The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Post mortem sees se­nior Na­tion­al­ists turn on Ni­cola

They blame her for poll fail­ures

- By Gareth Rose SCOT­TISH PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR

SE­NIOR Na­tion­al­ists have ac­cused Ni­cola Stur­geon of be­ing out of touch on Indyref 2 and warned she faces a fight to keep her job.

They con­ceded the Gen­eral Elec­tion re­sult had put chances of a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum back by years – and pos­si­bly much longer.

One se­nior fig­ure within the party told The Scot­tish Mail on Sun­day they had be­come so dis­il­lu­sioned with the re­cent elec­tion cam­paign they had ac­tu­ally placed a bet on

‘Dogs on the street knew peo­ple didn’t want it’

the SNP los­ing seats prior to the vote.

A sep­a­rate source pre­dicted a soft Brexit with full ac­cess to the EU sin­gle mar­ket – which Ruth David­son is also de­mand­ing – would now see de­mands for in­de­pen­dence ‘put to bed’.

The SNP re­mained the big­gest party north of the Bor­der, but lost 21 seats, in­clud­ing those held by party heavy­weights Alex Sal­mond and An­gus Robert­son.

Miss Stur­geon ad­mit­ted on Fri­day that an anti-in­de­pen­dence back­lash had been a ‘fac­tor’ in the re­sult, and promised to think again over the com­ing days about her de­mands for another ref­er­en­dum.

It was a marked change from her stance when re­act­ing to the EU ref­er­en­dum re­sult on June 23 last year, when she ap­peared at Bute House only hours later and claimed that it had made a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum ‘highly likely’.

Yes­ter­day Jim Sil­lars, for­mer SNP deputy leader, told The Scot­tish Mail on Sun­day it was that mis­cal­cu­la­tion by Miss Stur­geon which had sealed her party’s fate.

‘This elec­tion, from the SNP point of view, was lost on June 24 last year when, with­out tak­ing time to con­sider the po­si­tion, she im­me­di­ately called for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum,’ he said.

‘The dogs on the street could have told you peo­ple didn’t want it. And those of us in the Yes move­ment, who want an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, knew if we got it we would have lost it.

‘Of course, the re­peated de­mands for an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, and then the flip-flop­ping on it, meant there was no clear, co­her­ent mes­sage.’

Miss Stur­geon’s face was plas­tered all over the 2015 Gen­eral Elec­tion cam­paign, when her pop­u­lar­ity was at its peak. But a re­cent poll showed she is now the least pop­u­lar leader at Holy­rood.

In con­trast to 2015, her im­age was con­spic­u­ous by its ab­sence from the most re­cent cam­paign he­li­copter and man­i­festo cover, while Mr Robert­son, the now for­mer MP for Mo­ray, was cho­sen to rep­re­sent the party in UK lead­ers’ de­bates.

But Mr Sil­lars said Miss Stur­geon’s role was still too great, and warned that she must now loosen her grip on the party.

He added: ‘Se­ri­ously, where were the MPs? At the man­i­festo launch it was Ni­cola an­swer­ing all the ques­tions – and she’s not even stand­ing for Par­lia­ment. Those stand­ing for

Par­lia­ment were sit­ting like au­toma­tons in the back row.

‘It’s been clear for some time to those knock­ing on doors, and from peo­ple stop­ping me in the street, that Ni­cola is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly un­pop­u­lar.

‘Yet no­body in the party seems to know it – or if they do know it, they don’t have the guts to say she should take a back seat.

‘Alex Sal­mond was marginalis­ed. How can you pos­si­bly marginalis­e some­one of that cal­i­bre?’

Asked if Miss Stur­geon should re­sign, he added: ‘Peo­ple have got to stop and think. It’s not that Ni­cola Stur­geon doesn’t have abil­ity, but the party is dom­i­nated by the lead­er­ship in every re­spect.’

A se­nior SNP fig­ure said: ‘I thought we would go below 40 seats and had a bet on with some­one to that ef­fect. I think ob­vi­ously if we lost 21 seats we got some­thing wrong. The ob­jec­tive now is to re­view what went wrong and try to put that right.

‘On Brexit and in­de­pen­dence we’ve not been in tune with the ma­jor­ity of Scots. And the pro­pa­ganda about not do­ing the day job has to be ad­dressed.

‘The re­al­ity is – par­tic­u­larly with the hung Par­lia­ment – that the time scale for com­plet­ing Brexit might go to two or three years. And an Indyref 2 af­ter Brexit might go into 2020-21.’

Another SNP in­sider said: ‘Ni­cola is right to re­flect about what it all means.

‘The fo­cus now will be on Brexit and how we get the best deal with Brexit and the sin­gle mar­ket. Who knows what that means for a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum? If the sin­gle mar­ket is achieved, that will put the de­bate to bed for a while.’

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