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.

Whoever wins the SNP leadership race, independence has already lost

‘Now is not the time,’ successive Tory prime ministers told Nicola Sturgeon following her persistent calls for another independence referendum. It’s simply too soon after the last one, they said. In August, the Scottish secretary, Alister Jack, caused fury in nationalist circles after he stated there would need to be at least 60 per cent support for independence in opinion polls before the UK government would respond to further Section 30 referendum requests. Strange, then, that this Tory message appears to be exactly what the SNP leadership candidates were parroting in Tuesday night’s now infamous STV debate. So transfixed were commentators by the blue-on-blue attack lines – or perhaps ‘yellow-on-yellow’

Is Humza Yousaf’s campaign starting to sink?

The SNP leadership has turned into open civil war. Alex Salmond has shafted the frontrunner Humza Yousaf who tried to shaft Kate Forbes, who was, in turn, shafted by Nicola Sturgeon. No wonder long-suffering deputy First Minister, John Swinney, has resigned.  Swinney’s departure came on the day Salmond torpedoed Yousaf, Sturgeon’s chosen successor, by claiming he had skipped Holyrood’s landmark gay marriage vote in 2014 due to ‘religious pressure’. Yousaf says his ‘recollection is different’, but his position is now untenable. His account is contradicted by the minister who was in charge of the 2014 equal marriage vote, Alex Neil, and now the then first minister, Salmond. It is all

Is Ash Regan merely Alex Salmond in disguise?

Is Ash Regan the dark horse in the SNP leadership race? Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf are the frontrunners, yet in a race full of surprises, Regan’s chances should not be ruled out. The 48-year-old MSP for Edinburgh Eastern resigned in protest over gender self ID. Now she has returned as the candidate for change from the Nicola Sturgeon era – but might her ties to another former SNP leader, Alex Salmond, prove to be her undoing? Regan is clear about what went wrong for the SNP under its outgoing leader: ‘Kids in the playground can see that there have been some issues in the SNP of late,’ she says

The SNP leadership race has turned into the mother of all culture wars

Bring back Nicola Sturgeon. The race to replace her as SNP leader and first minister has turned into the mother of all culture wars. Who would have thought that the party of independence would start tearing itself apart over a law on same sex marriage that was passed nearly a decade ago? The early front runner, Kate Forbes, provoked fury among ‘progressive’ SNP supporters on Twitter by saying she opposes gay marriage – something everyone who knows her knew perfectly well. She is an evangelical Christian for heaven’s sake, a member of the Free Church of Scotland. Of course she opposes gay marriage. That along with having children out of wedlock and working

Why the Tories fear Kate Forbes

Whenever a governing party changes leader midway through a parliament, it’s interesting to note what the main opposition makes of the contest. Specifically, which candidate they would be more comfortable to see win — and which they dread the most.  So, as the SNP begins choosing Nicola Sturgeon’s replacement as party leader and first minister, I’ve been asking Scottish Tories what they think so far. Whomever the Scottish Nationalists pick will be staring down Douglas Ross every week at First Minister’s Questions, while the Scottish Tory leader will have to update his strategy and rhetoric for a post-Sturgeon era.  So far there are two declared candidates. Health secretary and continuity

The SNP-Green coalition is unlikely to last the week

Scottish nationalists are shell-shocked after their leader did a bunk on Wednesday. And with good reason. Nicola Sturgeon left the SNP leaderless, directionless, failing on almost every policy front – from the NHS to bottle recycling – and with a legislative time bomb in the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which is due to go off just as their new leader is installed at the end of March. It will probably destroy the Scottish coalition well before then. Indeed, the 18-month-old union with the Scottish Greens, another of Sturgeon’s personal initiatives, is unlikely to last the week.  Attempts by pro-GRR Bill loyalists to keep the finance secretary, Kate Forbes, out of the leadership

James Heale

Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan launch SNP leadership bids

The first two candidates have declared in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon: Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf. The pair announced their intent in a front-page story for the Sunday Mail titled ‘Battle of the Bill: FM hopefuls go head-to-head on gender reform’. That focus reflects Regan’s major claim to fame as the only minister to resign over Sturgeon’s trans reforms back in October. In so doing, she became the first minister within the SNP to resign over government policy in 15 years. That is a testament to how united the party has been on most policy planks and suggests that the Gender Recognition Reform Bill will probably be one of the

Kate Forbes is the obvious successor to Nicola Sturgeon

The contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon really shouldn’t be a contest at all. The obvious successor is Kate Forbes, the Scottish finance secretary. She is young at 32 but she was even younger three years ago when she stepped in to deliver the Scottish budget just 12 hours after finance minister Derek Mackay was forced by scandal to resign. Her plaudit-winning performance showed her to be a woman of ability and nerve.   If you want to keep evangelical zeal out of politics, Kate Forbes is the least of your worries These are not her only qualities. Forbes is Cambridge-educated and a disciplined media performer. She is a true believer in the cause

Time is running out for Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has led a charmed life. Even her sternest critics agree that she is immensely talented, one of the UK’s most successful politicians, a master of detail and an effective communicator. She has been at the pinnacle of public life for two decades. But all things must pass. Nearly ten years after she took over as leader from Alex Salmond just about everything is going wrong at once. Hospital waiting lists lengthen, teacher strikes roll on, council service cuts deepen, the ambitious plan for a Social Care Commission has stalled. Across the board the SNP government appears to have made a right royal mess of just about every policy for which

