What the arrogance of an unseated MP tells us about how deluded the SNP top team really are

By Graham Grant

DAYS before the general election, an SNP candidate took out an advert in a local paper telling voters the poll had nothing to do with independence.

That was a vile calumny, George Kerevan’s ad implied, of the kind peddled by the disgraceful pro-Union ‘Yoon Media’ (copyright one Alex Salmond).

No, this was an election about who should represent Scotland at Westminster, nothing whatsoever to do with the decades-old driving mission of the SNP to tear apart the United Kingdom.

Fast-forward to last Friday and Mr Kerevan, whose ad appeared in the East Lothian Courier, was out of a job, beaten by the Labour candidate, with the Tories not far behind.

Could it be that the voters didn’t entirely trust Mr Kerevan’s pitch; that perhaps the dead giveaway was that the SNP had put separatism at the heart of the party’s manifesto?

Some of those disgruntled voters might feel tempted to make a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Indeed that feeling might grow if they were to pick up a copy of yesterday’s pro-independence newspaper The National.

On the front cover, columnist Mr Kerevan could be found positing a curious thesis: ‘Despite last week’s setback, the increasing instability of the British state is our opportunity to seize Scottish independence.’

This is the sort of Braveheart nonsense that belongs to the era before last Thursday, when Nicola Sturgeon told anyone who would listen that the SNP had a mandate for another referendum, which was ‘highly likely’ to happen before Spring 2019.

It isn’t the kind of barmy bluster that has any place in the new landscape in which the SNP found itself in the early hours of last Friday, when some of its biggest hitters lost their jobs.

Mr Kerevan’s deluded ramblings also included his observation that the SNP’s success wouldn’t be ‘emulated by our anonymous replacements’ in the Commons.

A period of anonymity might be no bad thing, of course, when you consider the slew of controversies that hit the SNP group following the 2015 General Election – from police probes to a good old-fashioned sex scandal.

Leave aside the appalling insensitivity of a man who revels in the alleged ‘instability’ of the British state at a time when it is under unprecedented attack by jihadists – or the supreme lack of self-awareness of a failed SNP candidate raving about ‘seizing Scottish independence’.

Doesn’t this behaviour smack of a party in a state of acute self-denial, and one whose response to the deafening verdict of Scottish voters is simply to put its fingers in its ears?

Miss Sturgeon conceded that the outcome of the election ‘is something that I need to reflect on’, and furthermore that ‘it is my job and my duty to govern in the interests of everyone in Scotland.’

All of which is about as believable as Mr Kerevan’s advert telling voters that the SNP didn’t want independence.

But remember that this is a movement that is defined by a zealotry that is almost pathologically ingrained.

It will be unable to leave behind its separatist agenda, though in the short term it might devote marginally less time to it, and it could even focus a little more on education – the defining mission that Miss Sturgeon forgot about almost as soon as she had declared it her top priority.

A more pressing objective for her yesterday was a trip to London to demand continuing membership of the single market for the UK, and to meet her diminished rump of MPs: the period of careful reflection clearly didn’t last long.

As Scottish Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said: ‘Given that she’s just lost 40 per cent of her MPs, she’s in a great position to be making demands, of course.’

The electorate delivered a damning verdict not only on the SNP’s eternal fixation with independence, but also on its failure to get on with the more pedestrian business of, well, running the country.

Elsewhere in the party there are welcome signs that its cast-iron internal discipline is faltering, with former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill questioning whether or not the First Minister’s husband, Peter Murrell, should remain in post as SNP chief executive.

Mr MacAskill suggested that Mr Murrell’s judgement might be ‘subconsciously’ affected by being married to the party leader.

Ex-Health Secretary Alex Neil – with some understatement – has said the SNP’s call for a second independence referendum cost the SNP ‘a lot of votes’.

Former SNP minister Richard Lochhead tweeted on Sunday: ‘Dear @theSNP. Let’s take some time to understand why many voters including our own voted Tory. Show we’re listening. No fingers in ears.’

The mere fact this sensible plea was sent into cyberspace, rather than raised directly with the First Minister, might suggest that even those now emerging as Miss Sturgeon’s critics feel they can’t raise these concerns with her directly.

That’s hardly surprising for a party that has stifled internal dissent throughout much of its tenure – but it is no way of acknowledging that an immediate culture change is required.

Pompous buffoon John Nicolson proved himself a predictably graceless loser when he tweeted that the Lib Dem who ousted him in East Dunbartonshire, Jo Swinson, was not ‘overly troubled by wit nor self-deprecation’ – a comment he made without any apparent sense of irony. Yet more denial…

There’s no doubt the Tories south of the Border fought a kamikaze campaign, with the Prime Minister too much in thrall to special advisers who, it appears, behaved abominably to anyone who had the temerity to question Tory tactics (such as they were).

But there is also little doubt that the Tories are quickly regrouping after the shock election result, and acknowledging that the echo chamber style of leadership that was allowed to flourish under Mrs May must end.

Meanwhile, the SNP under Miss Sturgeon is haemorrhaging credibility every second that she refuses to commit to laying aside her call for another independence referendum – and every second is another insult to the country she pledges to represent.

The denial spreads further; independence supporters are still itching for another referendum.

Robin McAlpine, director of the pro-independence Common Weal think-tank, has revealed they are still ‘working on major initiatives to train a mass army of grassroots activists in the current leading-edge organising techniques’.

He also plans to meet the SNP now that the election is over to talk about indyref2; if the party does make time for Common Weal, it will prove that Miss Sturgeon is in no way serious about learning from her mistakes.

In the meantime, Miss Sturgeon is still recovering from the trauma of her mentor Mr Salmond’s departure from the Commons.

The erstwhile MP for Gordon was one of the casualties of the remarkable Tory revival in Scotland.

In recent months, Mr Salmond had demeaned himself by raving almost hysterically about the ‘Yoon Media’, and its supposed vendetta against the SNP.

The sad behaviour of our former First Minister was emblematic of his party’s declining fortunes.

Both were fighting a battle they hadn’t realised was already comprehensively lost – and both paid a heavy price at the ballot box.

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