Nicola Sturgeon branded 'Stalin's wee sister' as SNP election fall-out spirals

A former SNP MP has launched a scathing attack on former first minister Nicola Sturgeon after the party’s poor election results

Nicola Sturgeon has been branded “Stalin’s wee sister” and accused of turning the SNP into a “leadership cult” as tensions mount within the party.

Former MP and deputy leader of the party Jim Sillars has written an open letter to members calling on them to take their party back following the SNP’s dismal election result.

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He says the election result, which saw the number of SNP MPs drop from 48 to just nine, was a referendum on the Scottish Government. 

This comes after some high-profile figures within the party said the former first minister was to blame for the bad election result.

Joanna Cherry KC, who lost her Edinburgh South West seat last week, even suggested she issue a personal apology to the former MPs like herself. 

Former SNP minister Alex Neil also called on First Minister John Swinney to resign.

Mr Swinney has vowed he will not be stepping down as leader of the party, and will lead the SNP into the 2026 Scottish election.

Mr Sillars also launched a direct attack on her husband Peter Murrell, the party’s former chief executive who has been charged in connection with a police investigation into alleged embezzlement within the SNP.

In his letter, Mr Sillars said: “You acquiesced on changes to the constitution which shifted all power to a leadership cult, with the party then run by Stalin’s wee sister - imposing a politburo of two exercising an iron grip on the organisation, and the annual conference.

Former SNP MP Jim Sillars.Former SNP MP Jim Sillars.
Former SNP MP Jim Sillars.

“When you had doubts, you hid behind the mantra of Wheesht for Indy, letting error build on error.”

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Mr Sillars continued in his open letter to say members should be “grateful” Westminster did not grant a second independence referendum, saying the party’s indy strategy is “suicidal”.

He said: “You got so used to not thinking for yourselves that you allowed the party to be hollowed out intellectually.

“Intellectual rigour, an indispensable tool for policymaking, disappeared when you clapped Nicola’s repeated claims for another referendum, seemingly unaware that the SNP had become just the referendum party committed to the suicidal policy of putting the cart before the horse.

“Be grateful Westminster refused to give her one, a mistake they will come to regret.

“You kept quiet too when Nicola made it explicit that the last Holyrood election was not about independence, but about her.”

Mr Sillars said he has chosen to speak out because his “political ambitions are behind me”, adding someone had to tell members “the truth”.

He then turned to the party’s fortunes leading up to the 2026 Scottish Parliament election.

Last week the party returned only nine MPs, none of which are from the central belt.

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Scottish Labour now has its sights firmly set on this election and its chance to make leader Anas Sarwar First Minister, after watching seat after seat turn red at the general election.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar. Image: Getty Images.Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar. Image: Getty Images.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar. Image: Getty Images. | Getty Images

Mr Sillars now suggests the poor general election result was the public’s way of calling time on the SNP-led Scottish Government too.

He suggested “marginal issues” had been prioritised over the NHS, education and housing by the Scottish Government, which made the election result “inevitable”.

In his letter, he continued: “July was inevitable given how the Sturgeon/Swinney era misled the movement, lost its common sense in government, promoted marginal issues as national priorities while the real priorities of the people such as education, housing, NHS [and] infrastructure, were notable only for the staggering level of incompetence with which they were dealt with.

“Whether the leadership has the grace to repent is of no matter - it is a busted flush. The people have no regard for them.

“Last Thursday wasn’t about who the Scots sent to Westminster, it was a referendum on the Scottish Government, and a condemnatory verdict was delivered.”

He ended his call to members by saying: “We can put away the sackcloth and ashes if the members face up to their responsibility for what has happened and recognise the need to re-assert their power and importance.

“Only you can reconstruct the party to take back power from the leadership, and rebalance the relationship when it is in government.

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“Only you can restore the party as the prime policymaking part of the movement. Only you can demand that our government concentrates on the real problems that face our people.”

He also said SNP members should reach out to Alex Salmond’s Alba Party, despite the fact every Alba candidate at the election lost their deposits after failing to secure enough votes.

He said it would be “sensible” to get these members back to the SNP ranks, because the party “needs their talent and energy”.

This comes as the new MPs in Westminster were officially sworn in.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn spoke as Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was voted in, saying there are more new Scottish MPs than he would like to have seen.

Previously Mr Flynn said the party needed to act with “honesty and humility” to get voters who left them for Labour back on side.

Writing in the Daily Record, he said: “We were beaten and we were beaten well - we can’t and we won’t run away from that truth.

“Honesty and humility is the only response with any hope of winning back those who voted for others or those who decided to stay at home.”

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The Aberdeen South MP added: “The distraction of dealing with our own internal difficulties has meant people began to feel that we were detached from their daily lives and lived experience.

“We have lost trust and it’s our job, and our job alone, to win it back.”

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