Nicola Sturgeon resign fears as SNP insider warns ‘popularity on wane’

Rosena Allin-Khan says Scots 'deserve better than Nicola Sturgeon'

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Nicola Sturgeon has been warned by an SNP insider her “her popularity is on the wane” as pressure surges over her Government’s management of key policy areas in Scotland and continued doubts around a second referendum on independence. Scotland’s First Minister took to the stage at the annual SNP party conference in Aberdeen on Monday, launching further attacks on the Tories and Labour, announcing new support for low-income families, along with a rallying call to “finish the job” on Scottish independence.

The SNP leader pledged to continue serving as Scottish First minister “for quite some time yet” and vowed to do “everything in my power to build the better Scotland we all want to see”.

But despite the beyond tone being expressed by Ms Sturgeon during her rousing keynote speech, the same reportedly could not be said about the mood among some insiders at the conference.

Many of those behind the scenes also believe that regardless of she will be First Minister for “quite some time”, she is actively working out an exit strategy, with some claiming a departure post-general election is most likely, according to Sky News.

One “experienced” SNP figure said: “Her popularity is on the wane. It’s not in the stratosphere like during the COVID crisis.”

Privately, there have also been reported rumblings within about how key areas such as health and education are being managed, with hopes of securing a second vote on Scottish independence currently hanging in the balance.

One veteran nationalist told Sky News: “You hear the sentiment we’ve been in too long. There are policy failures almost on a daily basis. We look tired, we look stale, there are no new ideas.”

Another senior figure added: “A lot of people are becoming concerned about where we are. Conference is downbeat. The train strikes mean this is not nearly as well attended. Some are disaffected.”

Ms Sturgeon attempted to get on the front foot during her keynote speech, announcing the doubling of a £130 payment for 145,000 children and young people in receipt of free school meals.

She admitted this “wouldn’t make all of their worries go away – no Government with our limited powers can ever do that”, but that she hoped it’d bring “a bit of Christmas cheer to those who need it most”.

But talk around the push for another vote on Scottish independence was a dominant theme at the SNP conference, but it is one shrouded in huge doubt.

Downing Street is doing everything possible to block a second referendum and today the legal battle around it began in the Supreme Court, with Ms Sturgeon’s Government continuing to argue Parliament has the power to call another vote.

But senior figures in the party now appear to be resigned to the fact the chances of the First Minister’s Government coming out on top in the ruling are deteriorating.

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One of her allies told Sky News: “Sadly I think the weight of legal opinion is against us,” while a second insider commented: “It’s a foregone conclusion the Supreme Court will say we don’t have the power.”

Another was slightly more optimistic, adding: “On the balance of probabilities, we may lose. But win or lose could be a win for us, because we hope the justices recognise that this is a political impasse which needs to somehow be resolved.”

Alex Salmond, who was Scotland’s First Minister during the failed independence vote in 2014, has argued there is a “vacuum of strategic thinking” in the SNP which “does not augur well for the prospects of better planning in the aftermath” of the Supreme Court judgment.

He wrote on Twitter: “We have moved from an electorate not quite ready for independence but with a clear strategy to achieve it, to a people ready for independence but with no convincing strategy.”

Rumours have swirled around Holyrood over recent months that Ms Sturgeon is preparing to step down as leader of her party at the next election if she is unable to hold a new Scottish independence referendum next year.

But during her speech at the SNP conference, the First Minister appeared to put that speculation to bed, insisting she had no intention of stepping down from the top role – to which she received a standing ovation.

She said: “For as long as I am First Minister – and by the way conference, I intend that to be for quite some time yet – my job, our job, is not done.

“For as long as I am First Minister, I will do everything in my power to build the better Scotland we all want to see.”

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