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by Staff reporter
15 January 2024
Former SNP minister says party has become ‘empty vessel’ with ‘no ideology’

Credit: Anna Moffat

Former SNP minister says party has become ‘empty vessel’ with ‘no ideology’

A former SNP justice secretary has spoken out about his feelings of “grief, contempt, and of rage” at the state of the party.

Kenny MacAskill, who defected to Alex Salmond’s Alba in 2021, said his former party has become an “empty vessel” – and placed the blame with former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

In an exclusive interview with Holyrood magazine, he said the SNP had become a party with “no ideology, no direction” since Sturgeon took over after the independence referendum of 2014.

And he accused her of fostering “cult-like adoration” culminating in “almost glam rock” events at Glasgow’s Hydro venue, which he described as “gobsmacking” and “unhealthy”.

MacAskill, who won his East Lothian seat for the SNP in 2019 before switching to Alba just over a year later, said: “I’ve got no regrets on leaving, it was the right thing to do.

“I look at what the SNP is now and while it’s not really for me to comment because it’s no longer my party, I look at the damage that it’s done to the wider independence movement, and I have a mixture of grief, contempt, and of rage at what it has become.”

The MP drew comparisons between the SNP now and Labour in the early noughties. He added: “There’s a synergy between the black suits and red ties of New Labour and the black dresses and yellow blouses that now exists in the SNP. What are they there for? What are their politics?

“I put the blame for this change firmly down to Nicola Sturgeon and those around her, because the party became highly centralised.”

MacAskill, who served in Salmond’s cabinet alongside Sturgeon between 2007 and 2014, was also critical of her record as health secretary.

He said: “When I was in cabinet, Mike Russell made big changes in education, I reformed police and fire [as justice secretary], and nothing was done with health under Nicola.”

He also accused her of failing to get to grips with issues such as public service reform when she was first minister, adding: “The budget debacle that we now face is catastrophic and has long roots”.

On the task ahead for First Minister Humza Yousaf, he said: “I have great sympathy for Humza, he has inherited, frankly, a disaster, and that comes back to Nicola Sturgeon. He has inherited her mess.”

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