Flack from SNP's financial troubles keeps Humza Yousaf stuck in his bunker – John McLellan
and live on Freeview channel 276
If he hoped his London trip to take Rishi Sunak to task with obligatory accusations of “attacking Scottish democracy” would deflect media attention from Campergate, he hadn’t banked on both his predecessor and the recently resigned party treasurer popping their heads round the door at Holyrood the next morning.
Like Tuesday last week when Musselburgh MSP Colin Beattie was arrested as Mr Yousaf was about to deliver his first big speech, just as stories about the Westminster conversation were appearing, there was Mr Beattie giving an impromptu press conference in which he denied knowing about any luxury camper van, and said the SNP crisis wasn’t as bad as being under an artillery barrage in Beirut.
Quite, but there is no shortage of incoming to keep Mr Yousaf pinned down, unable to get on the offensive as the revelations keep coming. And he didn’t have to wait long for the next salvoes.
It was only a warm-up for the return of Nicola Sturgeon, telling a reconvened gaggle of reporters in the same Holyrood corridor that the last few weeks had been her worst nightmares, no she hadn’t been forewarned about the police raid on her home, no the police investigation was nothing to do with her sudden resignation, and no she wasn’t standing down as an MSP.
In the meantime, Mr Beattie had a sudden moment of clarity and issued a statement that he had in fact found out about the mystery motor home parked on Ms Sturgeon’s mother-in-law’s Dunfermline driveway “via” the SNP’s 2021 accounts, which he had signed off.
There was also the small matter of apparent animosity in the SNP’s Westminster group over who said what about appointing new auditors, and growing concern about the loss of “short money” – which helps pay for MPs’ staff – if accounts are not filed by May 31.
Neither Mr Beattie nor Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell have been charged with any offence following their police interviews, but so many questions are unanswered that Mr Yousaf cannot get beyond them, not while two of the main protagonists are now back in the rumour mill that is the Scottish Parliament.
By yesterday morning, Mr Yousaf’s London trip was barely a footnote, coverage focussing instead on his rejection of refunds for angry independence supporters who had contributed to the fund for a referendum which won’t take place.
And whatever plans Mr Yousaf might have to get his message out over the next few days, the media will be out in force at the Pearce Institute in Govan on Saturday for “Coffee with Nicola”, the annual Pollokshields SNP fundraiser which, not surprisingly, is now a sell-out.
Unless the event is cancelled, it’s virtually guaranteed to dominate Sunday’s front pages and Mr Yousaf will still be stuck in the bunker.