'It's Not Great for the SNP'
Just when you thought Scottish politics couldn't get more dramatic.
In an embarrassing development for his wife, a divisive nationalist finally meets with the criminal justice system.
He faces justice not for the damage he did to the nation’s politics, but for alleged financial irregularities. His more deranged supporters believe his political opponents, or dark forces in the deep state, must be behind the arrest. They simply can’t believe that the man who brought them such success could have done something so stupid. That feeling of conspiracy against them is only encouraged by the barely disguised glee of their opponents as the media goes into a frenzy outside the home of their one-time leader.
That was New York yesterday as, in a long-expected move, Donald Trump was indicted on charges related to hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.
Here in Scotland, the media storm around the arrest of the recently-resigned SNP Chief Executive was more of a surprise. The police search of the home he shares with his wife Nicola Sturgeon was an extraordinary moment. The sight of officers raiding the headquarters of the governing party made me gasp.
In a dramatic few weeks in Scottish politics, nothing has come close to seeing the police forensic tent erected on their front lawn. It brought to mind that episode of Brookside when the patio was lifted in the Jordache garden (google it kids), but really it was an edition of Reporting Scotland.
Those of you opening this email expecting commentary on the case itself will be disappointed. I for one intend to heed the advice of the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates on this story. Nobody has been found guilty of anything.
What I will comment on is the politics of this moment.
Firstly, Humza Yousaf’s judgment was already called into question after his wholehearted backing of Peter Murrell shortly before the Chief Executive was forced to resign over false information on party membership being given to the media. Depending on the outcome of this investigation, these clips may come to haunt the new First Minister.
Yousaf’s response today will have done nothing to steady the nerves of his skeptical party after another set of terrible polls for the new leader.
Responding to the news today seems tough but, as is often the case in a genuine crisis, it was actually easy. All he needed to do was to repeat the lines already uttered by Nicola Sturgeon: “It would be inappropriate for the First Minister to comment on any open police investigation. The SNP will cooperate entirely.”
Instead, he decided to enter into a discussion about what the arrest meant for the party, resulting in a news line that the events were “not great for the SNP.” If his opponents wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that the investigation might make people think twice about supporting his party, the First Minister helpfully planted the idea in their heads.
He even found himself acting as a spokesperson for the reasons why Nicola Sturgeon resigned, telling us that the optics of police wandering around her garden with shovels didn’t figure in her political calculation at all. He was anxious to get over that ‘it wisnae me’ when nobody thought it was. And, for some bizarre reason, he decided to do his interviews in front of a large photo of a disheveled-looking man:
Nothing about his response to the first major crisis of his administration was reassuring. Every day the SNP’s reputation for confident communications erodes a little more.
One last thing about today. It is reported that Nicola Sturgeon left the house in a car shortly before the police arrived. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation - and again nobody has been convicted of anything - I suspect eyebrows will be raised about this detail.
Culture Corner: Follow the Money
After the last couple of days, there can be only one choice of viewing this evening.