Nicola Sturgeon responds to leaked committee findings
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The heavyweight journalist and former editor of the Times, who is preparing to launch his GB News television channel, believes Scotland’s First Minister has been badly damaged by her handling of the investigation into sexual harassment claims against her predecessor, Alex Salmond. And he predicted she could even walk away from the job in the event of a disappointing showing in May’s Holyrood elections.
Mrs Sturgeon is under significant pressure after a leaked report by a cross-party group of MSPs narrowly concluded she had misled the Scottish parliament with an “inaccurate” account of her meetings with Salmond in 2018 during evidence on oath earlier this month.
Specifically, they called into question her insistence she had never indicated to Mr Salmond that she would intervene in an internal inquiry into his behaviour.
Mr Neil, writing for The Daily Mail, said: “Nicola Sturgeon, until recently the unassailable Queen of Scots, mistress of all she surveyed, has morphed into a wounded bear, lashing out in foul and angry mood at any and all who dare to challenge her.
“Sturgeon is on the ropes and her natural instinct is to strike out at all who assail her. It is not a pretty sight.”
Such was the change in Mrs Sturgeon’s political fortunes, some pro-Union politicians publicly calling for her head were privately hoping she staying in her job, Mr Neil said.
He explained: “They think the fallout from the Salmond- Sturgeon civil war has turned her into a liability who could scupper the SNP’s hopes of an overall majority.”
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In the wake of Brexit, the stakes for the future of the United Kingdom could not be higher, Mr Neil stressed, with Mrs Sturgeon having publicly stated her determination to use the Holyrood elections as a springboard for a second Scottish independence reference.
He added: “It is by no means certain that Boris Johnson would grant Sturgeon a second referendum even if she still managed to win an overall majority.
“But it is certain that without such a majority the chances of a second referendum any time soon would be zero, kicking the SNP’s dream of Scottish separation into the long grass and securing the Union for the foreseeable future.”
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The SNP’s credibility would be seriously damaged by failure to win more than 50 percent of the vote for an SNP manifesto calling for another referendum, Mr Neil suggested.
He said: “Westminster would simply insist that it was not even a matter for negotiation, since a majority of Scots would have voted for pro-Union parties.
“There is no question that the long-drawn-out Salmond affair, despite its sometimes baffling intricacies, has taken its toll on Sturgeon and the SNP.”
After a long run of polls indicating majority support for independence, they have since tightened considerably, with recent ones indicating the reverse – support for remaining in the Union.
Mr Neil warned: “This is all likely to get much worse with four more years of minority government.
“With no prospect of a second referendum, party discipline will atrophy further.
“Sturgeon will have no red meat to throw at her fundamentalist wing, for whom independence is all that matters.
“The wheels are already coming off the SNP. In the next parliament it could be left sitting on its axles.
“I would not be surprised if Sturgeon decided sometime in the next parliament to pack it in and go off to a more pleasant life managing some global quango.
“If May’s elections produce a result which secures the Union for the foreseeable future – and those who cherish the Union should start to breathe a little more easily – what would be the point in hanging around?”
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