8 Apr 2015

Nicola Sturgeon: for many Scots, the SNP leader can do no wrong

I am in Aberdeen for the second Scottish party leaders’ debate. Last night’s was quite fiery. Labour say they felt that they  started getting some scrutiny on the SNP’s voting record. The SNP feel they made Jim Murphy look awkward discarding their ever so helpful offer of support. Jim Murphy would see that generous offer as the equivalent of kicking Labour so badly to the ground in Scotland that it can barely reach out its arm to be helped back to its feet.

Aberdeen is hurting right now. The oil industry that supports it has squeezed down with the oil price plummet. Oil and projected tax revenues from oil were at the centre of the SNP’s independence sell last year. Many at the time including the IFS said the yes camp projections for tax revenues were hugely inflated. I put it to Nicola Sturgeon she’d been selling Scotland a false prospectus but the first minister insisted land would make up any shortfall.

Passers-by who stopped to spectate the Nicola Sturgeon photo op in Aberdeen town centre told me it didn’t matter if the numbers didn’t add up, the point was anything was better than corrupt, horrible Westminster.

I asked Nicola Sturgeon about her refusal in last night’s debate to rule out an early  second referendum. She had promised in the campaign that it would be a generation before Scotland voted again (helpfully she spelt out last year that was 15 years). Last night she was jeered when she refused to rule out another one quite soon.

But again, when I spoke to folk in Aberdeen town centre about the broken vow, for want of a better phrase, they couldn’t care less. “So what?” was the gist.

Jim Callaghan famously talked  about a political “sea change” in 1979 and sensing he was on the wrong side of one. But Labour in 1979 went down across the whole of the UK by not many more seats (50) than they stand to lose this year in Scotland alone.

Labour MPs fighting for their political lives in once safe seats say there are glimmers of hope in a small number of constituencies. I’m used to hearing politicians over-state their confidence and I’m not sure I wasn’t hearing just that. Talk for longer and you sense they barely sense glacial change in their direction.

One Labour MP talked of how some voters had got their anger with Labour off their chests and might now listen. He recalled rants he’d been subjected to about how there wouldn’t be a Tory government ever again if people like him hadn’t voted no.

You almost feel the SNP leader, for many, can do no wrong. Quite a few voters say they prefer her to Alex Salmond. She has arrived in the top job with perfect timing and it would seem, for many Scots, perfect casting.

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