Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, “faces what is the most severe test of her leadership with her party split from top to bottom and her own truthfulness called into serious question”, says Alan Cochrane in The Daily Telegraph. The recent collapse of an internal investigation into claims that former leader Alex Salmond harassed two civil servants, with a court ruling that it suffered from flaws, has led to “open warfare” between the rival supporters of Salmond and Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister. Salmond has also hinted that members of Sturgeon’s’s team leaked rumours that he was about to be charged by the police.
This is a “sad and tawdry” tale and the plight of the women who made the initial complaints is in danger of being overlooked, says The Times. Still, with both Salmond and Sturgeon effectively accusing each other of lying, “this is now a battle for survival in which someone must lose but from which there is no guarantee anyone can emerge victorious”. Things have escalated so far it is no longer unthinkable that it could end Sturgeon’s career.
Whatever the final outcome of the police investigation into Salmond and any inquiry into Sturgeon’s role, the split between its two major figures could not have come at a worse time for the SNP, says Nick McKerrell in The Scotsman. Sturgeon is rumoured to want a second independence referendum in the near future, but that would need “a unified and strong ‘yes’ campaign” to stand any hope of winning. A police investigation, standards committee involvement and the machinations of supporters of Salmond will not help.