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Andrew Marr: The SNP have a new leader, but the reputational damage caused by the leadership race will only help Labour
27 March 2023, 18:09 | Updated: 28 March 2023, 01:52
Andrew Marr has said that the Scottish National Party's performance under new leader Humza Yousaf could have profound effects across the UK, as Labour seek to capitalise on division within the SNP at the next election.
Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, the presenter said the leadership race had been damaging to the SNP's reputation, with close second in the race Kate Forbes, tearing into the new leader over his handling of the health service, policing and transport in Scotland.
Andrew said: "What I try to do at the top of this show, obviously, is to talk about the day’s news, and what it means. To talk to everybody.
"But today's a little different. Most of what I need to say is directed at everyone listening in England and Wales - Indeed, anywhere except Scotland - because the Scots know very well how important today's news of a new SNP leader is.
"I want to persuade the rest of you that it matters to you too. This is about your country, and the next government you live under.
"In some ways the Scottish National Party has been hugely successful, winning election after election north of the border and replacing Labour as the dominant party in Scotland, first under Alex Salmond and then Nicola Sturgeon.
"But it’s also been hugely unsuccessful in that Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. Founded in 1934 by the merger of two smaller parties, one of them pretty right wing, the other leftish, it doggedly worked its way from the margins of politics to become the third largest party in today's Westminster Parliament.
"Only once, in the referendum of 2014, has it come close to its dream of an independent Scotland and it fell short by 1.6 million votes to 2 million.
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"Since then it’s struggled to find a way through, against a Westminster opposed to another referendum.
"The polls in favour of Scottish independence bounce up and down but at the moment there is an anti-independence majority of between 4 and 8 points.
Humza Yousaf wins SNP leadership race and will be Scotland's new First Minister
"Unionists should avoid triumphalism. Because that's quite a small gap.
"If Scots managed to get another vote on the issue and left the UK, that would leave everybody listening tonight living in a rather different country – different flag probably, different name perhaps, different territory, an EU border running across the north of England… and the rest of the UK smaller, weaker, more hemmed in.
"So this doesn't just affect Scotland. But there’s another more immediate reason why English and Welsh listeners should be interested.
"The SNP leadership campaign badly damaged the party's reputation: in particular, the candidate who came a narrow second today, Kate Forbes, absolutely ripped into the record of the man who won, Hamza Yusuf, over his handling of the NHS, policing and transport in Scotland.
Alex Salmond: Humza Yousaf should take Scottish independence seriously
"Labour in particular is eyeing the prospect of winning a whole bunch of new seats in Scotland it perhaps wouldn't have won had Nicola Sturgeon still been in charge. How many? Experts differ; but anywhere between six and 20 they say.
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"And that might make the crucial difference which allowed Labour to get over the line at the next general election and form the next government for the UK.
"In other words, what happens in Scotland, now affects everywhere south of the border too. This afternoon Kate Forbes won 48 percent of the vote against Hamza Yusuf’s 52 percent.
"He was widely seen as the candidate closest to Nicola Sturgeon - the continuity candidate - and he has a lot to do to heal the party and restore its reputation.
Andrew Marr interviews SNP MP Stewart Hosie
"In his opening speech, He sounded a humble note, well aware of the scale of the Challenge ahead of him.
"Interestingly, independence wasn’t the main feature of his acceptance speech. He talked a lot about lifting people out of poverty, about net zero, about fairness, social justice and how great it would be to get Scotland back into the EU.
"So far as independence itself, however, he promised to kick-start a civic-led movement.. which may be a good idea but sounds rather a long-term project. A bit of a lack of urgency?"