While there was an inevitability about the arrest and the police questioning of Nicola Sturgeon at the weekend, it still came as a shock when it happened. As one of only three signatories to the SNP’s accounts (the other two being Sturgeon’s husband and former SNP CEO Peter Murrell and party Treasurer Colin Beattie) it would have been odd had she not been questioned at some point.

Just when Humza Yousaf had been hoping for a calmer period and a reset in his party’s fortunes, another bombshell strikes, and after a couple of faltering steps forward he takes ten steps back. That he had already appeared on ‘Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg’ the same morning as the arrest stating that Sturgeon was “in a good place and doing well” and extolling her virtues as “one of the best politicians, the most impressive politicians, Europe has seen over the last couple of decades” was unfortunate. Yousaf’s interview had been recorded on the Friday before but is a further example of how out of touch he is with his party, with day-to-day operations, and with the mood of the country.

While Sturgeon has proclaimed her innocence and was released without charge there can be little doubt that the country’s ‘Chief Mammy’ being questioned for seven hours in a police station must make even the most ardent SNP supporters start to question their beliefs.

At a time when the party is beset by long standing problems on all sides and Yousaf’s grasp on the issues facing the Scottish Government is, at best weak, and at worst deluded, then this is a very real crisis moment for the most successful political party in Scotland of the last decade and a half.

With the deposit return scheme delayed until October 2025 and increasing demand for compensation from businesses affected by the delay; an uprising by residents of a Scottish island whose direct ferry service has been cut off for the month of June; a proposed policy of permanently restricting leisure and fishing activities (the Marine Protected Areas legislation) in as yet unspecified coastal areas of Scotland; continued chaos and crisis in the NHS in Scotland; an economy that is floundering and under-performing the rest of the UK; and a First Minister whose response is to say he’s listening but not doing anything practical then you have a crisis of confidence happening right now.

That SNP MP’s such as Angus MacNeil and James Dornan have immediately gone on the offensive is a sign that the party is worried and fears electoral carnage. MacNeil said that “This soap opera has gone far enough – Nicola Sturgeon suspended others from the SNP for an awful lot less.” Such open rebellion would have been unthinkable a year ago but is now almost a daily occurrence. Former leadership candidate, Ash Regan, has called on her to temporarily step aside until the investigation is complete.  

Of course, if arrests had been happening in any other party, then Sturgeon would have been actively tweeting, mocking her opponents and descrying Westminster corruption. When the shoe is on the other foot the other political parties, while rightly relishing the chance to put the boot in, have been much more subdued than Sturgeon would have been in her pomp. 

Indeed, there have been some curious stories about Sturgeon recently which seems to indicate she believes that she is still regarded as highly as before. She said that she and Peter want to foster a child; ‘news’ that she passed the written part of her driving test; a literary festival chat with an obliging and supportive Glasgow comedian. Many feel that she hasn’t quite grasped that the world has changed, that ‘wee Nicky’ isn’t the beloved figure of old, and that she doesn’t recognise that her party is in complete disarray.

Her government failed Scotland in almost every respect, yet she still harbours the belief that she will pick up an international position in the coming year. She quite fancies the UN apparently! To say she is out of touch is something of an understatement and her party will suffer electorally as the waves of discontent that have risen up over the last year look set to overwhelm the SNP in the next election. They are on the brink and almost everything that is happening is another nail in the coffin of a party that is past its sell by date with the day of reckoning looming.

The author is a freelance journalist