The preventable death of the Scottish Tories

The Ruth Davidson era is over. It has been three years since the now Baroness Davidson stood down as leader of the Scottish Tories, but the last decade of opposition politics has belonged to her. It was Davidson who parlayed opposition to independence into tactical support for the Scottish Conservatives, convincing a section of older, blue-collar Labour voters to lend her their vote to stop the SNP. In doing so, she took the Tories from third to second place at Holyrood and, in 2017, to their biggest win in a general election since the days of Margaret Thatcher. What she failed to do was make the Scottish Tories a viable

Money won’t keep the Union together

Despite its name, Gers Day is not an annual celebration of the Ibrox side that makes up one half of Glasgow’s notorious Old Firm. If only it were that uncontentious. In fact, Gers stands for ‘Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland’, the Scottish government’s yearly report on public finances. In a normal country, the publication of 76 pages of data tables and accountancy prose would go largely unremarked upon, so naturally in Scotland we have to turn it into another front in the independence wars. Because we really have nothing better to do. This year’s figures, like last year’s, reflect the unprecedented Treasury interventions during the Covid pandemic. However, they paint

The gender debate is getting nastier

Elaine Miller is one of the grown-ups. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, with a specialism in pelvic health. She also jokes about it. Her comedy show, Viva Your Vulva: The Hole Story is currently playing at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s a good one: the production has won awards and a five-star review. Miller is forthright – her audiences are warned about ‘strong language and swearing’ – but her performance is more than mere entertainment. In Miller’s words, The aim of the show is that the audience leave knowing what a pelvic floor is, what it does and where to take theirs if they think it

Sturgeon isn’t an ‘attention seeker’

There is a lot of pearl-clutching over Liz Truss’s dismissive remarks about Nicola Sturgeon. Much of it involves conflating a dig at the leader of the SNP with a grave insult to Scotland. This is symptomatic not only of the fetid culture of grievance that permeates Scottish politics but of the steady merging of the party of government and the state itself. Were Emmanuel Macron to brand Boris Johnson an ‘attention seeker’, these same guardians of the public discourse would scoff at the suggestion it represented a slight against the British people. In fact, they would regard anyone proposing such an interpretation as a hysterical ideologue and perhaps even a

Nicola Sturgeon has put Boris Johnson in a tight corner

Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that she will not contemplate breaching the rule of law by holding an independence referendum was pretty blatant trolling of Boris Johnson, given the multiple allegations he faces of being less than scrupulous in following domestic and international law. But Sturgeon also put Johnson and the Tory party in a tight corner by asking the Lord Advocate to petition the Supreme Court in London to determine the legality of a referendum. If the Supreme Court rules her way, then there will be the mother of all constitutional crises if Boris Johnson continues to reject the lawfulness of any vote by the Scottish parliament to hold a poll on

Alex Massie

Another Scottish independence referendum is coming

Despite what the SNP and its supporters insist, Nicola Sturgeon did not ‘announce’ a second referendum on independence today. Far from it. Her statement to the Scottish parliament quietly accepted that a referendum is highly unlikely to take place on 19 October next year. The 2014 referendum – an act of self-determination that inconveniently produced the wrong outcome for the SNP – was an agreed plebiscite. All parties and Scotland’s government agreed it should take place and that its outcome would be politically, if not legally, binding. This is still the path Sturgeon would prefer. Holding such a referendum, however, requires a section 30 order by the British government, which

The irrational cruelty of the SNP’s nationalism

They can’t build a ferry, organise a census or keep the railways operating, but when it comes to organising a grievance campaign, nobody does it better than the SNP. This week saw perhaps the most impressive effort yet from team grievance as the SNP tried to turn the Chancellor’s announcement of a windfall tax on big oil companies into a Scotland-versus-the-rest-of-the-UK bun fight. Speaking on Sunday, SNP MP Kirsty Blackman complained:  It feels very unfair that Scotland is having to pay for the entirety of the UK. If Scotland was an independent country, the windfall tax would generate £1,800 for every household in Scotland. With most of the UK’s oil

Is this the answer to Scotland’s drug death epidemic?

Scotland could pioneer a scheme to cut drug deaths by allowing users to consume narcotics under supervision and with medical assistance on hand. The establishment of overdose prevention centres (OPCs) is proposed in a consultation launched yesterday by Labour MSP Paul Sweeney, who believes his Bill will ‘implement changes that will save lives’. Sweeney, a former Royal Regiment of Scotland reservist, previously volunteered in an unofficial safe injection van in Glasgow and has told the Scottish parliament that he saw people saved from overdose. These centres would take what volunteers have already done and give it a legal framework. Although these centres are already used in parts of the US

Is the SNP now pro-nuke?

At the rate he’s going, the SNP’s hawkish spokesperson on defence, the MP Stewart McDonald, will soon be talking about an independent Scotland having a weekly armed forces day where citizens don camouflage and wargame defending the nation. McDonald is tasked with making the SNP sound sensible when it comes to defence and western collective security. His latest manoeuvre appears to be to turn his party’s long-standing anti-nuclear weapons position on its head. This would move the SNP on from merely pretending it wants to be a part of Nato to credibly backing an independent Scotland’s membership of the alliance. When asked in an interview with the BBC if an