Who is Kevin Pringle? The spin doctor and advisor has been for three decades the most important Scottish Nationalist most people have never heard of. One of the Hound’s sources has a dim and distant memory of having dinner with Pringle and the Scottish press pack in 1997 at the SNP conference in Rothesay, Bute, when the Nats were a small but merry band rather than the election-winning behemoth they became.

Pringle was key as the communications chief for Alex Salmond. Popular with hacks, many now ancient, for being unflappable and retaining a sense of humour, he was an advisor Salmond listened to. His advice was that the Nats needed to dial down the anger and persuade voters they could be trusted to run a devolved government. From there they might persuade Scots to go the whole way to separation from the UK. It almost worked. Alex Salmond won the 2007 Holyrood election and came close – 55 to 45 – in the referendum of 2014. 

Pringle was Salmond’s mainstay. After his boss left following that referendum defeat, Pringle drifted out of government and into PR. He wrote a newspaper column that from time to time contained sensible advice to Sturgeon on what not to do. Don’t get into bed with the crackpot Scottish Greens, he said. She didn’t listen. Now he has been hired by Humza Yousaf, Nicola Sturgeon’s calamity prone successor.

Yousaf needs all the help he can get as he makes more blunders over the deposit return scheme and juryless rape trials. The SNP crisis is evidently not over.

Pringle replaces Stuart Nicholson as the first minister’s official spokesperson. 

In his outgoing column in The Courier, Pringle stated there was still hope for the SNP’s future: “Despite all the difficulties and controversies, the SNP still seems to me to retain its hard-earned and relatively recently-acquired status of natural party of government in Scotland.”

Although Labour is expected to win many Scottish votes from the SNP in next year’s general election, the new head of comms was keen to put an SNP-positive spin on such speculations. 

If Starmer won, Pringle argued: “All of a sudden, Labour would own all of the problems of Brexit Britain – which are many and growing – while probably lacking plans that are equal to addressing them.” 

“This would, firstly, put a dampener on Labour’s prospects in Scotland. Secondly, if the process of British decline continued under Sir Keir as prime minister, campaigners for an independent Scotland could legitimately point out that none of the available versions of the UK were working.” 

This is the kind of optimism Yousaf will need given how challenging the SNP’s future looks. But Pringle must be careful about assuming the Scottish people’s short-term memory loss – no one is forgetting the Sturgeon failures and fiascos any time soon.

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