The Scottish Mail on Sunday

You’d bet­ter watch your back, Ni­cola

- PAUL SIN­CLAIR

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.

 ??  ?? SHOCK: Ni­cola Stur­geon and Alex Sal­mond look dazed on Fri­day af­ter the sud­den loss of 21 SNP seats
SHOCK: Ni­cola Stur­geon and Alex Sal­mond look dazed on Fri­day af­ter the sud­den loss of 21 SNP seats

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