SNP in tatters as insiders warn ‘anti-Sturgeon alliance’ is being formed within party

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The Scottish First Minister and her party appear to be in an incredibly strong position as her pro-independence argument regains traction and the SNP is tipped for a dominant display in next year’s elections. A Savanta ComRes poll, on behalf of the Scotsman, was the 17th study in a row to show majority support for Scotland leaving the UK, with just 42 per cent backing the Union. However, despite the SNP’s stronghold, insiders have warned that Ms Sturgeon is still facing opposition within her own party.

In December, more than 20 activists, councillors and MPs critical of Ms Sturgeon’s leadership and her policies on independence, the economy and transgender rights were elected to the party’s national executive as office bearers and ruling committees.

It came as a surprise to many in the SNP, and has led to warnings that the First Minister will face more challenges to her leadership.

Among the objectives for the “rebellion” group is to support Alex Salmond’s return to the SNP, although one new NEC member denied this.

They told the Guardian: “This is not about getting Alex Salmond back into politics nor is it anti-Nicola. Leading our agenda is democratising the party, improving governance and developing a better strategy on independence.”

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A former NEC member in the party said the results had sent shockwaves throughout the party.

They said: “They didn’t see it coming. This is the party’s Brexit vote.”

Another activist said: “There’s an alliance of people who are all discontented with Nicola Sturgeon and they’re all discontented for different reasons.

“We’re starting to look a bit like the Labour party.”

SNP sources challenged these claims however, as one said: “Any deductions drawn from the make-up [of these bodies] are overblown.

“We’re aware that there’s a change, but there’s no panic buttons being pressed. They may have influence, but they don’t have power.”

The 20 members are also said to be pressing for the party to legally challenge the UK government if it blocks a second independence referendum and seeking to promote candidates critical of party leaders to favourable positions in the list rankings for the Holyrood election in 2021.

SNP stalwart, Jim Sillars, also highlighted the party’s divisions in 2016 ahead of the Brexit vote.

Mr Sillars is a eurosceptic, and highlighted the feud in the party over whether Scotland should be in the EU.

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He said: “There is a tendency if anyone within the party criticises the leadership to be then described as being disloyal. I think that’s a very unhealthy situation inside any democratic political party.

“There may be a situation in which a number of people would like to come out openly and say ‘I don’t agree with the party leadership on the EU’, but prefer not to say so in public. I’m not in that category.

“I’ve said this to SNP members: what I cannot get my head round with the continuing SNP love affair with the EU is for us to go and bat for the EU, an organisation which, during the referendum, told us to get stuffed and would no doubt tell us to get stuffed second time round as well.”

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