Sleaze won’t kill the SNP vote
Tribal allegiance to the party is too strong — for now
The SNP meltdown continues. Yesterday, First Minister Humza Yousaf’s first major parliamentary speech was entirely overshadowed by the arrest of SNP MSP Colin Beattie, the party’s treasurer. That followed the police bust at the house of Yousaf’s predecessor Nicola Sturgeon earlier this month, and the questioning of her husband and ex-party chief executive Peter Murrell (both Murrell and Beattie have been released without charge). All the while, a nation watches on open-mouthed as the previously all-powerful party of Scotland blasts away at what remains of its feet.
Today, the BBC has released an interview with Kate Forbes, the straight-talking former Finance Secretary who came within 2% of beating Yousaf for the top job. She argues that without “decisive action”, the SNP will “be in trouble” heading towards next year’s general election. The allegations facing the party are “mind-blowing”, she adds, in comments recorded after Murrell’s arrest but before Beattie’s.
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SNP sources, meanwhile, fear the next person to help the police with their inquiries will be Sturgeon herself. Across the country, and especially in the central belt stretching from Edinburgh to Glasgow, SNP MPs are nervously checking their majorities as opposition parties eye up the potential for huge gains. Forget complacent claims from some in the SNP that this scandal is not cutting through: it most assuredly is.
The question is whether it will cut through with sufficient force to dislodge SNP MPs from their perches. That is not yet a given. For, despite the best efforts of the party hierarchy to destroy its reputation, the SNP is not yet on the canvas.
Firstly, while the party’s vote share has undoubtedly fallen in the wake of the scandal, most polls still suggest the SNP is in the high 30s and a few percentage points ahead of Scottish Labour in second place. It is impossible to make accurate seat-by-seat predictions, but polling suggests that the tipping point where the SNP gets wiped out has yet to be reached. As things stand, their electoral position bears comparison with Labour’s prior to the 2005 general election when, in the wake of the Iraq War, Tony Blair’s government lost support in Scotland but not enough to make a major difference. Back then, Labour lost only five of its 46 Scottish seats.
This points to an underlying feature of Scottish politics since the 2014 independence referendum, which goes deeper than the story of the day. Research by the British Election Study has found that SNP supporters are more likely to see their party as an integral part of their own personal identity than supporters of any other party in the UK. It’s a little like cheering on a football club: just as Manchester United fans maintain their support despite their loathing for the Glazer family, so many SNP supporters won’t dump the SNP just because the hapless Yousaf is currently in situ.
Add on the fact that the SNP has become the default party of Scotland (if you’re under 35 you probably don’t remember anyone else ever being in charge) and you can see how, despite the carnage of the last few weeks, efforts to uproot the status quo will be a tough task.
For now, the country is on a knife-edge. If just a small number of these SNP supporters decide that, at the next election, their party of choice doesn’t deserve their vote on this occasion, we could see a transformational shift in Scottish politics. If their underlying allegiance trumps their anger at the way the party has conducted itself, then the Nationalists could yet cling on. Whether or not we see Nicola Sturgeon arrested, interesting times lie ahead for Scotland’s ruling party.
Eddie Barnes is a columnist for the Scottish Daily Mail and campaign director for Our Scottish Future
Eddie is right, allegiances won’t change overnight. However, what the SNP has to fear is that their supporters will stay at home. The local elections next month will be a straw in the wind here.
There aren’t any local elections in Scotland next month.
Oops, my bad. Still, I bet the SNP is glad it does not have to face the voters jut yet.
I know. I’m rather glad TBH as a moderately bad pasting now might make them change tack. When your enemy is making a fool of himself, don’t let him stop.
I’m not close enough to really to know, but it seemed to me the SNP was nowhere until a very effective politician, in the form of Alex Salmond, arrived. He was followed by another very effective politician (love her or hate her).
Now there is Yusless. Voters aren’t complete fools, despite the comparison with Man Utd fans (who clearly are).
I suspect that we have normal cause and effect reversed. People didn’t vote for the SNP because Nicola Sturgeon was the leader, but Nicola Sturgeon is the leader because people voted for the SNP. Is the SNP any less electable because some of the leaders have allegedly misbehaved? Probably not – at least as long as their alleged peccadillos are only vices, not political.
Which explains why people voted Democrat despite Biden, Republican despite Trump, Labour despite Blair, Conservative despite Johnson and so on.
The only twist in the tale is (maybe) if diversion of party funds for private gain is proven. The crime is not that important, but taking your supporters for dupes is.
I’m not so sure. A lot of the younger/urban/woke voters idolise Sturgeon. The SNP vote has been an uneasy combination of former Labour voters, old-school conservative nationalists and wokies. The tribal thing may explain why the third of these groups still voted SNP and they have an alternative now with Alba. Yousless will keep appeasing the woke vote and stay on side with the Greens.
I’d guess that the old-school conservative nationalists love Kate Forbes, but she leaves the ex-Labour voters cold and she positively repulses the wokies. Is that about right?
Yes, absolutely right. My post should have read ‘second of these’. I see the more conservative SNP voters as rather like the red wall in the 2000s when they still voted for Blair. Hopefully the wokies will vote Green and the old Labour voters will go back to Labour. IMO the best thing Forbes could do is give up on independence and join the Tories. Unlikely though.
I think people voted Conservative because of Johnson and the same is true to a lesser extent for Trump. And Blair made Labour electable
I am not so sure support for The SNP is as strong as its claimed by this headline. Even the article says ”(support) is still in the high 30’s” – yes but didnt is used to be almost 50/50? that shows a collapse in support by any other standards.
No-one likes SLEEZE, especially where ”She from on High’ has been preaching about it for years and years about sleeze in ”The Tooory Party” – her Chickens came home.
SNP Voters will smell the usual Political ‘C*ap’ was after all, alive and well at The SNP. The other thign is, we dont really know whats going to come out of all this. ” uprooting the status quo” has already begun!
There will 9in my opinion) be enough migration away from SNP, dispursed to labour and Alba (unlikely to be Tory), to ensure The SNP are as far away as they ever where from reaching their Political goal.
SNP Voters, like all voters, dont like being taken for Mugs.
If not sleaze then incompetence perhaps?
No definitely sleeze She cant get away with “incompetence” she (Sturgeon) is far too self assured for that.
Most of my comments are being blocked by reCaptcha. Anyone else having this problem?
It happened to me yesterday. Seems to be working OK today.
Yes, I am.
There are plenty of Kleptocratic Nationalist rulers who manage to get out sufficient votes to remain in power. The alleged corruption in Scotland seems modest compared to the riches amassed by Putin and his supporters. Ideological blinkers can sustain a party in power long after it ought to be ejected and trampled underfoot with contumely particularly if it can keep the benefits to its supporters flowing.
True, but the SNP haven’t deployed any novichok as yet and nobody has fallen out of a hotel window, to my knowledge.
The Scots are weird folk. You’re welcome, there’s my brilliant, thoughtful, and positive analysis for the day. 😉
The surprise for me out of all the SNP upheaval is the indefinite postponement of their final push for independence. Brexit does not appear to have made ‘Indy’ any easier to sell, as was often predicted.
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