SNP LEADERSHIP: Jackie Baillie says the SNP ‘must protect against corruption’

Keep the SNP civil unrest out of the campaign says Labour’s deputy leader 

Jackie Ballie calls for SNP to be transparent about the leadership processJackie Baillie calls for SNP to be transparent about the leadership process.

By Lucy Ashton

Updated Tuesday, 12 noon

Jackie Baillie MSP is set to challenge the SNP’s credentials in countering corruption and what she calls “murky internal politics”.

The Scottish Labour representative has told the SNP president Mike Russell and controversial chief executive Peter Murrell that the SNP’s bitter infighting must not have an impact on the process of electing a new First Minister.

The so-called civil war has led to accusations of conspiracy to ensure Humza Yousaf lands the top job, incidents of corruption from an MSP in South Scotland, conflicts of interest in the leadership as well as a record of “secrecy and cover-up”.

The party is gearing up to hear more from Mr Yousaf, Kate Forbes and outlier Ash Regan in the race to become the next First Minister, but Ms Baillie has warned the big names of the campaign as well as the Electoral Commission that “openness and integrity” must be kept that the forefront of proceedings.

Laying out a series of five questions, Scottish Labour’ deputy leader said: “The SNP are not just electing their next party leader – they are choosing the next First Minister of Scotland, and we cannot let their murky internal politics derail this process.

“Their long track record of secrecy and cover-up raises questions about their ability to conduct this race fairly and honestly. If anyone is expected to believe the SNP can govern with integrity and openness, then these principles must be at the heart of this race.

“The SNP must respond to these serious questions and protect against corruption in this race.”

The questions put to the SNP, include:  Will the voting process be entirely independent of the party?

  1. Will Peter Murrell excuse himself from the process entirely?
  2. Can you confirm that the voting system used is fully protected against hacking and interference?
  3. Does the voting system being used match the standards legally required of Trade Union ballots?
  4. Will the results of the vote be published in full?

Already the party has been forced to allow media access to their hustings events after the plan was to originally keep them closed to all but the SNP membership. Even after the initial change of tune, the party refused to broadcast the latest online hustings.

Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Mr Murrell will have his position challenged if Ms Forbes or Ms Regan make the top job, only adding to the concern that the executive has a vested interest in guaranteeing neither succeeds.

The ballot will open at noon on Monday, March 13, and close at noon on Monday, March 27, before the successor to Ms Sturgeon will be announced as SNP leader.

The SNP has been asked to comment.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives have come out fighting ON BEHALF of the media as we move ever closer to tonight’s (Tuesday) televised debate with STV political editor Colin MacKay at 9pm.

The SNP leadership candidates have today been urged by the Tories to drop their “shameful and increasingly hysterical attacks” on the independent media.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy has written an open letter to Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf accusing them of not allowing the media to do its job properly, and of “pandering to the worst excesses and paranoia of the Nationalist movement”.

His letter comes ahead of the first of the televised leadership debates this evening, and in the wake of controversial comments by the candidates in the early hustings – which the SNP initially tried to ban journalists from seeing.

During last night’s hustings in Dumfries, Ash Regan claimed that there was a link between voting patterns in the south of Scotland and the fact that viewers there see ITV rather than STV. She previously agreed with a description of journalists as the SNP’s “mortal enemies”.

Humza Yousaf has spoken of the need to challenge the “drivel” coming from “some sections of the media” and described a question about the media’s alleged hostility to the SNP as “excellent”.

Kate Forbes, meanwhile, has sought to blame the media for the disastrous start to her campaign, for merely reporting her comments on same-sex marriage and the furore they caused within the SNP.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “These shameful and increasingly hysterical attacks on the media from all of the SNP leadership candidates have to stop.

“By castigating independent journalists who are just doing their job, they are pandering to the worst excesses and paranoia of the Nationalist movement.

“As would-be First Ministers, the three of them should be challenging this nonsense – that, unless journalists are faithfully parroting SNP propaganda, they are part of an anti-Nationalist conspiracy – not giving it credence.

“Ash Regan’s attack on ITV’s integrity was appalling and without foundation – but the other two candidates are guilty too.

“Humza Yousaf is playing to the gallery by endorsing SNP members’ attacks on the media, while Kate Forbes has the audacity to blame journalists for her catastrophic campaign launch.

“The media were only doing their job by reporting views that she willingly expressed on same-sex marriage and the furious reaction to them from within the SNP.

“What did she expect journalists to do – not report the fact that colleagues were dis-endorsing her as a result?

“The SNP has become synonymous with secrecy and obstructing the media under Nicola Sturgeon – and we saw that instinct continue in their initial efforts to impose a media blackout on the hustings.

“This paranoia and lack of transparency has to stop. But the early signs from all three leadership contenders are that it could get even worse.”

Kate Forbes has blamed the media for discussion around her religious views. When it was suggested that her religious views could create “big problems” for her, Forbes replied: “Mostly because journalists want to keep going back to those problems.” (The Scotsman, 5 March 2023, link)

Ash Regan agreed with the description of journalists as your “mortal enemies”. The question put to the candidates was, “are you ready for the television hustings because you’re getting into bed with your mortal enemies and these people will disfigure your narrative, disfigure your personal life, disfigure everything else you have to say about the SNP and they’re out to make the SNP unelectable in Scotland”. Ash Regan’s first words of her response were, “yeah Peter I agree with you there and I think that we all know we’ve got a fairly hostile media.” (SNP Inverness hustings, 01:46:20, link)

Humza Yousaf praised an “excellent” question about the media’s alleged hostility to the SNP. Yousaf said: “The other thing we should do, this goes back again to, I keep going back to Ian Murray’s excellent first opening question”. Ian Murray’s question was “What will the candidates do to counter the misinformation, lies and antipathy aimed at our party on a daily basis by journalists based in Scotland?” (SNP Hustings, 34.34 & 1:57:32, 1 March 2023, link

Ash Regan’s attack on ITV can be seen here:

Humza Yousaf’s attack on “drivel” from some sections of the media can be seen here:

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