Euan McColm: The politics Nicola Sturgeon now says she deplores is her legacy and she should own it

Spare me the laments of Sturgeon about the degradation of the system when she was the one doing all the degrading

It is a very long time since Nicola Sturgeon – briefly – seemed like she might care about uniting a divided Scotland.

For a moment back in 2014, when she succeeded Alex Salmond as First Minister, Sturgeon gave a very good impression of being someone who understood the need to soothe tensions after a bruising independence referendum campaign.

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But, soon, talk of being a leader for all was forgotten. Sturgeon spent nine years in power deepening division with endless demands that the UK Government green-light a second referendum despite a clear majority wanting no such thing. And, after she had stoked anger on the constitutional question, Sturgeon had more damage to do. The final years of her time in office saw the former SNP leader pursue changes to the Gender Recognition Act that set her against not only high profile feminists such as the novelist and philanthropist JK Rowling, the veteran campaigner Julie Bindel, and even SNP politicians like the MP Joanna Cherry, but also the vast majority of voters.

Shamefully, Sturgeon refused to engage with women who made the entirely legitimate point that allowing a system of self-ID for trans people would create a law which predatory men could exploit in order to gain entrance to women’s single-sex spaces, such as refuges and changing rooms.

When the former First Minister did react to those critics – campaigners with decades-long track records of working in the defence of vulnerable women – she treated them with contempt. She was the “real” feminist, she said.

Shorty before her resignation last year, Sturgeon smeared those who opposed her unworkable plan to reform the GRA as bigots. “There are,” she said, “people who have opposed this bill that cloak themselves in women’s rights to make it acceptable, but just as they’re transphobic you’ll also find that they’re deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well.”

It would appear that, despite no longer being in power, Sturgeon is determined to continue to foment anger, fear and division.

Appearing alongside former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace at an event at Edinburgh University to mark the 25th anniversary of devolution, Sturgeon made a number of statements that veered from the delusional to the downright dangerous.

The former First Minister told the audience she was “not convinced” MSPs would vote for same sex marriage today.

What a bleak view of contemporary Scotland. It is also absolute nonsense.

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There is no member of the Scottish parliament agitating for a change in the law and no polling showing any public desire for gay marriage to be outlawed.

Sturgeon’s remarks were all about validating her actions in office. The former First Minster’s gender reforms were opposed by a majority for good and understandable reasons. Not only was the potential for new legislation to be exploited by dangerous men, the creeping influence of gender ideology on government was normalising the medication of children and young people with the real and distressing condition of gender dysphoria.

Sturgeon refuses to accept she was thwarted on this issue for good reasons. Instead, she must be the victim of dark forces.

This was deeply cynical, dangerous stuff.

No young person, coming to terms with their sexuality, needs to hear a false narrative like this from such an influential figure.

I agree with one long-time supporter of Sturgeon who described her words to me as “totally reckless”, adding “She’d rather people believed Scotland’s slid into the dark ages than accept she got it wrong on gender. And you thought Alex Salmond had an ego.”

But Sturgeon was not shocked only by how deeply bigoted Scotland had become, she was sorrowful about division in society and polarisation in politics, where debate descended “into the most vicious, toxic rammy, with bad faith arguments all over the place”. The question, now, was “how do we fix that underlying problem of we’ve just lost our way in how to debate things rationally and properly?”

This was like hearing an arsonist complain that burning down his house had left him homeless. During her nine years as First Minister, Sturgeon demonised political opponents as anti-Scotland, cemented division over the constitutional question, and smeared good and honourable critics of her policy obsessions as bigots. Nobody has done more to create the toxicity in our politics than Nicola Sturgeon. And she did it with unbounded enthusiasm.

When the former SNP leader turned her attention to the flaws of the Holyrood system, she entered full gaslighting mode.

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Holyrood’s committees needed to be strengthened. She was “not sure [appearing in front of a committee was] an experience that was as terrifying as it should have been for a minister or First Minister”.

The audacity. It is, without question, true that Holyrood’s committees are not fit for purpose and that, too often, members of the Scottish Government get an easy ride. And the reason for this is that, on winning an overall majority in 2011, the SNP knobbled the committee system.

The Scottish Parliament’s committees were supposed to perform the revising duties of a second chamber. In a parliament of coalition and co-operation this worked but when the nationalists’ won an overall majority, they were able to dominate. Sturgeon got an easy ride in front of committees because she had ensured this would be so. Spare me the laments of Sturgeon about the degradation of the system when she was the one doing all the degrading.

Despite having spent nine years as First Minister, Sturgeon achieved surprisingly little. She took a nation divided and made things worse, pushed forward unworkable and unpopular laws, and fell on her sword when it became clear she’d become too polarising to break the constitutional deadlock.

Nicola Sturgeon took a sledgehammer to our politics, destroying important conventions.

The politics she now deplores is her legacy and she should damned well own it.



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