nationalist opponents throughout the 19th and 20th centuries – and more recently during the acrimonious Brexit negotiations between the UK and the European Union. Unfortunately while the British establishment, from elected ministers to tame journalists, is undoubtedly contributing to the sense of crisis in Holyrood, the crisis itself is very real. It seems that Nicola Sturgeon may have been less than forthright in her testimony to Scottish parliamentarians, and Alex Salmond’s once lofty reputation remains tarnished with accounts of his personal misbehaviours. A tarnishing that he seems intent on obscuring at the expense of what was previously his life-long dream of a free Scotland.
I have no idea how all this is going to play out with the Scottish electorate. Some well-informed commentators are hoping that Sturgeon and the SNP government will weather the ongoing storm and continue to reap the benefits of Britain’s Brexit discomfiture come the regional elections in May. Others are less optimistic and fear that the resignation of the SNP leader is imminent, leaving her party in disarray just weeks away from the polls. And a handful are actually convinced that Sturgeon’s departure will herald Salmond’s triumphant return. Which really would be bizarre. Personally, while I think that the First of Minister of Scotland has suffered some personal damage, her resignation is unlikely and her party remains on course to increase its currents share of the Holyrood seats in May. However, a week – or several weeks – is a long time in politics and none of us can predict what the suddenly unpredictable Alex Salmond might do next. Or his increasingly unsavoury allies.
* Of course, the fall of Charles Stewart Parnell and the fractionalisation of Irish nationalist politics was one of the factors that contributed over the following decades to the rise of “advanced nationalism” in Ireland and ultimately to armed revolution when the country was denied any other means of asserting its sovereignty. So perhaps the ardent defenders of the British state and their handful of useful idiots in the Scottish nationalist movement should be careful what they wish for?