Sturgeon losing her grip on SNP as MP criticises independence strategy

Nicola Sturgeon grilled in tense clash over Isla Bryson

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Speculation is mounting that Nicola Sturgeon’s tenure as First Minister is in peril after an SNP MP publicly criticised her independence strategy with others questioning her political judgement in recent weeks. The latest row follows the Scottish First Minister receiving the flak over attempts to push through the Gender Recognition Reform Bill without any safeguards for women in safe spaces.

The row comes ahead of a special conference the SNP is planning to hold next month on March 19 for the nationalist party to decide its strategy to get independence.

SNP members are due to be given two options, including Ms Sturgeon’s plan of attempting to win a majority of the votes in Scotland at the next general election and using that as a “de facto referendum”.

She then wants to use an election mandate to negotiate separation with the UK.

The second option is to use the Scottish Parliament election in 2026 in the same way.

The proposals come after the UK Supreme Court ruled late last year that the Scottish Parliament does not have the authority to instigate a referendum without permission from Westminster.

But Mr McDonald, normally an ally of Ms Sturgeon’s, has produced a paper disagreeing with both proposals.

He has warned that the options have “the potential for all sorts of problems for the cause” and “will not deliver independence”.

Speaking to BBC Good Morning Scotland today, the Glasgow South MP added: “I think part of the reason why we are stuck at the moment and that there is this miasma of impatience – impatience that I share entirely – is because support for independence isn’t yet clearly the sustained majority opinion in Scotland.

“I think that is the problem that we need to fix with some urgency before we go into the next election.”

He suggested that instead the SNP should pursue a “legitimate referendum”.

The criticism over Ms Sturgeon’s core strategy from a normally loyal MP is the latest blow to the Scottish First Minister’s authority.

While Mr McDonald was among those who supported her on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill blocked by the UK government, other SNP MPs and MSPs, including Edinbourgh South West MP Joanna Cherry, have criticised Ms Sturgeon both publicly and privately.

One senior SNP politician told “She [Sturgeon] is in real trouble. This GRR business has really undermined her authority.

“It did not help her that the majority of SNP members did not want it and the majority of Scots don’t want it.”

Questions are also being asked about whether it has put back independence by making the UK government appear like a “safeguard” against unpopular legislation.

Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, now lead of Alba, has lambasted Ms Sturgeon for putting back independence over the issue branding the gender reforms as “daft ideology” and “self-indulgent nonsense”.

A Scottish MP from a pro-UK party told “The SNP’s discipline seems to be falling apart. I have never seen so many attack their leader. It would have been unheard of until recently.”


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