Show some courage, Ni­cola, and pull the plug on Sal­mond

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Comment - PAUL SIN­CLAIR

IT is such a shame Ni­cola Stur­geon doesn’t talk to Theresa May any more. They have so much in com­mon. They are both liv­ing with a ref­er­en­dum re­sult nei­ther wanted. Nei­ther knows what to do next.

And the lives of both women are blighted by the dan­ger­ous buf­foon­ery of men who want their jobs and whose enor­mous egos dwarf their own abil­i­ties.

But what do you do about a prob­lem like Boris John­son? Or, in­deed, Alex Sal­mond?

The de­light with which his Union­ist en­e­mies greeted the ex-First Min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion to be a mouth­piece for Vladimir Putin’s pro­pa­ganda chan­nel RT ex­ceeded any joy in the Krem­lin’s pro­pa­ganda unit at their new hire this week. Their ‘coup’ will turn out to be a don­key.

There are some in the SNP who were ir­ri­tated that af­ter he gave up – or was forced out of – the party lead­er­ship Alex Sal­mond still man­aged to speak from ‘beyond the grave’. Cast a shadow over his suc­ces­sor.

No one can tickle the tum­mies – or belch the bile – of Na­tion­al­ist fun­da­men­tal­ists like Alex. He has power.

When he was beaten by the Tories at the last elec­tion many within his party felt sor­row that such a grand ca­reer should fin­ish in such ig­nominy – although they were pri­vately re­lieved that fi­nally wee Eck would have to fall si­lent.

YET now he speaks from beyond the cre­ma­to­rium. He is the talk­ing urn. He haunts Bute House like the prod­uct of Lady Mac­beth and Ban­quo’s Christ­mas night out.

When as First Min­is­ter he ex­pressed his ad­mi­ra­tion for the re­pres­sive Pres­i­dent Putin I per­son­ally wit­nessed Ni­cola Stur­geon’s anger at hav­ing to de­fend him in tele­vi­sion stu­dios through­out the land.

She must have put her foot down be­cause she was never wheeled out to ex­plain away his mis­de­meanours again. She should do so again.

To be fair, Mr Sal­mond is con­sis­tent in his ad­mi­ra­tion of pow­er­ful men of du­bi­ous moral­ity. When – prePres­i­dency – Don­ald Trump wheeled into town, Alex Sal­mond threw him­self at his feet. If Trump was Mr Bo, Sal­mond pos­i­tively jan­gled.

Re­cently he, and his new busi­ness part­ner Tas­mina AhmedSheikh, ac­cepted hospi­tal­ity from the ay­a­tol­lahs of Iran for a week away in Tehran.

The only re­ally per­plex­ing question about Mr Sal­mond is what does he like more – money or the lime­light? His coun­try and his party, it seems, don’t even com­pete. Nor in­deed his own rep­u­ta­tion. For him, self-re­gard is more im­por­tant than self-re­spect. That is per­haps the deep­est sad­ness.

What­ever you think of the prin­ci­ples or prac­tice of his pol­i­tics, Alex Sal­mond is a man of achieve­ment. He al­most suc­ceeded in tak­ing Scot­land out of the UK. How piti­ful it is to see him end his days swap­ping his cred­i­bil­ity for cash to give cre­dence to a tyrant such as Putin who has crushed the type of na­tion­al­ism Mr Sal­mond has devoted his life to.

If that were an end to it we could all move on and so could his party. But the shadow he casts over Ni­cola Stur­geon claws at her. Holds her back. Thatcher-like, he is the back seat driver who threat­ens to crash the car. He whis­tles Indyref 2 and she dances.

Yet what does she do? When Mr Sal­mond made a grossly of­fen­sive sex­ist joke at his Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val show, Miss Stur­geon tit­tered it was a bit ‘Benny Hill’ for her. This week one of her Min­is­ters re­signed over a pri­vate text de­scribed as ‘ill-judged’.

Ni­cola Stur­geon is the leader of the SNP and Alex Sal­mond is mak­ing her por­ridge un­palat­able. She must act. Con­demn him un­equiv­o­cally. De­mand he with­draw from RT.

Na­tion­al­ists com­plain that for­mer Chan­cel­lors such as Alis­tair Dar­ling and Gor­don Brown sit on the boards of fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions. They can­not do that with­out con­demn­ing their for­mer leader for tak­ing cash from a tyrant.

For any­body who be­lieves in equal­ity, the fact that so many of our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are now women is a true ad­vance.

It used to be said that be­hind ev­ery great man is a great wo­man.

We will not have made a true po­lit­i­cal or so­cial ad­vance if we have merely reached the stage that be­hind ev­ery great wo­man, is an em­bar­rass­ing, over­bear­ing man saloon bar philoso­phers hail as a ‘char­ac­ter’.

That is where we are – with both Alex Sal­mond and Boris John­son. Ni­cola and Theresa.

Yet if Boris were just that we could, per­haps, rest easy – or at least more eas­ily than Theresa May does.

But our Foreign Sec­re­tary is not just a dan­ger to the Prime Min­is­ter’s prospects – he is a dan­ger to Bri­tons in dan­ger.

Our pass­ports state: ‘Her Bri­tan­nic Majesty’s Sec­re­tary of State re­quests and re­quires in the name of Her Majesty... to af­ford the bearer such pro­tec­tion as may be nec­es­sary.’

In the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her Bri­tan­nic Majesty’s Sec­re­tary of State’s in­abil­ity to grasp his civil service brief­ing – de­spite his re­put­edly enor­mous in­tel­lect, so great he keeps ev­i­dence of it pri­vate – has po­ten­tially got her an­other five years in an Ira­nian jail.

THE ev­i­dence he gave to a Com­mons com­mit­tee is be­ing used by the Ira­nian Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard to ex­tend the sen­tence of a Bri­tish sub­ject. If he had any de­cency Boris would re­sign. If Theresa May had any back­bone she would sack him.

But Boris John­son has the de­cency of Alex Sal­mond and Theresa May has the weak­ness of Ni­cola Stur­geon.

The tele­vi­sion se­ries may have been can­celled but the house of cards goes on.

The an­swer to a question such as Boris, or Alex, is for our fe­male lead­ers to tell us what they re­ally think and then act.

At the mo­ment, sadly, cow­ardice is an­other thing our Prime Min­is­ter and First Min­is­ter have in com­mon.

AIR­TIME: Alex Sal­mond has signed up to front a TV show on a chan­nel funded by the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment

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