Nicola Sturgeon on brink as replacement was already ‘lined up’ before Alex Salmond row

Nicola Sturgeon: SNP facing ‘biggest row’ in Scottish politics

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The Scottish First Minister has been found to have misled the Scottish Parliament over the Alex Salmond row, sources told the BBC last night dealing a huge blow to Ms Sturgeon. A special Holyrood committee ruled, by five votes to four, that Scotland’s First Minister gave an “inaccurate” account of her meetings with Mr Salmond in 2018 during evidence on oath to MSPs earlier this month. The SNP leader hit back last night, saying she stands by the evidence she gave, adding: “What has been clear is that opposition members of this committee made their minds up before I uttered a single word of evidence. Their public comments have made that clear.” As anticipated, opposition figures have called for Ms Sturgeon to stand down.

Scottish Conservative Party leader, Douglas Ross, said last night: “We have called out the First Minister based on the overwhelming evidence that she misled Parliament.

“We will continue to hold her to the same standards as previous First Ministers of Scotland and demand that she resigns.”

Whether the First Minister will resign is unknown, but reports in October suggested that the SNP was already preparing for life without Ms Sturgeon.

Former Scottish Government adviser, Alex Bell, claimed there was a plan for former MP Angus Robertson to succeed her.

Mr Bell said Mr Robertson, a previous SNP deputy to Ms Sturgeon, had already benefited from a shameless “party fix” to help him become an MSP next year at the expense of MP Joanna Cherry QC.

He was referring to the scrap within the SNP to become the candidate for the Edinburgh Central seat in this year’s Holyrood election.

Mr Robertson won the candidacy, but former SNP frontbencher Joanna Cherry claimed her bid was hobbled by “outside interference”.

Mr Bell suggested Ms Cherry’s bid was “sabotaged” to aid Mr Robertson and a longer-term succession plan, but had helped make the SNP look like “a knot of vipers” in the process.

Andrew Wilson, who authored the SNP’s coronavirus economic blueprint, tried to play down talk of a feud in a column for The Herald.

But Mr Bell responded in a piece for The Courier: “Andrew Wilson, he of the SNP’s Growth Commission, addressed the nation through a newspaper last Sunday.

“Looking like an avuncular Tom Hanks, plump in his wing-back chair, he said we will be independent by 2026.

“He quickly got in a spat with Joanna Cherry, whose legitimate shot at contesting Edinburgh Central for the SNP was sabotaged by a party fix so crude it would have made Tammany Hall blush.

“Wilson’s defence of Angus Robertson, also bidding to stand in Edinburgh Central, is based on the plan that the former MP become the next party boss.”

In February last year, Mr Robertson tried to quash speculation surrounding a leadership bid.

He said he was running for the Edinburgh Central seat as a supporter of Ms Sturgeon.

He added: “My long track record as a political team player and colleague of Nicola Sturgeon, including as her deputy over three years, should make absolutely clear that I am running to support her leadership.

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“I want to be selected as a full-time candidate for Edinburgh Central and elected as an SNP MSP to support her as First Minister in the Scottish Parliament, to secure and more importantly win the independence referendum.”

The alleged plans of some SNP insiders to replace Ms Sturgeon will still depend on the First Minister’s resignation.

Her fighting talk yesterday evening suggests she isn’t willing to give up the fight just yet as Scotland waits for the report to be published on Tuesday, the day before Holyrood is dissolved for the May election campaign.

The controversy appears to have hurt Ms Sturgeon, as a new poll from Opinium for Sky News shows the SNP are set to narrowly miss out on a majority at May’s Holyrood elections.

It puts support for the SNP at 46 percent in the constituency vote and 42 percent on the regional list with the Scottish Conservatives their closest challengers on 24 percent and 22 percent respectively.

Opinium said such a result would see the SNP miss out on a majority in Holyrood by one seat, the Tories lose two seats to 29, Labour unchanged on 24, and the Greens up one seat to seven, with the Liberal Democrats taking the rest.

The poll did also indicate a narrow lead for a Yes vote in a hypothetical independence referendum of 51 percent.

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