Scottish independence: The old SNP is back and pressure is mounting on Nicola Sturgeon and co – Kenny MacAskill MP

It’s safe to say that the elections to the SNP National Executive held last week didn’t produce the outcome the leadership had been seeking.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and the party's chief executive, her husband Peter Murrell, leave a polling station at Broomhouse Park Community Hall in Edinburgh after casting their votes in last year's European Parliament elections (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

An alliance of women’s rights activists, old party stalwarts and the left had a pretty comprehensive victory, taking many senior scalps.

They were reclaiming their party, as they saw it, from a woke faction who were damaging women’s rights and downplaying, if not, ignoring independence.

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It wasn’t achieved without a fight. Factions had been denounced, by inference as well as by name. But all was to no avail, and whilst not a tidal wave, it was still a sea change.

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That was confirmed by the reaction after, with continued denunciation and some social media reaction bordering on the hysterical, no doubt confirming the suspicions of many about just what the priorities of some were.

Of course, as with any governing party, power remains with the leadership and direction with the government. But the result was conclusive enough to ensure that it cannot be entirely ignored.

Pressure upon party HQ will mount where dissatisfaction has been growing with the chief executive. Many believe, given he’s the party leader and First Minister’s spouse, he should have stepped down following her accession.

That’s compounded by the 2017 election debacle, for which no one has yet accepted responsibility, when a dreadful campaign saw the loss of senior MPs. Many activists have lost trust in HQ.

Now it’s the Salmond inquiry. There comes a time in politics when you become the story, then your time’s over, and I doubt it’s restricted to ministers.

On policy, the Gender Recognition Act reforms, which have caused so much internal division, seem doomed.

The Hate Crime Bill may well proceed though the danger is that it’ll be ameliorated so much to be acceptable, that neither supporters nor detractors will be satisfied.

But it’s on independence where pressure will really mount. As the UK lurches to disaster, pressure to make the election the mandate to hold a referendum irrespective of a Johnson veto or making the election itself a referendum is mounting.

Offering further internal debates isn’t washing. The old SNP’s back.

Kenny MacAskill is the SNP MP for East Lothian

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