AS I write Nicola Sturgeon is entering her fourth hour of defending herself against the accusations levelled against her, as the long-running and bitter battle between Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government he once led. Clarity is only beginning to emerge from the fog of detail and the smoke of claim and counterclaim, so it’s impossible at this stage to know the fall-out from the different testimonies of the former and present First Ministers.

As the present incumbent fights off demands that she resign from the top political job in Scotland it’s instructive to look at the recent performances of the opposition parties who currently circle her like vultures.

During the SNP’s current travails a narrative has begun to emerge suggesting that the party has been too long in power, that it’s running out of energy and ideas, complacent and out of touch. It is, critics claim, behaving like Labour in the closing stages of its descent into irrelevance in Scotland – too secure in power, taking its supporters for granted.

There’s a near-unanimity among political commentators that the SNP has had its day and Scotland would benefit from a fresh blood at the helm in Holyrood.


There’s just one problem … those pesky voters don’t seem to agree. Those oft-quoted 21 consecutive opinion polls didn’t show only a majority support for independence in Scotland, they reported quite remarkable levels of support for a party which has been in government continuously since 2007.

Even the less gung ho 22nd poll hardly painted a picture of a party falling disastrously out of favour. It’s still on course to win a majority in the May election through a voting system expressly put in place to avoid such an outcome. Pretty much everything possible has been thrown at the SNP before this poll was conducted … riven by internal conflicts over gender recognition and hate crime legislation, divided over tactics for achieving independence and, worse, forces to watch its two towering figures facing a fight almost certainly to one political death.

Even Sturgeon’s popularity over her handling of the pandemic has lost some of its shine after a less-than-upbeat prognosis for lockdown which looks likely to be relaxed less quickly here than south of the Border. I’ve seen mumblings, even from some former staunch supporters whose desperation to socialise once more with family and friends is testing their patience with Scottish Government advice which can seem a little … parsimonious.

Things could hardly be worse … yet still voters look certain to return them to power with a firmer grip. Still the First Minister’s personal ratings easily outstrip her political opponents. True, opinion polls could slip again. True also that opinion polls are not actual votes. It’s possible to imagine the figures slipping again but almost impossible to imagine what events could see any other party in Scotland overtaking them and any other leader seriously denting Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity.

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One of the daftest responses to the relentless dominance of the SNP is to describe Scotland as a one-party state or a banana republic. Almost unbelievably these are descriptions thrown by the very same opposition parties which have been so clearly rejected by the voters for nearly 15 years.

Far from being a one-party state, Scotland is a multi-party state. It’s just that most of the parties are crap.

Labour rarely banged on about banana republics during those long dark years they ruled the roost in the Scottish political world. The party has had no fewer than 10 Scottish leaders since the Scottish Parliament was reconstituted in 1999. The public no longer bother to learn their names because they know they will not be in post long enough to justify the effort.

The party has just condemned itself to more years – or possibly months – of obscurity by refusing to elect a leader awake to the possibility of relaxing its opposition to a second independence referendum and opting instead for Anas Sarwar’s commitment to the tired old idea of federalism.

Writing in The Guardian just days before being elected Sarwar suggested the involvement of Gordon Brown makes a UK-wide constitutional commission announced by his boss Keir Starmer “the boldest project Labour has embarked on for a generation”.

Sarwar’s vision for Scotland is the same old claptrap, warning about “divisive politics” and advocating “pulling together” and “standing in solidarity”. These are words we have heard so often before and which have yet to deliver any hope of creating a better, fairer Scotland reflecting the values of those who live here.

After devoting almost 800 words to Scotland’s constitutional future Sarwar pops up again after being elected, this time warning voters against being obsessed with constitutional politics. Independence, he tried to convince himself, is not a priority for Scots outside the Twitter bubble.THE LibDems are another party fixated on the F-word in Scotland.

Drinking the Tory Kool-Aid, LibDem Scottish leader Willie Rennie reckons the pandemic has shown the benefits of devolution. His party has drawn up a five-point blueprint for transforming the UK into a “federal state”, which it claims is the only way the Union can work.

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Since federalism needs English support to be introduced in the UK it will never happen .. and therefore we can look forward to Rennie and his cohorts supporting independence in the near future.

Worst of all of Scotland’s opposition parties, the Conservatives, were not even prepared to wait for the First Minister’s testimony to the Holyrood inquiry today before demanding her resignation. It is certainly the job of opposition parties to hold the government of the day to account, but it’s a strange principle to demand an execution before the accused has been given the opportunity to state their case.

The Scottish Tories are determined to fight against not only independence but devolution as well. Their London masters are undermining the Scottish Parliament by passing the Internal Market Act, which allows them to bypass Holyrood completely and earmark their own projects to fund north of the Border while completely ignoring the priorities decided by our own ministers.

The Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject that legislation but Westminster imposed it anyway, with the support of every Scottish Tory MP.

It’s clear that Scots voters are reluctant to vote for parties who will not stand up and support the will of those who live here. It’s clear that a majority of those people support the Scottish Parliament and support their right to have their say on the independence question. On those grounds they are set to reject once again the opposition parties at the May Holyrood election. They will do so not because we live in a one-party state but because the people of Scotland trust only one party to properly represent their interests.

I obviously can’t know yet if Nicola Sturgeon will survive those calls for her resignation. I pray that she will for two reasons. The first is that when I ask myself who stands to gain most if she is forced out her job I’m absolutely certain that the answer is not the people of Scotland. And the second is that those in opposition who support her removal are generally doing so not because they genuinely believe she deserves the sack but because they will do anything to stop us having our say on our country’s future. And they know they’ll never do it through the ballot box.

Despite fall-out voters still intend to back the SNP. Some say the party has had its day ... trouble is polling suggests the others are a long way off ousting them