Brian Monteith: Think the unthinkable – Nicola’s on the way out

The SNP is losing its nerve. Why can we tell this is happening? Simple, ­because we are at last ­seeing the symptoms of decay in its once strict internal discipline.

SNP politicians briefing against each other, hostile opposition to official policy, histrionics about BBC bias as a deflection from what’s going wrong with the party’s strategy and policies – and now even the open talk of not if Nicola Sturgeon should go, but when and where to.

I am not making this up. There is no conspiracy. You only need to have been reading, watching or listening to the news to see the SNP is imploding.

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Firstly, let’s get the Salmond difficulty out the road. Whatever happens with the pending Alex Salmond prosecution it has caused deep divisions around competing loyalties within the SNP. Supporters of the ­Salmond or Sturgeon tribes have been briefing against each other. Were Alex Salmond to be cleared of everything, such behaviour will not be forgotten and of course he could be expected to seek re-election. What then for Sturgeon, what then for the SNP? More bitterness, manoeuvring and division.

While the First Minister has been in the United States there is trouble brewing for her at home
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Let’s not kid ourselves, the SNP will never be the same again, either because of something Alex Salmond might have done, or if innocent, because of the way Nicola Sturgeon has handled the accusations and process – or a mixture of both.

Then we have policies like the Car Park Tax. It will be unjust, having no sense in regard to who pays it, who is given a free pass and whether or not they can afford it. The earnings of the driver or the size of car will not ­matter. And, get this, there will be VAT on top of the tax – because the tax will be a bill presented by the employer providing a service (a parking space) and so it attracts 20 per cent VAT on top. £400 would become £480, or £500 would become £600.

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I also have it on good authority that the tax was offered by the SNP to the Greens as a bribe to get their support for the budget – not the other way round. So it is an SNP Car Park Tax that the party cannot escape blame for.

No wonder some SNP politicians are openly letting it be known they do not agree with it – it will cost them votes and cost the party seats in Holyrood.

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That never used to happen, but discipline has gone out of the window under Nicola Sturgeon’s autocratic husband and wife rule. Where else in the Western world does so much power rest in a married couple ­holding the posts of party chief executive and Government leader? Not Romania, not the Philippines.

Then there have been the protests about an audience member who gave the SNP Culture Secretary a roasting on BBC’s Question Time. The ­programme makers and the BBC have been accused of bias. This is a ­classic deflection of seeking to take away from and avoid discussing the home truths the member of the public made about SNP hypocrisy.

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Secondly, the man’s politics, religion, allegiances and number of appearances are all irrelevant – are SNP politicians and fellow travellers saying he should not be allowed to speak, that he should have duct tape over his mouth? Is that what an independent Scotland would be like?

We also have growing speculation on Nicola Sturgeon being replaced as leader or retiring before she is served notice. Now that’s a new development, partly fuelled by yet another trip to the United States when the real day job of fixing our schools and hospitals is here at home. Is she being lined up for a job at the UN?

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Who knows, but the fact that I can even ask the question without sounding foolish tells you the SNP is no longer a happy ship.