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What does the Salmond v Sturgeon feud mean for the future of the union?

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28.02.2021

When old foes clash, things can turn nasty. But the goriest of all battles are those waged when former comrades go to war. This rule of politics has a vivid case study in the extraordinary duel being fought between Alex Salmond, who led the Scottish National party for 20 years, and Nicola Sturgeon, who was his deputy for 10 of them before becoming leader and first minister nearly seven years ago.

I’ve had a ringside seat for many a political feud. Heath versus Thatcher. Thatcher versus Major. Blair versus Brown. Brown versus Mandelson. Osborne versus May. Cameron versus Cummings. Cummings versus just about everybody. I thought I could no longer be shocked, but none of the above were as lurid as the bitter struggle that has erupted in Edinburgh. Mr Salmond accuses senior figures in the party he once led of a multi-tentacled conspiracy to destroy his reputation. In a 26-page document submitted to an inquiry by the Holyrood parliament, he makes the sensationally grave accusation that Ms Sturgeon’s inner circle ran a “deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort” to discredit him, “even to the extent of having me imprisoned”.

On his account, the plotting involved Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff and the party’s chief executive, Peter Murrell, who used to be one of Mr Salmond’s under-strappers. In the tight world of the SNP, Mr Murrell also happens to be Ms Sturgeon’s husband. This is like Carrie Symonds being chairwoman of the Tory party or Victoria Starmer being general secretary of the Labour party. The Salmond-Sturgeon feud is the more vicious because it involves a small circle of alpha personalities who have a long and intimate history with one another.

He further charges Ms Sturgeon with misleading the Scottish parliament about her role in, and knowledge of, her government’s investigation into complaints of sexual misconduct made against him. That probe was subsequently ruled “unlawful” and “tainted with apparent bias” by a judicial review.

It is not just Ms Sturgeon’s integrity and truthfulness that is on trial here. Her predecessor is also loquacious about failures in the leadership of Scotland’s civil service and prosecuting authorities. “Concealing evidence from the courts matters,” he declared in........

© The Guardian


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