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HomeNewsMr and Mrs Murrell, Scotland’s Ceausescus

Mr and Mrs Murrell, Scotland’s Ceausescus


THE SNP promised Scotland ‘open and transparent government’. What we have instead is a closed government shrouding itself in a protective layer of non-communication and secrecy with constant demands that we do as we are told and that objections to their diktats are irrelevant. In Scotland SNP stands for ‘Secrets? Nae Problem’.

The new Gender Recognition Act (GRA) which has been relentlessly pushed by the SNP and their governing partners, the irresponsible Scottish Greens, seeks to alter legislation concerning the status of transgender people. No longer will there be the need for two doctors to agree to a change of gender, self-identification is enough with the time in the person’s new identity being slashed from two years to three months. The age restriction for gender swap is to be reduced to 16.

All over Scotland, in every sector of society from feminists to the Roman Catholic church, there have been objections. According to a poll only about one in eight Scots agrees with Nicola Sturgeon that altering the law to let people quickly change their legal gender should be an urgent priority. But what does that matter? What Nicola wants, Nicola gets. Objections from women that this will put them at risk and take away their hard-won rights are airily dismissed as ‘not valid’ by the woman who declared herself to be ‘a feminist to my fingertips’.

Her intolerance of any form of dissent was highlighted when she heckled Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP, as he raised questions about the GRA in the Scottish Parliament last year. The First Minister, who had previously urged MSPs to ‘make an effort to disagree more civilly’, bellowed ‘Shame on you!’ across the Holyrood chamber. The normal standards of debate seem to be beyond Nicola Sturgeon’s capacity when she is crossed.

After thanking Murdo Fraser for his support, the campaign group For Women Scotland said: ‘She owes MSPs and ordinary women an apology and she needs to start to engage with us instead of ridiculing and dismissing us.’ But that is asking a lot from Sturgeon.

Once someone like her gains power it becomes a drug which needs constant fixes of increasing dosage. The latest is her plan to retain some of the emergency powers granted during the pandemic crisis. The Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill proposes changes in 30 legislative areas modified by temporary provisions made under Scottish and UK coronavirus laws. These include the creation of powers to ‘respond to public health emergencies’ including making permanent the ability to impose lockdown restrictions, close schools and release prisoners early, all without prior parliamentary approval. Deputy First Minister and Covid Recovery Secretary John Swinney blandly describes these as ‘pragmatic reforms’.

In Scotland we have a governing party which is mired in scandal, sexual and otherwise, which is incompetent to a degree (while the UK can build two aircraft carriers the SNP cannot build two ferries), which is rigidly controlled from the leader’s office and which is seeking to extend its powers.

This is possible only in a country where there is a tame media which fails to do its job of holding the powerful to account, and where the opposition politicians are inept. Little is made by either group of what we can charitably call the unorthodox arrangement of having a married couple at the head of both party and state apparatus. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, is SNP leader and Peter Murrell, her husband, has been CEO of the SNP since 1999. Although relatively unknown, Murrell is at the centre of the SNP’s web, controlling its organisation, campaigns and propaganda.

This is the type of arrangement which we accepted could happen in Soviet eastern Europe. In Romania Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu ruled together, whilst in the GDR Erich and Margot Honecker shared power. In both these cases there was a unity of party and state, and power was exercised ruthlessly – until it all fell apart.

It is difficult to think of an example of a power-sharing arrangement between husband and wife in any modern democratic state other than Scotland. Yet the dominance of Mr and Mrs Murrell continues unchallenged. It is doubtful that any public sector, business or media body would tolerate having a husband-and-wife team holding so much power. This indicates a complete absence of good practice and accountability at the top of the SNP.

There has been an ongoing police investigation into £600,000 donated to agitate for a second independence referendum. The crowdfunding donors were assured that the money would be ring-fenced for that purpose. Only it somehow disappeared into SNP general funds. Meanwhile ‘Where’s Peter?’ has been trending in Scotland, but Peter is keeping his head down and has disappeared from public view.

Three members of the party’s Finance and Audit Committee resigned after party CEO Murrell refused to show them accounts. This after Murrell had backed ‘real-time reporting of money going in and out of’ party bank accounts during campaigns. Clearly a case of ‘transparency for thee, but not for me’. The party’s former treasurer, Douglas Chapman MP, and high-profile MP Joanna Cherry also stepped down from their positions on the party’s national executive committee due to concerns around transparency.

In the SNP internal dissent is stamped on. Sturgeon and Murrell between them control all patronage, and use it effectively. Some wanting reform of the SNP establishment have been forced out. Former SNP MPs Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey, as well as local organisers and activists, joined the Salmond clique in the Alba party. Others like reformer Joanne Cherry remain in the party biding their time to make their move.

Yes, they are nationalists and they are socialists, but that does not make them National Socialists or Nazis. They are however, increasingly authoritarian with a strong intolerant streak.

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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