Will the internal strife of Scotland National Party’s leading lights fatally undermine its case for independence from the United Kingdom?
British politics, has always had its fair share of internecine drama, from Tony Benn vs Roy Jenkins to Margaret Thatcher vs Nigel Lawson to the recent Tony Blair vs Gordon Brown and David Cameron vs Boris Johnson — yet the current drama unfolding in the north of the border threatens to take the prize and the writers of the hit series ‘game of thrones’ would be hard pressed to write a script that does any justice to the back stabbings in Holyrood(Scottish seat of government).
So exactly what’s going on in Scotland?
Alex Salmond, a veteran of Scottish politics of over thirty five years, served as a member of the British parliament in the late 1980s to the noughties, also was elected as a member of the Scottish parliament, following the devolution of power to Scotland and Wales, when Tony Blair’s Labour party took power in the 1997. In 2004 Mr. Salmond was chosen as the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP)and when the party became the numerically preponderant in the devolved parliament in 2007, he became the first minister of Scotland.
As a high profile politician and a fervent proponent of Scottish independence, Alex Salmond was the face of its independence referendum in 2014 and on its defeat, promptly resigned, thus paving the way for his protege and deputy — Nicola Sturgeon, to run for unopposed for the leadership of the SNP.
Nicola Sturgeon, since taking the reins in 2015, has proved to be an extraordinarily brilliant and inspired choice- She led the party to its ever best showing in the 2017 UK general elections, displacing the Liberal Democrats as the third largest party at Westminster. Her leadership during the Covid season has also been an interesting case in point- making the most of her popularity and presentational skills in fronting press conferences-in stark contrast to the British premier, Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson.
Fast forward to August 2018, Police Scotland announced that Mr. Salmond would be charged with 14 offences, including 2 counts of attempted rape, 9 of sexual assault, 2 of indecent assault and 1 of breaching the peace. In the prevailing mood of the #me too era, it seemed as though another powerful white male was about to get his comeuppance. Alex Salmond pleaded not guilty, raising funds through ‘go fund me’ for his legal defense.
Salmond had his day in court and he was found not guilty on all counts and promptly acquitted in July 2020. While this was going on, Mr. Salmond launched a separate charge against the Scottish government on its handling of the harassment case him, which he also won, thus forcing Holyrood to pay his legal costs of over 500,000 pounds.
Salmond’s victory at the court led to the announcement of two inquiries stated below:
- To investigate if Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code; this is being chaired by the former Irish director of prosecution- James Hamilton.
- Broad ranging investigation into the Scottish government’s handling of the case. This was led by a special committee of Scottish parliamentarians.
The heavily redacted evidence provided by Salmond on the first line of inquiry has been quite damning, to say the least. It alleges government pressure on the police, collusion between Sturgeon’s team and Salmond’s accuser and Ms Sturgeon’s husband’s covert role in the whole mess. The former first minister, understandably upset at the turn of events, used his testimony two days ago, to call into question his former protege’s leadership of the party and her (as well as the SNP’s) capability to make the best arguments in Scotland’s battle for independence from the United Kingdom.
For someone whose reputation has been built on her competence, integrity and all round solidity, this current drama has been quite damaging for her- as I write, she is due to give evidence and may also face a vote of no confidence in her leadership- if successful, could undermine SNP’s case altogether.
An Independent Scotland? The view from the South of the Border
Brexit has proven to be a Pandora's box throwing up the specter of all sorts- not least the possibility of a united Ireland and an independent Scotland.
Scottish Politicians have dominated British politics in a way that Welsh and Irish politicians never have; Andrew Bonar-Law, James Ramsay-McDonald, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home, Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Gordon Brown are all Scots who have risen to become British prime ministers.The most successful football managers of England’s biggest clubs- Manchester United and Liverpool- have been Scotchmen- Sir Alex Ferguson and Bill Shankley.
The drama north of the border hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Johnson administration, who are desperate to hang on to anything that would help them win the battle of independence and Boris Johnson is anxious not to be the prime minister on whose watch the United Kingdom splinters.
Already a coalition of unlikely bedfellows is forming- Michael Gove, a conservative cabinet minister from Aberdeen and George Galloway- a radical left winger from Glasgow, both of whom make their living in London, are teaming up to fight for the union to remain intact- something that would have been unthinkable, 18 months ago, given their mutual antipathy.
Gordon Brown,British Prime minister 2007–2010,has called for calm and an end to the undignified public squabbling between the leading players.
The drama between the leading lights of Scottish nationalism has descended into a bitter civil war with Salmond supporters being sacked from the Holyrood cabinet. Should we be subjected to more lurid information from the current inquiries, It would be fair to say that dreams of Scottish independence will be over, at least for a generation.
Thanks very much for reading.