The Scottish Mail on Sunday
You’d better watch your back, Nicola
IMAGINE you turned up to a big night out, convinced you owned something completely, only to find that two-thirds of it belonged to others. That idea perhaps explains why Nicola Sturgeon looked so stunned on Friday morning as the General Election results rolled in. She started the evening with Scotland in her pocket and met the morning after swathes of the country had been pocketed by others.
Sore one. Perhaps that and the fact she was bracing herself for the revenge of a defenestrated Alex Salmond explains her look.
The SNP coalition is unravelling. Its broad menu of offers which once attracted a diverse bunch of voters has been boiled down to just one dish – independence – and it is not to the taste of a growing majority of Scots. We don’t want Indyref 2 – only the SNP does.
As David Cameron can reflect upon, calling a referendum in the interests of your party, not the country, ends up damaging both.
But there is another Tory leader the present First Minister should reflect upon – Edward Heath.
In 1974 he went to the country asking voters to decide who ran Britain. Were the public prepared to be pushed around by overly powerful trade unions or would they stand up to them?
The voters’ response was to say they didn’t know who ran Britain – just that it wasn’t Mr Heath.
POST-BREXIT, Miss Sturgeon’s tactics have been similar. She has tried to provoke a Scotland she wants to feel offended into demanding another independence referendum because we won’t be ‘pushed around’ by the democratic decisions of the whole UK. It turns out the priority for most Scots is not to be pushed around by her.
Since it first won power in 2007, the SNP’s main strategy has been to claim that any opponent of the party is an opponent of Scotland.
Scottishness was placed on a scale and the only way to get ten out of ten was to vote SNP. It gained success. But you cannot fool all of the people, all of the time.
Scotland has gone home and thought again, if you like, and is now giving Nicola Sturgeon as many problems as the nation gave Edward Longshanks.
Thrawn. Rebellious. The very qualities it built its strategy on are the ones that Scots are using to undermine the SNP.
The First Minister has to drop her demand for a second independence referendum if she is to survive with the country. The question is, if she does, can she survive with her party? Nicola Sturgeon and her husband – SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – were a dream team when they were winning. Now the trajectory is firmly downwards more and more Nats see it as unhealthy for both posts to be filled by one couple.
With Angus Robertson looking for a job, it might be time for Mr Murrell to polish his own CV.
Scotland is rejecting the singular substance of the SNP and the style is going out of fashion, too. There was a time when every utterance of Tony Blair seemed to be welcomed by the country. Now look back at the clips of him talking of the ‘people’s princess’ or having ‘the hand of history on my shoulder,’ and you will wonder why anyone ever fell for it.
The same is happening to Miss Sturgeon. She is becoming outdated. She has always used language cleverly to avoid giving honest answers to questions. But we are used to her tactics now. Now she just sounds ‘clever-clever’, and no one likes a clever clogs.
When she is asked about why the basics of Scottish education are going backwards according to international statistics, her stock answer is to say those figures are ‘two years old’. That suggests that they are out of date, unreliable and that progress has been made. None of those things is true.
When she gave that stock answer to the BBC’s Nick Robinson last week he swatted her aside with the obvious answer that all statistics are dated, but that doesn’t mean they are not true. People now know that when she says Scotland will ‘take no lessons’, it really means that she is not listening.
Those with the temerity to point out her failings aren’t undermining Scotland, just her. The cocked head of indignation has perhaps cocked too indignantly, too often, to still have any impact.
The SNP overly relies on strawmen to win votes and Friday’s results have removed one vital to it. Its brand of nationalism could not exist without making England the bogeyman. Its embodiment for them is the Tory Party. To be a Tory, they insist, is to be anti-Scottish. To vote Labour, it has tried to say, is to vote for a pal of the Tories.
Sixty per cent of Scots rejected those ideas this week.
WORSE for Miss Sturgeon, Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson insulated her party from the failings of Theresa May’s UK campaign. She’s made it a truly Scottish party that tells London what it thinks and won’t be told what to think.
Where once Miss Sturgeon harped on about Scotland getting UK governments Scotland didn’t vote for, now the UK only has a Tory government because so many Scots elected Tory MPs.
Miss Sturgeon – the one-club golfer – just had her niblick removed.
Unable to manage education, health or the economy she must fear the next Scottish election. For now – as normal – she will just try to manage her party but that, too, may be beyond her.
She has to U-turn on her demand for a second referendum but many Nats won’t buy that and chief among them is Alex Salmond.
The former First Minister is not known to be good at taking the blame, or holding his temper, and having endured his 30-year parliamentary career being brought to a humiliating end by losing to a Tory, he might just want to vent a bit.
Miss Sturgeon will find out that – to paraphrase General McArthur – old leaders don’t die, they just plot away.
She doesn’t own Scotland. Soon she might find out she doesn’t own her party either.