Nicola Sturgeon should quit Scottish Parliament, not be rewarded with office overlooking Arthur's Seat – John McLellan

It’s the SNP’s equivalent of The Great Escape’s cooler, the nationalist naughty step where those who have displeased the new leadership are sent tae think again: the Holyrood office corridor shared with Conservatives.
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Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been granted a room high on the fifth floor with a nice view of Arthur’s Seat, a vista she may not be admiring very often, but for Ben Macpherson and Ash Regan the reward for speaking their minds is to become neighbours two floors down with Conservatives’ Sue Webber and Stephen Kerr.

Purely by coincidence, with them is the Colin Beattie, the Musselburgh MSP who spent Tuesday talking about his party’s financial matters with Police Scotland’s finest, currently investigating the whereabouts of £660,000 raised for an independence referendum campaign that never was.

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Like Ms Sturgeon’s husband, ex-party chief executive Peter Murrell, he was released without charge pending further inquiries, and not even a total eclipse of the sun would have overshadowed Humza Yousaf’s first big leader’s speech later that afternoon more than the breakfast-time feeling of Mr Beattie’s collar.

After an entire day in a police interview room, no one could blame Mr Beattie for tendering his apologies to yesterday’s economy and fair work committee, of which he is deputy convener, and he did the right thing by standing down as SNP treasurer and from the Public Audit Committee.

If he’s guilty of anything it is telling the truth to the SNP’s National Executive Committee (NEC) last weekend about the party’s struggle to balance its books. Not so, said ex-Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who claimed “selective” quotes had been taken out of context – usually code for uncomfortably accurate.

Sadly for Mr Blackford, his denial’s credibility was already undermined by the leaked video of Ms Sturgeon’s furious warning to the NEC in 2021 that there were “no reasons for people to be concerned about the party’s finances”.

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Set aside any allegations of criminality, it was not just spectacularly wide of the mark but demonstrated either astonishing ignorance about the financial state of the party she led, or a cynical willingness to mislead close colleagues.

Nicola Sturgeon has been given a plumb office, while other SNP MSPs are sharing a corridor with Conservatives (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Nicola Sturgeon has been given a plumb office, while other SNP MSPs are sharing a corridor with Conservatives (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon has been given a plumb office, while other SNP MSPs are sharing a corridor with Conservatives (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

That her husband sent the party’s communications director out to spread misinformation about tumbling membership numbers, leading to his resignation, suggests the latter is not unknown in their household. But whichever it is, her reputation is in the shredder it narrowly avoided after the Alex Salmond affair.

It should not be forgotten that a Holyrood committee found Ms Sturgeon misled parliament about her meetings with Mr Salmond in 2018, and the crucial vote in a five-four split was that of former Green MSP Andy Wightman, a man of unimpeachable even-handedness and integrity with no axe to grind.

After the leaked video, it’s not difficult to imagine the kind of pressure the committee’s SNP members might have been under, explicit or otherwise, to exonerate their leader despite telling evidence from ex-SNP MSP Duncan Hamilton KC which corroborated Mr Salmond’s recollections.

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Despite Mr Yousaf putting the brakes on a clutch of policies Ms Sturgeon defended with characteristic venom, like the National Care Service, for him to escape the increasingly poisonous legacy of her era, it should not just be the naughty corridor for her but permanent departure.