Brian Monteith: Nicola Sturgeon’s poor form shows a lack of preparation and match fitness

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show from her home in GlasgowFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show from her home in Glasgow
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show from her home in Glasgow
There are only ten more sleeps before the Holyrood election and it is still Nicola Sturgeon’s election to lose.

In normal times one would have to say Agent Sturgeon is playing a blinder for the opposition; occupying her favoured berth in left-of-centre midfield she is repeatedly giving the ball away with error-prone passes and now looks jaded if not physically drained.

On her last outing yesterday at the BBC’s very own Bernabéu, Sturgeon was given a torrid time by Andrew Marr, the home side’s ball winner. In her worst performance of this season’s campaign she had no answer for Marr’s quicker footwork, which kept her pinned down and looking out of her league. High balls, like her policy outcomes, have never been the diminutive midfielder’s forte – and Marr just kept lobbing over her.

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Short of pace, unable to tackle a proverbial fish supper and scoring far fewer goals than in previous seasons, any other player with such a loss of form would have been subbed by now – but as she’s the player-manager that’s not going to happen. While a dressing room revolt is for now unthinkable, many senior players who feel they’ve served their time are moving on and going into coaching – do they know something about the team’s prospects we are not being told?

With Sturgeon’s husband in with the bricks as chief executive everything appears unified for now, but losing the title this season could usher in moves by shareholders never before contemplated. Apart from the decidedly tribal element (which to be fair is quite substantial) many SNP supporters must watch such games as yesterday’s and wince, leading to the question, will Sturgeon be hooked after the campaign is over or even go of her own accord?

Let’s look at some of the key highlights of yesterday’s game.

Asked if she had conducted any modelling of the impact on Scots of seceding from the UK Premiership, Sturgeon admitted she had not. This follows an admission in earlier matches that the previous financial modelling that had previously been rejected conclusively as unworkable was now out of date. Nothing has been done since the last unconvincing proposed league reorganisation by Andrew Wilson’s breakaway syndicate and there has been no taking of account of the Coronavirus pandemic that has put all clubs’ debt at record levels. Without help from the UK League Officials participating clubs would have undoubtedly folded.

Now one has to ask, why recommend having a vote on leaving the UK Premiership if you have not done the financial modelling of what it means for all the supporters of each and every club, especially the poorest?

Let us remember, every year since taking control Sturgeon has said that the time was right to hold another vote, that it should not be put off, that it transcended everything else –even her top priority of education upon which she wanted to be judged. Yet even though it is so important there has been no economic scoping of what impact it would have on the Scottish people. Is that the professional approach of a person in charge? It rather seems like the slap-dash, shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach of a dreamer and a fantasist. Or, rather like the ferries that cannot sail, the hospital scandals and the Gupta deals that have been turning sour, due diligence does not matter and does not happen.

Why claim that if it had not been for the Coronavirus pandemic there would have already been a vote on a league breakaway when at the same time saying there had been no work done on financial planning since May 2018 – three years ago? What we are seeing is the typical bravado and bluster more typical of Ally McLeod – and we all know how that turned out. One great goal does not a trophy win, no matter how it always pulls at the heart strings. Losing to Peru and drawing with Iran – yes, Iran – is the fate that awaits the SNP club captain in believing her own publicity.

And then there was the border issue. When pressed about the impact of facing a hard border if the SNP is admitted to the EU championship league Sturgeon tried to make light of the transfer restrictions that would immediately play havoc with movement between it and the UK Premiership where most of the current earnings are made – an eye-watering four times as much. That’s a little more than “practical difficulties” and would present an existential threat to the club’s financial existence. Overnight it would be open to acquisition by the likes of the Troika – the EU Commission, the EU central bank and the IMF – that infamously ensured the German Bundestag had sight of the Irish budget before the Irish Cabinet itself did. That’s not “independence” that’s subservience. Under current league rules the UK Cabinet only has sight of the Scottish Government budget when it is made public.

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The UK Premiership has excelled against the EU Championship this year with, sadly, supporters in the EU now fifteen times more likely to die from Covid than in the UK, thanks to the latter’s superior vaccination programme. The Scottish team dodged a bullet staying in the UK.

Sturgeon has certainly taken her eye of the ball of late, and it’s more than unfortunate drug addicts needing rehab who are going to feel abandoned. We badly need a change – but it’s the team that needs changing – not the league we play in.

Brian Monteith is editor of and served in the Scottish and European Parliaments for the Conservative and Brexit Parties respectively.