The second aspect is more serious for the SNP, however. The last few days have not been the best for Sturgeon or her party. An ongoing Scottish parliamentary investigation into what is known as “the Salmond affair” has run into the sand because of Sturgeon and her ministers’ refusal to honour promises they made to provide internal government documents to MSPs looking into the shambolic and illegal internal inquiry into complains made against the former first minister.
Most Scots aren’t that interested in all this procedural malarkey, but a number of respected and tenacious journalists are following events closely and it has the air of a scandal that could blow up in someone’s face at some point soon. To make things more uncomfortable for Sturgeon, her own husband, who also happens to be the chief executive of the SNP, has been drawn into the controversy, which boils down to whether or not you’re a member of Team Sturgeon or Team Salmond.
The other reason for the SNP’s less than ideal week is the revelation that disgraced former finance minister Derek Mackay, who hasn’t appeared at Holyrood since February when he was forced to resign over inappropriate text messages he sent to a teenage boy, has been claiming accommodation expenses in Edinburgh ever since. The Ferrier controversy just adds to the perception that this is a party that has become too complacent and comfortable in office, that it is taking Scottish votes for granted. On the other hand, Ferrier might just provide the distraction Sturgeon needs to take attention away from her more local problems.
This leads us to the third aspect of the Ferrier case. Every SNP parliamentarian at Holyrood and at Westminster is either a supporter of Sturgeon or of Salmond. Asserting neutrality is as plausible as a Glaswegian claiming he has no strong feelings about whether Celtic or Rangers win the Scottish premiership. And Ferrier is not seen as neutral; in fact she is assumed to be in Salmond’s camp, along with arch Sturgeon sceptic Joanna Cherry MP. This being the case, the strength of Sturgeon’s Tweet of condemnation (her personal emoting notwithstanding) is understandable. Every Salmond supporter removed from Westminster or Holyrood makes her own position more secure, and makes it all the more likely that when she chooses to stand aside, one of her own supporters will succeed her.