Alex Salmond affair could sink the SNP – John McLellan

Nicola Sturgeon's handling of the sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond have been called into question. Picture: AFP/Getty
Nicola Sturgeon's handling of the sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond have been called into question. Picture: AFP/Getty
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It’s hard to think of a political year getting off to as dramatic a start as the events of the past week, with Prime Minister Theresa May humiliated by a Brexit defeat more crushing than anyone expected and the First Minister not far behind over the Alex Salmond affair.

The repercussions of Tuesday night’s Commons vote are far greater than the inquiries Ms Sturgeon now faces, but in terms of personal reputation a dogged determination against overwhelming opposition might be preferable to allegations of covering up interference with a highly sensitive legal process.

Thanks to ex-councillor Steve Cardownie’s Evening News column, we know claims the SNP is riven by civil war over the First Minister’s handling of the sexual harassment allegations against Mr Salmond are not entirely wishful thinking, but the impact on the wider public is beyond question. When the highly-respected ex-SNP communications chief Kevin Pringle says publicly that “the reputational damage to the SNP administration could be incalculable” you know the trouble is deep.

The allegations against Mr Salmond remain unproven, but such are the bitter accusations of smears and vendettas between his team and the First Minster’s office that, if exonerated, there is no route back to the heart of the party.

Both Kenny MacAskill and Tricia Marwick, who accompanied him outside the Court of Session last week, have proved willing to criticise the party in the past and the question is whether we are seeing the beginnings of a new independence movement if the case against Mr Salmond collapses.

Do we need an elected mayor?

Edinburgh should have a directly-elected mayor, according to lobbyist and leading SNP economic advisor Andrew Wilson, an idea which has never really gained much momentum in Scotland.

In places like Manchester and London it makes sense when the conurbation covers a dense patchwork of local authorities, but it’s less straightforward in Edinburgh where the surrounding councils are dwarfed by the Capital.

We already have a council leader, a Lord Provost and a council chief executive, all of whom can provide civic leadership, so what would a fourth add? A big personality with a mandate to challenge the Scottish and UK governments? That would be refreshing.