Sunday Column: If Sturgeon survives then Scotland will have become a Soviet republic

Alex Salmond gives evidence (BBC News)

By Derek W Gardiner

Like anyone interested in Scottish politics, I spent most of Friday watching the 6-hour long evidence session that former First Minister, Alex Salmond, gave to the public inquiry into the Scottish government's handling of sexual assault allegations against him in 2017 and 18. While he did not directly call on the current First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to resign, he did say that there was a failure of leadership in the Scottish government and civil service and that Scotland was not yet ready to be independent under Sturgeon's leadership.

Over this past week, the mask has slipped and the true face of the SNP has been clear for all to see, it is a nasty, vindictive and bullying party machine. A massive social media campaign of abuse against the late Liberal Democrat MP and former leader Charles Kennedy was uncovered in a documentary and all of this happened while he was suffering from alcoholism in the final weeks of his life and yet there are no calls for Ian Blackford to resign over this.

Salmond told the inquiry that he could not share all the evidence he wanted to because he could face prosecution by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, who had already redacted and then unredacted the parts of his evidence where he alleged a conspiracy at the top of government. Something Liam Fox described as worthy of a "tin-pot dictatorship". A truly embarrassing moment for Scottish democracy.

In addition, the First Minister's roadmap out of lockdown in Scotland said that we would only move back to the tier system one week before the election, conveniently enough this means there will be restrictions on campaigning until then. Leafleting, door to door canvassing and campaign rallies will all be banned while Sturgeon will continue to enjoy an hour of press coverage each day, allowing her to claim she handled the pandemic better than the UK government which is simply not true or we wouldn't be experiencing a second wave. We cheer on those who protest this kind of behaviour in dictatorships like Belerus but it is happening under our noses. It's time for the Westminster government to take action to ensure all the relevant evidence is made available and to overrule the Scottish government and allow for in-person election campaigning to take place to ensure a free and fair election.

The cult of personality around Nicola Sturgeon is also reminiscent of a communist dictator. Her followers sincerely believe that she can do no wrong and have this week been trying to deflect attention to alleged instances of corruption at Westminster. They often engage in their "two minutes hate" against anyone with a unionist opinion on Twitter and other platforms. In the early days of devolution, many people didn't even know who the First Minister was and former First Minister Henry McLeish resigned over allegations that he sublet part of his tax subsidised Westminster constituency office without it having been registered in the register of interests kept in the Parliamentary office. Twenty years later the First Minister can get away with blatant breaches of the ministerial code.

The tide however may be turning and opinion polls are starting to show a drop in support for the SNP and independence. It is the duty of all unionist politicians to elect a unionist First Minister if the SNP and other pro-independence parties fall short of an overall majority. If the man who championed independence says we are not ready for it under this administration then that should tell you all you need to know.

The only way to turn the tide of public opinion on lockdown is for furlough to end.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to give his budget on Wednesday and it looks as if there will be tax rises and an extension of furlough, this is precisely the kind of policies proposed in Jeremy Corbyn's 2019 manifesto and that the British people chose to reject. YouGov polls seem to be supportive of Boris Johnson's snail pace move out of lockdown and it makes sense that many of those who have been paid to stay at home and not work for almost a year are happy for this arrangement to continue. However, there are millions of people who have not received a penny in furlough and just want to get back to work, if they are lucky enough to still have any business left.

I supported the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme when it came in last March and was only expected to last until the end of October but has been extended further and further and it looks like it will be extended until the end of June which is the supposed date of our return to normality. It is not a sustainable arrangement and will have to end at some point when it does I expect the mass job losses that follow will lead the public to finally come to the conclusion that this whole lockdown was a mistake and should never be repeated.