Scottish independence: Why Nicola Sturgeon can't avoid responsibility for abusive nationalist mob's behaviour – Murdo Fraser MSP

Equivalence. False equivalence. Unequivocal false equivalence. That is the First Minister’s formula to remove herself from blame for the mob who, in the name of independence, intimidated, swore, threw eggs, and spat at ordinary people heading to a political meeting about a cause that differs from theirs.

Unusually for a leader who likes to give the impression – the illusion – that she is the embodiment of the nation, it was nothing to do with her, she said. The woman who calls herself the nation’s “Chief Mammy” must have been out at the bingo that night, as nationalist protestors tried to disrupt the Tory party leadership hustings in Perth last week.

“I want to live in a democracy where we have these debates and settle them democratically, rather than be denied the opportunity to settle them democratically,” she said.

And with that the old men who called a young women “Tory whore” as she made their way to that meeting, the yobs who spat and chanted abuse at others, the angry mob who questioned the right of Scots to call themselves Scots because they disagreed with them, were given equivalence with those who refuse to allow another referendum. False equivalence, unequivocally given.

Equivalence with the constitutional settlement – endorsed by Scots in the 2014 referendum, the biggest democratic event in our lifetimes – that denies Nicola Sturgeon the right to call a referendum whenever she wants one. Equivalence with the UK Supreme Court if it rules that she does not have the power to hold one. Equivalence with the UK Prime Minister who, in tune with the vast majority of Scots, doesn’t see the need for another referendum anytime soon.

Far from being condemned, it looked more like an invitation to the mob to continue, a contorted justification for mob rule. The First Minister didn’t even seem to want to say: “Who will rid me of this troublesome mob?”

There was more equivalence to come. Apparently, the pro-Union side are just as bad as her nationalist fringe. ‘Both sides are as equally to blame’ is the cry.

Forgive me but I do not recall seeing the SNP conference where party members ran the gauntlet of an aggressive, baying crowd standing behind a banner proclaiming: “Nat scum out!” The First Minister having to walk past a sign saying, “Sturgeon’s a f***y” is a spectacle I missed, yet I am sure if it had ever happened she might have commented on it. Perhaps she could point out to me the footage on YouTube.

Nicola Sturgeon knows the Scottish Parliament does not have the right to hold a referendum on Scottish independence (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)

The cynicism she has shown here is remarkable even for politics and even for her.

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As her former colleague, Alex Bell, revealed at the weekend she has known since 2007 – for 15 years – that Holyrood does not have the legal power to call a referendum, yet she is still asking the Supreme Court whether or not that is the case.

She then plans to use the denial of her right to exercise a power she knows she doesn’t have as some kind of justification for the intimidation of political opponents.

Whatever she is doing, she certainly fans the flames of the mob.

That would be despicable enough if she believed the yobs were an important tool to winning independence, but she doesn’t appear to think there is a real prospect of it.

If you recall, the First Minister has said that if she is denied a referendum she will then make the general election a de facto one, and if the SNP wins more than 50 per cent of the vote, she will declare independence. But she also told an audience at the Edinburgh Festival that she is not certain she will stand again as SNP leader in the following Scottish Parliament election.

Those do not sound like the words of a politician who believes she is on the brink of fulfilling her lifelong ambition of secession from the United Kingdom. She’ll win separation, and then quit? Unlike the Italian unionist Garibaldi or Cincinnatus who saved Rome, should the battle be won she does not have a plough to return to.

All of this suggests the reality is that Nicola Sturgeon intends to end her career in pantomime and doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process.

She must know that despite Brexit, the troubles of Boris Johnson, and the cost-of-living crisis, the majority of Scots don’t want to leave the UK. And together with a large number of Scots who do, they don’t want even to hold a referendum. Despite her Supreme Court pleadings, Nicola Sturgeon has known for 15 years that the Scotland Act does not give her the power to hold one.

Surely she cannot possibly believe the SNP will win more than 50 per cent of the vote in the next UK general election. If she did, she wouldn’t be hinting at quitting.

So what Scotland has to endure is this farce where the First Minister pretends she wants to hold a referendum until she decides to retire.

Forget about the cost-of-living crisis. Forget about the state of our schools and hospitals. Forget about the ferries and the failed census. Ms Sturgeon has a quarrelsome mob of secessionists to hold together and if that is her priority then it has to be everyone’s.

If she truly believed she was on the brink of building a new nation she would have the utmost ease in condemning the mob. But this isn’t about a cohesive nation, it is about maintaining a dysfunctional coalition until the First Minister calls time and lands that mythical ‘big’ international job.

It is not that Nicola Sturgeon embodies Scotland’s hopes, it is that Scotland comes second to Ms Sturgeon’s own career. It is worse than the ‘Chief Mammy’ being unable to control her weans. It is time to send for the social workers.

Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife

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