The news at the weekend that Angus Robertson has stepped down as deputy leader of the SNP was rather overshadowed by ongoing Brexit woes and the internal factions of the Conservative Party briefing against one another. Considered to be one of the SNP’s most able politicians, it was widely accepted that Angus Robertson defeat in last year’s election was a great loss to Westminster. He was praised for his weekly, incisive questioning of the Prime Minister, and his management of a large cohort of newly elected and rather inexperienced MPs in the 2015 General Election.
What does this mean for the SNP and the seemingly good relationship that Ms Sturgeon had with her former deputy? They managed to give the appearance of working well together in essence by not interfering in each other’s turf. Will the party want to continue along these veins, or will they decide to test their leader a little more after what has been a rather rocky year for the Scottish First Minister? A failed attempt to push forward another independence referendum, loss of their majority in Holyrood and a peripheral role in Brexit negotiations has put Ms Sturgeon on shaky ground. And whilst party elders always like to have harmony in their upper echelons, installing someone who will keep Ms Sturgeon on her toes is not a wholly unappetising thought.
The party membership could have rather similar views, and it is they who have the final vote. As we have seen in the past, that can often put the leadership on a rocky path (Corbyn and Watson and Blair and Prescott immediately spring to mind). Party membership hate to feel ignored, and if they take the view that their leader should have listened more to them and less to her closest advisers, they might want to exact some revenge and make her life and leadership a little more awkward.
Nationalists are demoralised at the moment – Scotland will not be a member of the Customs Union as a result of the UK Government’s position, despite their best efforts to carve out a unique position for themselves. Independence must seem like a pipe dream and Ruth Davidson and the Conservative Party are continuing their rise and rise in popularity. It remains to be seen who puts themselves forward and on what platform, but a candidate who is not considered to be mainstream is surely a strong bet. And whoever wins this contest will give a strong indication of how Nicola Sturgeon is viewed by the rest of the party and how sure she can be of her future as their leader.