Even some of Humza Yousaf’s political opponents must be wondering what he has done to deserve such a disastrous start to his reign as First Minister. In three weeks, he has seen his prospects and those of the SNP crumble before his eyes as daily revelations have left his party in tatters.
He, following the former First Ministers’ line, has said that he didn’t know about anything prior to his election as leader. All of the somewhat lurid details that have played out daily were a revelation to him. That moment of joy that he must have felt will have withered somewhat once he found out what had been going on.
For ‘Succession’ fans, it is like the scene when Kendall Roy is appointed interim chief executive after his dad has a heart attack only to find out that there was a secret multi-billion debt that was hanging over the company and repayment would be triggered if the share price fell below a certain level.
Humza Yousaf had that Kendall Roy moment when he was taken aside on his first day to have the dire state of his party explained to him. There was the enormous dip in SNP membership in recent months which was news to him, and this was linked to the falsification of the figures by Chief Executive Peter Murrell which led to his resignation.
Then the same Mr Murrell (Nicola Sturgeon’s husband) was arrested, and his home raided by the police who arrived complete with a blue tent, constables with shovels, and a media circus sarcastically dubbed CSI Uddingston (this being the name of the Glasgow suburb where Murrell and Sturgeon live).
There was the impounding of a £100,000 campervan which was parked at Peter Murrell’s mothers house since 2021. Apparently, this was to be a campaign bus for future electioneering, but nobody knew about it.
Then there were the accountants who resigned from auditing the party’s accounts. Not recently you understand but last September/October although again nobody seems to have known about it and another firm has not been hired to replace them despite a looming audit deadline of July to be met if they are not to breach Electoral Commission rules.
Then just this weekend the treasurer of the SNP told the National Executive Committee that the party was running out of money because of declining membership and that they may become bankrupt without a significant input of cash.
If you’ve been following this for some time, you may recall that Peter Murrell privately lent the party £107,00 a couple of years ago (around the time of the campervan purchase) without declaring that he had done so. Probably tricky to ask Peter for another loan?
Then there are this weekend’s emails and video footage of Nicola telling the NEC not to bother their pretty little heads about the party’s funding and that all was well but please don’t talk about it anymore.
There have also been resignations, stories of a membership freefall as the faithful head for the hills and a mixture of embarrassment, anger, and dismay that a party renowned for its discipline, its iron centralised control should have collapsed so spectacularly, and so rapidly into its current state.
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To say that the prospect of independence has disappeared is something of an understatement, with many believing that this could be the demise of the movement’s principal party blown up by a series of extraordinary revelations.
The final blow could come quickly. Nicola Sturgeon, the “chief mammy” as she once named herself is now being called on to resign as an MSP. The feeling is that the police investigation may go on for some considerable time and that speculation about Scotland’s golden political couple could be a distraction from attempts to get the SNP back on track.
So today senior SNP figures are stating that she should resign “sooner rather than later” and that a further bye election is in the offing which will further test just how much damage the last few months have done to the nationalist brand. With polls already showing Labour within five points of the SNP there is a real and immediate danger that they may become the second party of Scotland.
Humza Yousaf is going to attempt to set out his stall this week with a speech presenting his vision of what he wants from Scotland. I fear that nobody will be listening and that it could easily be derailed by events, more revelations, and further scandal.
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