Michael Matheson scandal just another example of Holyrood making the SNP Westminster group's job harder
Stephen Flynn seemingly came out of nowhere to become leader of the SNP Westminster group, the Aberdeen South MP replacing Ian Blackford when many MPs didn’t think there was a vacancy to fill.Only elected in 2019, Mr Flynn was propelled to the leadership in December of last year, with SNP MPs craving a new voice and fresh approach to delivering for Scotland from Westminster, as well as advocating to get themselves out of it.
They hoped Mr Flynn could change how the Westminster group held the Government to account, the narrative around independence, and also do more to attack Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party.Polling at the time suggested 56 per cent of people would vote for Scottish independence, while 53 per cent of Scots would vote SNP in a General Election.
A year on, independence support continues to fluctuate, while the latest polls have seen SNP support plummet, with even the most optimistic seeing the vote share drop by 10 per cent.
But the thing is, this has nothing to do with Mr Flynn. At PMQs he has been a confident and aggressive performer, attacking the Government while also relentlessly challenging the Labour party.
Even on procedure, his party has found new methods of attack, with the ceasefire vote creating a huge headache for the Labour party. Portrayed as a matter of conscience by the SNP, many in the party were gleeful at the damage caused to Sir Keir.
Speaking to MPs, the vast majority are happy with his leadership, but also know it’s not the key problem at driving SNP support back up. That problem lies in Holyrood.
At a time the Westminster group wants to talk about energy bills or the Autumn Statement, the news is dominated by Michael Matheson’s children watching a football game on his iPad that he had no idea about. Agreeing to pay the £11,000 back only after being caught, SNP MPs are now the ones up first before the electorate, explaining why it's ok to mark their own homework.
If it’s not that it’s Nicola Sturgeon, the party’s greatest ever communicator now using her oratory skills to explain why this is all a misunderstanding, as images of the police in her garden linger among voters.
Or maybe it’s Kate Forbes, who recently reminded voters why she lost by defending silent prayer outside abortion clinics. These are not the views of a modern Scotland, and exactly the sort of illiberal attitude that is driving voters to Anas Sarwar’s Labour party.Then there’s Humza Yousaf himself, a man SNP MPs nicknamed as “hapless Humza”, sending videos of his falling off a scooter with music to each other.That’s not to say the SNP Westminster group doesn’t have blemishes, not least Mhairi Black’s attempt to get her mate a seat, but those aren’t the issues dominating the discourse in Scotland.
Mr Flynn has defied the odds and created a unified team in Westminster. The actions of his colleagues in Holyrood continue to prevent it making a difference.
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