Arrogant Nicola Sturgeon is the author of the SNP’s humiliating downfall

As the defeated parties face their inevitable election polls, the bloodshed in Tory circles will be the second in the Scottish National Party. For a party that prided itself on never losing an election in almost two decades, its angry supporters claim that this defeat has all but killed the cause closest to their hearts: independence for Scotland.

Now a shadow of its former self – down from 48 MPs in the Commons to nine – the party knows only too well where to look for the reason for its shameful demise. No, not to John Swinney, the party’s third leader in a year, appointed only seven weeks ago. Seasoned nationalists know where to lay the blame: Nicola Sturgeon’s 10-year “government.”

And they compare her time at the top with that of her predecessor and one-time mentor – now sworn enemy – Alex Salmond. In 2014, he came within 10 percentage points of securing the break-up of the UK, a result that a year later saw the SNP win every seat bar three in the 2015 general election.

However, it is now clear that Sturgeon’s legacy is radically different.

The 53-year-old former lawyer succeeded Salmond almost as soon as the ink was dry on the referendum result and her decade at the top got off to a strong start. During the Covid emergency, she became a household name across Britain, thanks to her controversial daily TV news conferences and tough Covid-19 response – policies that most now know have created more problems than they have solved.

However, her disastrous fall from power in the political world was accelerated by her reckless belief in her own omnipotence and her determination to become a world leader, not only in the breakup of the United Kingdom, but also as a pioneer in controversial social change.

What happened to the £600,000 missing from the SNP’s coffers still hangs over Scottish public life. It was donated by members for a referendum that will now never happen. The Police Scotland investigation into where it went recently celebrated its third anniversary. Sturgeon and a party official were arrested and released without charge pending further inquiries.

Her husband, Peter Murrell, resigned as SNP chief executive and has now been charged with embezzlement in connection with the missing money, a charge he denies. Police Scotland say the First Minister is still under investigation. She denies any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, her bid for independence had been stalled by defeat in the 2014 referendum and the opposition of successive Conservative governments to allowing a new vote. But Sturgeon refused to accept defeat, telling everyone she would press ahead and organise what became known as Indyref2. However, a unanimous vote in the High Court ruled that the Scottish government could not call such a referendum without the consent of the UK government.

Despite this, she remained determined to make her mark on the world stage, with her Gender Recognition Bill, which, despite widespread concerns even among the most sensible leaders of her own party, would allow anyone over the age of 16 to change their gender by a simple declaration.

A host of major critics, including one of the world’s most famous authors, JK Rowling, criticised the bill as a major threat to women’s rights and safety. And the death knell was sounded when the British government, under powers retained by Westminster when the devolved government was set up in Edinburgh, vetoed the measure to prevent it becoming law.

There is no doubt that this bill became the issue that called Sturgeon’s judgement and political nous into question, with her predecessor and former mentor, Alex Salmond, angrily criticising her for damaging the cause for independence.

Although her standing on the British stage plummeted as a result of that controversy, we can go back almost exactly three years to discover the cause of her downfall.

That was when Sturgeon, angry at her failure to secure an outright majority in the Scottish Parliament at the 2021 election, attempted to “fabricate” an artificial majority that would give her unfettered power in Holyrood.

On 20 August 2021, a smiling Sturgeon, flanked by even wider smiling Scottish Greens joint leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, formally signed the so-called Bute House Agreement.

The aim was simple: to create ‘a majority in the Scottish Parliament for a transformative agenda and a strong mandate to give the people of Scotland the choice of independence’ with a massive majority of 71-57 in Holyrood.

Although the Greens had only seven MSPs, compared to 64 for the SNP, it was the Greens who quickly took on the coalition agenda. The result was that it was no longer a case of a tail wagging a dog, but rather a tail and no dog.

The Greens have long supported independence, but in securing their support for a new referendum, Sturgeon appeared to concede near-absolute power over her government’s domestic agenda to this small, Marxist-oriented party that virtually no one votes for.

The Greens gave her strong support on gender issues, set the rules for shutting down oil and gas production in the North Sea, established highly protected marine areas in Scottish waters that would ban fishing in remote communities in the West Highlands, and were responsible for a delay in improving major trunk roads.

It is hard to blame the Greens for the farce of building those two ferries in a Clyde yard nationalised by Sturgeon. Now, at least five years later, the cost has risen from £97m to more than £240m. Sturgeon arranged it all herself.

Humza Yousaf, Sturgeon’s ultimately ill-fated successor as prime minister, had the courage to get rid of the Greens, over a dispute over climate change targets, but the Greens got rid of him. After he was sacked, they tabled a motion of no confidence in him, which was supported by opposition parties, and Humza was gone, forced to resign.

And that’s where John Swinney came in to try to unravel the worst aspects of the Sturgeon legacy. He failed.

She may have enjoyed being feted at home and abroad, particularly by commentators in London, but ultimately Sturgeon has transformed the SNP from a sure-fire election winner into a pugnacious hodgepodge of mediocrities, whose proud third-place finish in the House of Commons has now been reduced to a handful.

Oh yes, and incredibly she was a guest pundit on ITV’s election special, candidly – ​​even brazenly – admitting on radio that the SNP had had a “sad” night of poor results.

But did she apologize on the radio for her part in the catastrophic demise of her party? Not that I heard.

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