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Can John Swinney turn it around for the SNP?

John Swinney, newly inaugurated First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the SNP, has been in the job for a week. What have we learnt since he took up the job, and can he turn things around for the party in time for a general election?  James Heale speaks to Lucy Dunn and Fergus Mutch, former SNP adviser. Produced by Megan McElroy.

The Lisa Cameron Edition

32 min listen

Dr Lisa Cameron was born in Glasgow and grew up in East Kilbride, the constituency she now represents. After three elections under the SNP, she memorably defected to the Scottish Conservatives in 2023. At the time, Humza Yousaf described it as the least surprising news he’d had since becoming first minister.  On the podcast, Lisa tells Katy about the need for increased investment into mental health provision, her defection from the SNP to the Tories and why Scottish independence is a failed experiment.

Humza Yousaf quits – what next?

14 min listen

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has just announced his intention to resign. Lucy Dunn speaks to Katy Balls and Spectator contributor Iain Macwhirter about how the past few weeks have led to this point and what to expect from an SNP leadership contest.

Can Humza Yousaf hang on?

11 min listen

Humza Yousaf faces the biggest crisis of his leadership to date – with his fate in the hands of former SNP leadership rival Ash Regan. Will Humza step down before he is pushed? Or is there a narrow gap through which the First Minister can fight on? Lucy Dunn speaks to Fraser Nelson and Katy Balls. 

Can things get worse for the SNP?

16 min listen

It’s been quite the week for the SNP. Questions remain over the future of the Sandyford gender clinic, ‘the tartan Tavistock’; the Scottish government ditched its flagship climate change target; and former party chief executive, and husband of Nicola Sturgeon, Peter Murrell was rearrested on embezzlement charges.  What does this all mean for the SNP? Lucy Dunn speaks to Iain Macwhirter, columnist at The Times, and Shona Craven, columnist at The National. Produced by Natasha Feroze and Patrick Gibbons

McMafia: inside the SNP’s secret state

40 min listen

On the podcast: gangsterism or government?  The Covid Inquiry has moved to Scotland and, in his cover story for the magazine, our editor Fraser Nelson looks at the many revelations uncovered by Jamie Dawson KC. Fraser describes how civil servants were enlisted into what he calls an ‘SNP secret state’ and how SNP corruption is threatening devolution. Joining us to discuss is the Coffee House Scots team: Times columnist Iain Macwhirter, The Spectator’s data editor Michael Simmons and The Spectator’s social media editor Lucy Dunn who coordinates our Scotland coverage. (01:26) Also this week:  With the UK army chief raising the prospect of conscription in the event of war with Russia, spare a thought for Germany

Katy Balls, Christina Lamb and Sam Leith

20 min listen

This week:  Katy Balls discusses the SNP’s annual conference and asks what will it take to hold the party together if things get much tougher over the next twelve months (01:10), Christina Lamb goes to Ukraine, only to be told that she’s ‘at the wrong war’ as events unfold rapidly in the Middle East (06:55), and Sam Leith chats to the man who heads up the tiny publishing house that regularly churns out Nobel Prize winners (12:13).  Produced and presented by Linden Kemkaran. 

Who would lend money to Humza Yousaf?

It runs a vast budget deficit. It keeps raising taxes way above its neighbour. It spends wildly, it is at war with its major industry, and its former leader has been arrested over an investigation into missing party funds. But, heck, never mind about that. Humza Yousaf, the leader of the Scottish National Party, has just decided the bond markets will now have the privilege of ignoring Switzerland and Norway for a few days and can lend a few billion to Scotland instead. There is just a small problem, however. Why would anyone want to lend money to Humza?  It was certainly an ambitious proposal. In his conference speech, Humza

Has Humza Yousaf turned things around?

15 min listen

At his first speech as SNP leader at the party’s conference, Humza Yousaf gave a policy-filled address. He hasn’t had an easy start to his leadership, but can he turn things around? Katy Balls talks to Lucy Dunn and Iain Macwhirter. Produced by Oscar Edmondson and Cindy Yu.

Humza Yousaf has irreparably damaged the independence project

As the SNP gathers for its conference in Aberdeen this weekend, Humza Yousaf faces a sea of trouble. But worst of all for the party leader, he faces disillusion with the ‘divisive’ independence project itself, as expressed by Lisa Cameron, MP for East Kilbride, who has (uniquely in SNP history) left the party for the Conservatives. Don’t expect many to follow her path. However, she is not alone in rethinking her support for the SNP’s independence strategy. Others, like former Yes campaign strategist Stephen Noon, have been saying this week that the referendum route has become a dead end and that the SNP should revert to its older, incremental approach to

Why did Lisa Cameron defect to the Tories?

