Kenny MacAskill questions ‘centralisation of power’ in SNP

Mr MacAskill said a modest tuition fee may be a sensible trade-off for grants for the poorest.
 Picture: Neil Doig
Mr MacAskill said a modest tuition fee may be a sensible trade-off for grants for the poorest. Picture: Neil Doig
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Nicola Sturgeon appeared more concerned with “protecting” herself than the wider interests of the SNP in her handling of the Michelle Thomson affair, a former Nationalist Cabinet secretary has suggested.

Kenny MacAskill said the episode raises fresh questions about “centralisation of power” within the party, indicating Ms Sturgeon’s “perspective” was affected by her husband Peter’s Murrell’s role as party chief executive.

The role of SNP business manager and Scottish Government Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, who told former MP Mrs Thomson she should resign the SNP whip when allegations surrounding her property firm emerged, has also been called into question by Mr MacAskill in an article in The Scotsman today.

The former Justice Secretary accepts the party initially had “no alternative” but to freeze out Mrs Thomson.

But he added: “As the case dragged on legitimate questions could be asked whether that was sustainable, especially when her parliamentary colleagues with most to lose, were supporting her.

“It again raises questions about the centralisation of power within the party.

“Justice needs to be seen to be done as well as being done. But, it’s not just about perception but perspective.

“When your husband’s the chief executive and the business convener your handpicked Finance Secretary [Mr Mackay], it certainly looks as if the decision may be more about protecting you than promoting either the interests of a member, or the party. It must affect their perspective.”

He adds: “When there’s a clear conflict of interest both perception and perspective would seem to be affected.”

Mrs Thomson, the former SNP MP for Edinburgh West, was found to have no case to answer last week after a 14-month investigation by police and prosecutors into allegations of mortgage fraud involving her property firm. The Crown Office said there was no “credible evidence” against the 52-year-old.

She said that she would “welcome” an apology from Ms Sturgeon over the affair, which put the brakes on her political career. The Crown Office decision came two months after Mrs Thomson decided against running again in the recent general election as the investigation continued to hang over her. Ms Sturgeon has said the situation involving the former MP was “not easy” for the SNP.

The First Minister said she appreciated Mrs Thomson “has had a really tough time”, but said it was for the party to discuss her “future relationship” with the SNP.

A spokesperson for the SNP said: “Disciplinary matters in the SNP are the responsibility of the national secretary, democratically elected by party conference.”

Mrs Thomson said she remains “loyal” to the party and has not ruled out a political comeback.

But she said there was “no support” from the party, with no chance to put her side to Mrs Sturgeon.

She added that an apology from the party leader would be “greatly welcome”.

The former MP added that “back-to-back” selling of properties was common after the financial crash.