Where does Salmond trial leave the SNP and Scottish politics?

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon once enjoyed a close relationship but that has now been destroyed.

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon together in happier times.
Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon together in happier times.

Between them they have been running Scotland for the past 13 years, they’ve been running the SNP for most of the last 30 years.

But this court case has seen relations between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor, Alex Salmond, wither and die.  

So where does that leave the SNP and Scottish politics?

Outside court Salmond said: “There is certain evidence that I would like to have seen led in this trial but for a variety of reasons we were not able to do so.”

He has long claimed there was a political conspiracy against him within the SNP and the evidence of his claims will be handed over to a Scottish Parliament inquiry.

The committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints has been set up “to consider and report on the actions of the First Minister, government officials and special advisers in dealing with complaints about Alex Salmond”.

We’ve already heard from former justice secretary Kenny Macaskill that resignations should follow this court ruling, and SNP MP Joanna Cherry wants his immediate reinstatement as a party member.

There are a splits in the SNP, where the party has been united for over a decade. The divisions are based on the strategy and timing of another independence referendum, but the Salmond case has become a proxy.

Sturgeon was once the protege of Salmond but this case has destroyed that relationship. There has been some speculation about the impact of this judgement on her position.

So where does this leave the SNP and Scottish politics? Well party politics is on hold, postponed until after the coronavirus crisis. At some point in the future, Sturgeon will have to answer questions on how the party and government she leads handled this. She says she “will welcome that, but the time is not now”.

Now is the time when Sturgeon’s leadership will be judged on how she steers Scotland through the biggest health crisis in living memory.

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