Oh dear. It seems that the sainted Sturgeon has slipped up again. Much as Jesus was betrayed by his disciple, so too has the Blessed Nicola been let down by one of her own. In this case, it's Fergus Ewing – scion of the First Family of Scottish nationalism. The former rural economy secretary stands accused of bullying civil servants: allegations which Sturgeon government's has now been forced to investigate. That probe is believed to have concluded but (quelle surprise) the First Minister is refusing to disclose the outcome of the inquiry, citing 'data protection laws' as the reason why she is unable to discuss the case.
What a convenient excuse for Sturgeon. It is, however, not a terribly plausible one. Cast your minds back 18 months to September 2020 when the Home Secretary Priti Patel was accused of bullying civil servants in Westminster. Back then, the SNP were demanding that the probe into Patel's behaviour was published, firing off press releases titled 'SNP ramp up pressure for Patel bullying report to be published.' The party demanded that the UK government publish the documents as 'a step towards clamping down on a "wider pattern" of behaviour' with the SNP's Shadow Home Secretary insisting 'the report must be available to public if the UK government is to retain a shred of credibility over this.'
So, what changed in 18 months? How has the SNP gone from demanding the release of bullying probes to insisting that data protection rules be scrupulously followed? Steerpike hasn't forgotten too that it was in that same year – 2020 – that the FDA union, which represents high-ranking UK civil servants, reported it had received 'more complaints about bullying' by Scottish government ministers than across all other UK ministerial departments combined. According to Dave Penman, the union's general secretary, there had been 30 ministerial bullying complaints by workers in five Scottish departments over the past decade.
This compares with only 'a handful of issues' raised within other UK and devolved government departments across the FDA’s membership over the same period – a disparity that Penman described as 'quite extraordinary.' Let's remember too the kind of culture presided over by the SNP throughout its 15 years in power which was so repeatedly exposed throughout the shenanigans of the Salmond Inquiry.
Something for hacks to reflect on, perhaps, the next time they receive yet another SNP press release demanding Tory scalps.