The Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has been warned that her new cohort of MPs could include “unknown firebrands” who could “run riot” in Westminster if elected on Thursday. One of the party’s most senior members even called on all candidates to stop using Twitter after a string of ill-judged tweets left the party red faced.
Amongst the candidates who would be heading to Westminster if the SNP does manage a clean sweep of the Scottish constituencies this week is Mhairi Black, a 20 year old politics student at Glasgow University who is on course to unseat shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander as MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South.
According to the Telegraph, Ms Sturgeon came under pressure to sack Miss Black as a candidate after footage was released showing the young lady at a pro-independence rally saying she wanted to “put the nut in” Labour councillors (in other words, to head-butt them).
To cheers from the audience, she said “I was actually at the [independence referendum] count in Renfrewshire with my dad and as the vote was coming in, the way the hall was laid out we had to walk past all these fat cat Labour councillors goading us, clapping sarcastically, saying ‘better luck next time’ or ‘hard lines’.
“It took everything, every fibre in my being, not to put the nut in one of them.”
The classy candidate has also embarrassed her party on Twitter, posting “Woke up beside half a can of Tennents and a full pizza and more money than I came out with. I call that a success!” and “I’ve only just realised – I really f***** hate Celtic”.
Former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has defended Miss Black, saying that she was a “young girl” at the time. “Mhairi Black did not put the head on anyone, she restrained herself,” he added.
“Mind you I’d give this advice to practising politicians. I would never say a word on Twitter if I were them because it has brought down so many from all parties.
“My view is that it would be sensible for people running for office to close down their Twitter account – of all parties by the way, not just the SNP because the history of Twitter is full of people in political positions getting themselves into trouble.”
His words would be well heeded by Neil Hay, the SNP candidate for Edinburgh South who took to the social network under a psudonym account to compare No voters in the independence referendum to “Quislings”, another term for Nazi collaborators. He also said that older voters barely knew their own names.
Ms Sturgeon stood by him, saying that he had learned his lesson and insisting that she could have not been “any firmer” in disciplining him.
Dunfermline and West Fife candidate Douglas Chapman has also attracted controversy, defending former MSP Bill Walker who, in 2013, was jailed for beating his wife. Mr Chapman apparently excused his actions, saying “the moral code was very different” at the time when they took place, prompting calls for his resignation.
And Owen Thompson, the candidate for Midlothian likewise attracted criticism for taking part in a Labour front group designed to influence the outcome of the referendum. Mr Thompson and two other SNP members were pictured with a banner for front-group ‘Labour for Independence’, designed to persuade Labour voters to back the Yes campaign for independence.
Labour responded by releasing a photo of the trio, and branding the group a “sham” and an “SNP front”.
Mr Sillars has told the Telegraph that the new cohort of SNP MPs would have to be “extremely disciplined” once they arrived in Parliament.
His colleague, the former SNP leader Gordon Wilson agreed, predicting that there will be a “period of retrenchment” while they settle in, saying “Yes, they are fresh and inexperienced and so forth. But the other side of it is they bring a very considerable energy – of a positive nature”
But another source, who declined to be named, said that, while loyalty and discipline within the party was “incredible”, the new MPs risked being a source of embarassment.
“I don’t know how you can keep that level of control up with a party that now has more than 100,000 members,” he said.
“These new people want to get engaged. I think this could leave Nicola vulnerable. And that’s not to mention the MPs who make it into Westminster. She’s going to be in Holyrood – how can she exercise control from there?
“These people in Westminster, they’re not going to get any ministerial positions. In the Scottish parliament she can sweeten MSPs with ministerial jobs – she won’t be able to do that with this new flock who may find they won’t have that much to do.”