Beyond trading blows in televised debates, the SNP leadership contest has descended yet further into infighting as candidates Ash Regan and Kate Forbes have called on the party establishment to ensure a “fair and transparent leadership election”. Despite previously questioning the SNP National Secretary, the candidates say they are “yet to receive a response”. The candidates want figures on the total number of members and voting papers that have been issued, adding it is “crucial to fostering trust and confidence” in the electoral process. It’s easy to see why they might have concerns…
The letter is addressed to Peter Murrell, the Chief Executive Officer of the SNP. Co-conspirators won’t need reminding that this is the same Peter Murrell who loaned the party – which is currently under investigation for fraud – £100,000 off the books. Oh and he’s also Nicola Sturgeon’s husband. As the party establishment has filed in behind Humza’s campaign, it won’t surprise co-conspirators to see his name absent from the letter – though he has also since called for the figures to be published.
SNP MP and Humza backer Pete Wishart – although also in favour of publishing the figures – was quick to discredit concerns. He said the “conspiracy theories will make Trump look like Nelson Mandela…”
For goodness sake. Can someone in HQ just let everybody know the size of the leadership electorate. If not the conspiracy theories will make Trump look like Nelson Mandela…. https://t.co/bRVkeyonpH— Pete Wishart (@PeteWishart) March 15, 2023
However, Kate Forbes’ campaign were undeterred in the quest for electoral transparency. They went further last night, after their first two letters went ignored, and called for the appointment of an independent third party auditor to oversee the process. Forbes’ Campaign Manager added the overseer “must have full oversight of all membership numbers, data and processes” and should be appointed “without delay”. As the SNP establishment is yet to relent, one pertinent quote from Stalin springs to Guido’s mind: “I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how.”
UPDATE: The SNP have issued a new statement defending the integrity of the contest. They’re still not revealing the number of voting members…
NEW UPDATE: The SNP have now published their membership figures, showing a decline of over 30% in just over a year. You can see why they dragged their heels…
Co-conspirators can read the letter in full below.
In news that will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, having leading SNP figures publicly trashing their own record hasn’t helped the party’s electoral fortunes. According to a new YouGov poll for Sky News, none of the candidates have won over the public as, by overwhelming margins, Scottish voters think all candidates would be worse than Sturgeon. Kate Forbes comes out best, with 17% saying she would be better than sturgeon – 33% disagreed. Just 6% of voters think Humza would be better than Nicola…
Other findings in the poll weren’t much better for the SNP. The public held net negative views on each candidate. On individual traits, more voters thought Yousaf and Regan were weak, incompetent and untrustworthy. The opposite was true for Forbes, as more Scots put her as strong, trustworthy and competent. The poll also paints a worrying picture for the Yes camp, as independence support stood still at just 39%. ‘No’ now leads by 8%.
The first televised leadership debate of the SNP leadership, held in Glasgow, lived up to its host city’s pugnacious reputation. Kate Forbes kicked off the STV debate off with an attack line that wouldn’t be out of place in a party-political broadcast for the Conservative Party:
“Humza you’ve had a number of jobs in government. When you were Transport Minister, the trains were never on time. When you were Justice Minister, the police were strained to braking point. Now, as Health Minister, we’ve got record high waiting times.”
Humza hit back with a jab at Forbes’ inexperience, “I know you haven’t had a delivery job in government. I’ve had three”. A reminder – they belong to the same government.
The fireworks didn’t end there. Humza asked Regan, in the context of her plan to dissolve the coalition with the Greens, “how on earth can you call yourself a unifier?”. Yousaf also suggested Forbes’ treasury had left health “short-changed” as Ash called out the others’ “wishy-washy” approach to independence. Forbes managed to find yet another opportunity to take on her own government, saying more of the same would be an “acceptance of mediocrity”.
The debate also touched on economic policies, as Regan described Forbes’ platform as “trickle-down economics, which has of course been discredited”. In response, Kate made her case that, “we need to ensure that through a growing economy… we ensure that we are reinvesting in our public services, and ultimately creating well-paying jobs”. By going for growth and taking the SNP to task, Guido is in the rare position of finding it difficult to disagree with an SNP politician. After the night’s proceedings, there was one winner who came out head and shoulders above the rest – the unionist cause.
SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan MSP has called on Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, to step down as the party’s chief executive, accusing him of having a conflict of interest:
“I think this arangement where we have the leader and the husband of the leader running the party, I mean we wouldn’t accept that in a commercial setting in companies, I don’t think that’s appropriate for politics either… I think there’s a conflict of interest.”
Given questions over his £100,000 loan to the party, which has already been found to have broken reporting rules on three separate occasions, it would also help the SNP mitigate further headaches…