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As Sinatra sang “That’s life, that’s what the people will say. You’re riding high in April, shot down in May”. Nicola Sturgeon’s version would substitute February and March but the sentiments are the same.

How can it be that the woman who has dominated Scottish politics for the past decade can now be written off as a failure? How did she survive for so long? Why did she win so many elections? A complex question and a complex answer.

Firstly, the opposition in the Scottish Parliament has been abysmal. Leaving aside their frequent change in leader, Labour made the fundamental mistake of playing to the SNP’s tune: concentrating on constitutional change rather than the core business of the Scottish Parliament.

Their nadir came with the election of Richard Leonard; Corbyn opined, "This can be a turning point in Scottish politics” And, once elected, Richard boldly announced that being English by birth, he would support England when they played Scotland. Goodbye to any chance of progress! Having won seven seats in the 2017 general election, a significant recovery, Labour returned to only one Scottish seat in 2019-so much for the turning point.

As for the Scottish Conservative party, any sign of recovery, particularly under Ruth Davidson’s leadership, was quickly put into reverse by the actions of the UK government.

Secondly, there was an assumption by the London media that because Conservative PM’s were so incompetent then, by definition, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government must be beacons of light and hope.

The FM understood this and explains why her farewell tour took place in London rather than Scotland. However, even this week it was noticeable on Loose Women and her RSA lecture that critical questions about her legacy had begun to emerge. Indeed, there has been a surprising silence from Owen Jones and other London luvvies, previously staunch supporters of Sturgeon, as her denouement gathers pace.

Thirdly, and, most significantly, she succeeded, until recently, in keeping Independence centre stage; Independence was just around the corner and IndyRef2 would lead Scotland to the (unspecified) Promised Land. In every election since the 2014 Referendum, the central issue has been Independence. With the Unionist vote divide between three parties, the outcome was inevitable.

At some point, the pretence that a Referendum was imminent would collapse. Their third independence prospectus, “Building a New Scotland-a stronger economy with independence”, (October 2022), was supposed to clear up some vital economic issues in the event of separation. Independence supporter, Robin McAlpine, highlighted the lack of any new credible arguments. Commenting he argued, “But if you want to be taken seriously you really ought to explain how you would make things better, not just to assume it. And that is doubly the case if you have not only failed to take action to make things better but have actually made things worse since you took office.”

Fourthly, the Scottish media. Scottish Television was brought onside with extensive Scottish government advertising. Their Annual Accounts identified the company’s over reliance on one advertiser - guess who! The pay back being either less than inquisitive interviews, or simply ignoring Scottish government failures. The independent broadcaster also released a video of children thanking the First Minister for her work during the pandemic. The video showed various young children taking part in a joint message of thanks set to soft piano music. After comparisons were made with North Korea the video was removed, although more than a few commentators felt that the North Korea media was more liberal!

Moreover, former Green MSP, Andy Wightman, who sat on the Holyrood “Harassment” Inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair, argues that the Inquiry was undermined by their conclusion, that Nicola Sturgeon had misled Parliament, was leaked to a major Scottish daily, even prior to the Inquiry formally agreeing them. Thus undermining the work of the Parliament, and allowing the SNP to get their retaliation in first. Certainly worth a read.

In five days’ time we will know the identity of our next FM will be. It will not matter who wins. The scale of the outstanding problems, never mind resetting the Independence narrative, would tax the very best politicians. The problem for the SNP is that the Holyrood benches are largely devoid of talent.

To conclude with Sinatra, there ain’t no chance of the SNP being “back on top by June”!

by Keith Geddes, Policy Director, Pagoda PR