Friday 19 January 2024

This is the worst scandal in Scottish political history


For a few months during the pandemic Nicola Sturgeon had what she had always dreamed of. She had independence. It’s true that the money still came from London. The vaccines were developed in London. The British Army put up the Nightingale hospitals. Still in every other respect she had something close to absolute power.

In no previous time in Scottish history had a king or a queen been able to regulate quite as precisely what Scots were able to do and what we were forbidden to do.  You can’t go to school. You can’t go to work. You can go outside only for this long. You mustn’t go more than these few miles. You may not visit this relative. You may not have sex with this man or this woman. Compared to this even under an absolute Scottish monarch of the Middle Ages we had more freedom.

It mattered little what the British government did, Sturgeon could decide how long we had to stay at home and what else we had to do or not do purely because she wanted it so.

It was an awesome level of power perhaps unsurpassed by that of any Scot in all of our long history. It was the power over life and death itself. Sturgeon’s decisions about care homes, whether to keep schools open or closed, whether to try to obtain zero Covid in Scotland and how long to keep people locked up in their homes had life and death consequences.

Someone’s granny didn’t make it because Sturgeon ordered elderly people to be sent to a care home without being tested. A school child’s education was ruined by the decision to close the schools. Someone’s business was bankrupted by her rules about hospitality. Someone killed himself because he lost all he loved and all his money.

So, what is history going to tell us about this period in Scotland? Nothing. The records were all deleted.

There are periods in Scottish history of which we know very little. The only records we have of the time when the Romans invaded Caledonia come from the Romans. We know hardly anything about the Picts other than what we can discover from archaeology. There are gaps in our knowledge even about well-known figures from Medieval times like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. But there are at least some sources. They weren’t all deleted.

A few hundred years later and we have good records about the life of Mary Queen of Scots. We know about the good that she did, and we know about the bad, because people wrote about these things and what they wrote was not destroyed. If it had been destroyed, we would know nothing of the familiar tale of Darnley, Rizzio, Loch Leven, Elizabeth the First and execution.

There are Scottish absolute monarchs who have left behind more historical evidence than Nicola Sturgeon.

She is a tabula rasa. We know certain events of her public life, but when you dig deeper there is a blank, there is an emptiness, there is nothing.

The SNP and the Scottish government since 2014 were run exclusively by Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell and we know nothing about what went on behind the scenes. All is omerta. I think even most SNP politicians are completely clueless about the inner workings of their own party and government.

So then during the pandemic all we have is Sturgeon’s public statements, her TV broadcasts, but we know nothing whatsoever about what happened behind the curtain when Shakespeare so to speak said exeunt, we know nothing about the motivations behind her decisions, we know nothing about whether parties were held in Bute House or whether any other rules were broken.

The Scottish civil service although nominally British has gone native or been forced to and has become wholly identified with the SNP. It will leak nothing and reveal nothing. It will not complain about WhatsApp messages being deleted or records not kept. This is not Downing Street. This is Scotland.

We know more about the innerworkings of any number of Scottish kings than we do about the Scottish government, because people dared to write about it and people dared to keep what they wrote.

This is a much bigger scandal than it first seems. It’s not just that Sturgeon has failed in her duty to history. Future Scots deserve to know what happened during the pandemic of 2020 and the years after.

More importantly Sturgeon as our absolute monarch in 2020 has failed in her duty to those of us living now. She had absolute power over our lives but did not deign to leave a record of her reasoning for the life and death decisions that she took.

There is a pattern here. Not only do we know nothing about the innerworkings of the SNP from 2014 until Sturgeon’s resignation. Not only do we know nothing about the motivations and the private thinking of the First Minister during this period. We know nothing at all about why she resigned. None of the explanations she has given are sufficient. Likewise, we know essentially nothing about the scandals and arrests that followed her resignation.

But there comes a point when history views a blank slate and sees a concerted attempt to destroy the historical record as itself evidence.  What is Nicola Sturgeon hiding?

It is not accidental that we know more about the innerworkings of the court of Mary Queen of Scots than we do about the life of Nicola Sturgeon. It started I think as a habit that she would say nothing, reveal nothing and leave no record behind. It then became a method that was accepted by Scottish nationalists. Wheesht for indy. If we are secretive and hide everything it will help us get over the line. Finally, it became like in a Greek play something similar to ὕβρις [Hubris].

Sturgeon during the pandemic began to see herself as an absolute monarch. She began to see herself as untouchable. Her ambition like Icarus began to soar and she thought she could get away with anything. Her wings were indestructible.

She flew too close to the sun, or else she failed to realise that she lacked the intellect to continue indefinitely the game she was playing and that one day she would be found out.

I don’t know. I have thought a lot about Scottish politics, but Nicola Sturgeon is a mystery to me.

“There goes a true-bred Sturgeon,” said Montrose, as the envoy departed, “for they are ever fair and false.”

Like Walter Scott’s Campbell this is Sturgeon’s epitaph. Fair and false.

Her reputation has been destroyed. The suspicion that she deleted the messages because she was hiding some wrongdoing will be left to the judgement of history and history won’t know, which leaves Sturgeon in the position of Mary Queen of Scots in relation to the murder of Lord Darnley. What did Mary know? Was she involved with the plot? Did Mary have anything to hide?

If it’s a Greek play what follows Sturgeon’s hubris is Νέμεσις [Nemesis]. She reminds me of Lady MacBeth a lady with more ambition than talent and a husband she thought she could control. But MacBeth kept buying campervans and then Jaguars and then he bought a pale horse. And guess what followed with it.

If she is very lucky indeed history will judge Nicola Sturgeon badly. If she is unlucky the present will judge her.

Let us be clear. This is the worst scandal in modern Scottish political history. SNP voters should hang their heads in shame that they brought us to this.

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