Introduction – Feb 6, 2020
This case only underlines why a substantial portion of Scots are adamantly opposed to independence under the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP). Independence would mean that the country might have been ruled by a man like Derek Mackay, who had been viewed as a rising star in Scottish Nationalist circles.
The SNP’s former finance minister, who looked increasingly like the heir to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has just been accused of “grooming” a sixteen-year-old boy.
This comes only a few weeks after the former leader of the SNP and Scotland’s former First Minister Alex Salmond was charged with attempted rape and sexual assaults against multiple victims.
What does it say when Nicola Sturgeon’s predecessor and her heir apparent are both engulfed by scandal? The SNP has dominated Scottish politics for nearly two decades now but this latest episode may mark the beginning of the end of that dominance as Scots take a long hard look at the party. Ed.
The Derek Mackay scandal has added to the anxious atmosphere engulfing the SNP
Alan Cochrane – The Telegraph Feb 6, 2020
To the senior nationalists of my acquaintance, there was no question about it on Tuesday night. If and when – and most old heads think it’s only a matter of when – Nicola Sturgeon stands down, there was only one name in the frame as next leader of the SNP.
‘Derek Mackay is pretty much a shoo-in’, was their unambiguous conclusion.
Incredibly, less than 24 hours later Mr Mackay was gone – forced to resign in ignominy after being confronted with the devastating revelation that he’d been conducting embarrassing and highly suggestive text exchanges with a 16-year-old boy.
That the news broke just as Mr Mackay, Scotland’s finance minister, had been about to make the most important announcement of his year – his budget statement – merely added to the atmosphere of consternation now engulfing the normally confident party that has run Scotland for thirteen years.
And it arrives as the SNP appears to be staggering from one crisis to another … this, in spite of the fact that it added 13 seats to his Commons tally of MPs in the December general election and looked like confirming that it is becoming Scotland’s natural party of government.
But that success masked one incredibly important fact which is that the nationalists may have captured a sizeable proportion of the Scottish electorate who appear ready to back Nicola Sturgeon, no matter how incompetently she governs.
In virtually every aspect of policy the SNP government comes up short and yet 40% of the voters are so blinded by her promise to break up Britain that they’re prepared to back her through thick and thin.
Nevertheless, given the sense of genuine shock, acute embarrassment and, yes, outrage at Mr Mackay’s behaviour, evinced among nationalist MSPs at Holyrood yesterday, that surely cannot now be taken for granted.
The majority of MSPs, both nationalist and opposition, found it incredibly difficult to believe that Mr Mackay could have embarked on such a reckless course of action and there was precious little sympathy for his current plight – other than sorrow for his young sons, one of whom is roughly the same age as the boy the minister had been texting.
Often a brutally partisan parliamentary performer, Mr Mackay was a secure and high profile member of the Sturgeon cabinet, even if his lack of economic gravitas was often cruelly exposed by his opponents
His lack of support as finance minister was countered by his popularity both in his constituency, where he had also served as local council leader, and amongst SNP activists, who got to know him well as a regular chairman of the party’s annual conference.
Moreover, he always exhibited supreme confidence in his own ability, with his critics last night expressing the view that this self-belief may well have contributed to what is being seen as his extremely irresponsible behaviour.
There was a deep unease in the SNP ranks last night about where this unhappy story is going, especially whether the police may yet become involved and about whether there are other embarrassing revelations still to come.
There is also the question as to whether Mr Mackay can keep his seat as an MSP. He has been suspended from membership of the SNP and denied the party whip but only he can decide if he continues to represent his Renfrewshire North and West constituency.
There is no doubt, however, that this is looking increasingly unlikely. Both Jackson Carlaw, for the Tories, and Richard Leonard, for Labour, said he should stand down and there was not much in the way of support from Ms Sturgeon – the First Minister insisting, merely, that such an issue would be subject to an internal party inquiry.
On the back of a lacklustre economic performance, poor education results, depressingly long hospital waiting lists and Mr Mackay’s ill-judged nationalisation of the Ferguson Marine shipyard the nature of his resignation has come as a massive, perhaps calamitous, body-blow to the SNP.
Perhaps the only decent news for the party to come out of yesterday’s events is that in losing one favourite for its leadership, it gained another. Kate Forbes, the junior finance minister, stepped in to deliver the budget statement and won plaudits from friend and foe alike.
A future leader? In the SNP’s present condition, anything is possible.