SNP in Crisis? A Tale of Two First Ministers

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Label volunteer Christina Major answers the question: Is the SNP in crisis? What impact will this have on the upcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections?

Nicola Sturgeon is facing allegations of breaking ministerial code after the handling of allegations of sexual assault against previous First Minister Alex Salmond as well as the government admitting to breaching their own guidelines. There are 2 inquiries being undertaken for both issues, with some polls suggesting this would harm the want for Scottish independence as well as the domination of the SNP in Holyrood.

In 2018 multiple sexual assault allegations about Alex Salmond surfaced – he has been found not guilty of these after being arrested in 2019.  However, the Scottish government’s investigation into these allegations has been tainted after a civil servant who was in charge had contact with the accusers.

Salmond began a legal battle against the Scottish government over their methods of investigating the allegations, resulting in the taxpayer paying £500,000 to cover his legal costs. This was after the government had received legal advice that had suggested they would lose the legal battle in October 2018 – yet they persisted until January 2019.

This advice was published last week after a threat of a no confidence vote against the Deputy First Minister John Swinney from the Conservatives. All other parties suggested that they would back the motion, an important move with elections coming up in May this year.

Nicola Sturgeon is also facing a separate enquiry into her conduct, stating that she had lied to Parliament about discovering the accusations facing the previous First Minister. She previously stated that they had a meeting on the 2nd April, but had forgotten the meeting on the 29th March. She faced questions for 8 hours on the 4th of March. Under section 1.3 of the ministerial code:

“It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to the Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead the Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the First Minister;”

These scandals, and public opinion surrounding them, will be paramount in influencing the outcome of not only the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May but the possible second independence referendum.

A poll from Savanta ComRes suggests that (from the 1015 people surveyed) 46% would vote to remain and 43% would vote to leave. However, other polls from YouGov in late January indicate that the current scandals are not enough to quell the desire for independence – 47% believed that even if Sturgeon was found guilty of breaking ministerial code she should not resign and 49% believed that she told the truth during the inquiries. In comparison, 14% felt the same of Salmond.

All of this would suggest that the SNP is indeed in crisis, and with only a few months till the next election, the outcome of these crises will be crucial and an unwanted challenge facing the Scottish government at such a pivotal time in politics.

Header designed by Christos Alamaniotis – Head of Design

Article edited by Connor Wade – Politics Editor

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Label Political Editor 2020-22

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