11 min listen

Lisa Cameron MP has quit the SNP to join the Conservative party, just days before the SNP holds its party conference in Aberdeen. What does this say about the state of the Scottish National Party under Humza Yousaf? James Heale talks to Isabel Hardman and Lucy Dunn. Produced by Max Jeffery and Cindy Yu.

Will the SNP ditch ‘fringe extremist’ Greens?

Is First Minister Humza Yousaf at risk of sacrificing crucial SNP votes by refusing to ditch his party’s coalition with the Greens? That’s what a growing number of nationalist politicians are worried about. This week, the Bute House Agreement (a framework between the two parties that allows them to govern together) came under criticism from the SNP’s own politicians – and the party is as divided as ever over what to do about them.  The party’s relationship with the Greens needs to be examined, SNP backbenchers believe – and Fergus Ewing and Kate Forbes have gone so far as to call for a party member vote on the Bute House

Alex Salmond teases a reconciliation with Sturgeon

Even in her absence, Nicola Sturgeon dominated Iain Dale’s discussion with Alex Salmond and David Davis at the Edinburgh festival. Dale invited them both to comment on George Galloway’s suggestion that Sturgeon is ‘Mrs Thatcher in a kilt.’ Salmond flatly rejected this caricature. (Evidently he knows that criticising her in public will do him no favours.) Davis also dismissed the comparison. ‘Mrs Thatcher’s favourite pastime was arguing with people. Nicola wasn’t like that,’ he said, recalling the meetings he held with her during his term as Brexit secretary. ‘Nicola was very passive, very difficult to engage with. She adopted the image of a stern, domineering woman – which a lot

Can Labour take back Rutherglen and Hamilton West?

13 min listen

A by-election is on the cards for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, after former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier was recalled by her constituents. She’d flouted lockdown rules in 2020, taking a train from London to Scotland despite testing positive for Covid. Given that Labour will need to make gains in Scotland in order to win the next election, this by-election has become a bellwether for the party. Cindy Yu talks to Katy Balls and Lucy Dunn about what to expect. Produced by Cindy Yu.

The by-election that should most worry ministers

When the political cabinet met on Tuesday, by-elections were on the agenda. The Prime Minister is facing four of them. David Warburton, suspended from the party last year over a sex and cocaine ‘sting’, is the latest to step down. On 20 July the Tories will try to defend his constituency of Somerton and Frome, Boris Johnson’s old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Nigel Adams’s Selby and Ainsty. Despite announcing she was also quitting on social media, Nadine Dorries is taking her time to trigger a vote in Mid Bedfordshire – and the whips’ office is assuming that she may hang on all the way to the next

The SNP’s fall could be as rapid as its rise

Scottish Nationalists are putting a brave face on the latest opinion poll showing Scottish Labour apparently winning the race for Westminster. The Times/Panelbase survey suggests that Labour is on course to return 26 Scottish seats at the next general election against the SNP’s 21. The nationalist are currently the third largest party in Westminster with 48 MPs, so this would be a shocking reversal of fortune. The survey was conducted between 12 and 15 June – just after Nicola Sturgeon had been arrested and released under Operation Branchform – the police investigation into irregularities in party funds and fundraising. Ach, it’s not as bad as it looks, say the Nats.

The timing of Sturgeon’s arrest couldn’t be worse for the SNP

The arrest of Nicola Sturgeon by police investigating allegations of fraud within the SNP was hardly unexpected. After all, her husband – the party’s former chief executive, Peter Murrell – and the SNP’s past treasurer, Colin Beattie MSP, have already spent time helping officers with their enquiries. It was only a matter of time until the cops got to Sturgeon.  Nonetheless, the shock of news – broken in a tweet from Police Scotland at 2.29pm on Sunday afternoon – that she was in custody as a suspect was undiminished.  Until her surprise resignation as SNP leader – and, thus, first minister of Scotland – in February, Sturgeon was widely considered

Nicola Sturgeon’s arrest was inevitable

There was an air of inevitability about the arrest today of Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP had been braced for it. But that doesn’t make the sight of the former first minister of Scotland being taken into police custody any less extraordinary and, to many SNP observers, any more justified. Hadn’t her successor in Bute House, Humza Yousaf, said only recently that: ‘We are past the time of judging a woman on what happens to her husband’. Well, no one seems to have told Police Scotland. Ms Sturgeon’s arrest follows the taking into custody two months ago of her husband, the party’s chief executive, Peter Murrell. After being questioned by detectives, Sturgeon was released this evening without charge, in

The arrest of Peter Murrell

16 min listen

Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, has been arrested today in connection with an investigation into the SNP’s finances. James Heale talks to Fraser Nelson and Conservative Home editor Paul Goodman on the episode. They also discuss Trump’s arrest and ask whether Suella Braverman might need a new seat. Produced by Cindy Yu.