The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Post mortem sees senior Nationalists turn on Nicola
They blame her for poll failures
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.’