An outbreak of calm

The SNP leadership contest was over even before it had begun, no doubt much to the disappointment of BBC Scotland management who will now have to bin all the ‘SNP divided’ stories they were going to regale us with over the coming weeks as a distraction from the meltdown of the Conservatives and Keir Starmer’s latest U-turn following pressure from big business, Labour has signalled a significant watering down of the party’s much vaunted New Deal for Workers. No big surprise there then. For all that Anas Sarwar claims that Labour is the party that listens to workers, the actions of the Labour leadership show all too clearly that it’s a party which listens to boardrooms not workers.

Former deputy first minister John Swinney announced this morning that he would be standing as party leader, in his speech announcing his candidacy he spoke very highly of his potential competitor the former finance secretary Kate Forbes, lauding her talents and abilities and promising that should he be successful he would offer her a prominent role in his government.

It was an open secret in Holyrood that the two potential candidates had been holding private talks in a bid to reach an accommodation which could avert a potentially damaging leadership contest. Polling expert John Curtice estimates that the unedifying scenes during the last leadership contest with candidates publicly criticising one another and their online supporters behaving in often ill tempered ways and in some cases indulging in baseless conspiracy theories, caused significant damage to the SNP amongst the wider electorate leading to the SNP losing five percentage points in opinion polling.

With Labour being bigged up as the Saviour of the Union by Scotland’s anti-independence media the loss of another 5% in opinion polling could potentially result in the SNP failing to remain the largest party in Scotland in terms of vote share and number of MPs elected at the Westminster general election which is widely expected later this year and which could possibly be upon us very soon should the Conservative perform even worse than expected in the local and mayoral elections which are being held in England today and panicked Tory MPs decide that they have nothing to lose by ditching the useless and unpopular Rishi Sunak.

The talks between John Swinney and Kate Forbes were evidently successful as within hours of John Swinney launching his leadership bid Kate Forbes announced that she would not be standing and gave her full support to her erstwhile rival. In a statement she said: ”
Ultimately, I have concluded that the best way to deliver the urgent change Scotland needs is to join with John Swinney and advocate for that reform agenda within the Scottish Government.

“I can therefore today announce that I will not be seeking nomination as the next SNP leader.

“John will therefore have my support and endorsement in any campaign to follow.”

You could hear the greeting and gnashing of teeth from Pacific Quay all the way over in Holyrood. The attention seeking James Cook is going to be deprived of an an opportunity to appear on camera telling us about Kate Forbes and John Swinney sniping at one another. The shame. Kate Forbes should be able to look forward to a senior position in John Swinney’s government. She is a talented and capable politician who should be offered the post of deputy first minister or finance secretary. She represents an important faction within the SNP and the wider independence movement and it is vital that she is given an important role to play in John Swinney’s government.

As he announced that he was standing for leader, John Swinney mentioned the divisions within the SNP and the need to heal them. The party certainly needs a full and frank internal debate about its future and about finding a credible way through the current impasse on a second independence referendum but the way to do that is not through a bitter and bad tempered leadership campaign in an election year. That would merely aggravate the divisions in the party while providing red meat to the SNP’s many opponents and damaging the party’s standing with the wider public.

It is to the immense credit of both John Swinney and Kate Forbes that thankfully calm heads have prevailed and barring the unexpected John Swinney should be appointed SNP party leader on Monday with a vote in Holyrood shortly thereafter to elect him as First Minister. The last torrid week of upsets in Scottish politics will thankfully have proven short lived and we can get back to the serious business of highlighting the duplicity and hypocrisy of the flag bedecked we’re not nationalists we’re British parties and making the case for Scottish independence.

I’m not going to lie, I am very relieved by today’s development. I was dreading the prospect of another bruising and bitter leadership contest with the anti independence parties and their supporters in the Scottish press licking their lips in anticipation of an orgy of ‘SNP divided’ bad publicity. No doubt Starmer would have used it as cover to sneak out another right wing U turn which would be all but ignored by the anti-independence press in Scotland while the SNP would be constantly compared to the dysfunctional and nasty meltdown that passes for a Conservative government at Westminster.

Instead the SNP has achieved something utterly beyond the abilities of the chaotic extremists of the Conservative party, or the duplicitous opportunists of Keir Starmer’s Labour party, they’ve behaved with maturity and good sense, proving that they are the only grown ups in the room, and for that we should be deeply grateful to John Swinney and Kate Forbes for putting the good of Scotland and the cause of independence ahead of personal ambitions.


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