There are, however, more immediate political monstrosities that the First Minister has to deal with — and I am not only referring to reports that Alex Salmond fancies another shot at the Banff & Buchan seat he held from 1987 until 2010, when he switched to the Gordon constituency he lost in 2017, to return to Westminster.
The SNP’s Growth Commission report, which the Morning Star has commented on in some detail, was supposed to rekindle faith in a financially sound independent Scotland. But it has bombed, especially, but not exclusively, among the those who believed that independence might open the door to a radical Scotland where inequality could be eradicated.
One of the leitmotifs of that report was that Scotland was somehow the perfect size for economic growth and stability. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay tried again to enthuse Herald readers on Saturday about the blessings bestowed on Scotland.
“Another of those advantages is our size,” he wrote. “In many ways we are an optimally sized country, with an accessible, nimble government where it is easy to get the key players into the room to make sure decisions are taken and opportunities are not missed.”
The importance of this to the supporters of the strategy is the emphasis on Denmark as a model of what Scotland might be like as an independent nation. The problem here is that writers like Michael Booth long ago exploded the myths about Scandinavian utopias.
“Denmark is no longer the classless society,” he pointed out in 2014.
“The proportion of the Danish population considered to be below the poverty line has almost doubled from 4 per cent to 7.5 per cent … The elite are increasingly congregating in residential ghettos … More generally economic inequality has been increasing since the mid-1990s to the point where … the top 20 per cent of Danes earn more than three times the bottom 20 per cent.”
This is, of course, still much better than Britain, but it is hardly inspirational direction of travel for those who believe that independence will take Scotland down the road of equality and solidarity, especially if, like Denmark, an independent Scotland is a member of the EU.
And that takes us to the second monster that the First Minister needs to deal with.
John Curtice, the Strathclyde University professor who became Britain’s favourite psephologist after his dramatic but accurate exit poll predictions in the last general election, blogged some bad news for the SNP leader in June.
He argued that while the large Remain majority in Scotland may have appeared like manna to the SNP in June 2016 — the party was still in the post-indy vote political wilderness despite the 2015 general election result — it was less of a gift than they thought.
Looking at the Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey, Curtice wrote on the What Scotland Thinks blog: “Before the EU referendum those who were doubtful about the EU — who are far more numerous than might be anticipated from the 62 per cent Remain vote in the EU referendum — were just as likely as those who held a more favourable view of the EU to support independence.
“Now, however, support for independence is markedly higher amongst ‘Europhiles’ than ‘Eurosceptics.’
“According to the latest SSA survey, as many as 58 per cent of Scots can be classified as ‘Eurosceptic,’ that is, that they either want Britain to leave the EU, or (more commonly) believe that the EU should have fewer powers than is currently the case. Just 37 per cent can be regarded as Europhiles.”
Unsurprisingly, Curtice concludes that the fall in support from Eurosceptics accounted for a significant reduction in votes for the SNP at the 2017 general election.
Given the SNP’s continued high-profile support for EU membership and the ongoing heated debate over the nature of the Brexit settlement, this problem is likely to intensify for the nationalists.
And finally, and of a politically different order, the monstrous behaviour of Gillian Martin, briefly picked as education minister in Sturgeon’s shiny new cabinet, became a problem for the First Minister.
After only one day in post, Martin was removed by the First Minister for a series of posts she had made on her blog, which were transphobic and racist.
To what extent it revealed the murky waters that some SNP members swim in is not clear, but it was certainly not an episode conducive to presenting the SNP as a progressive, inclusive party.
These political difficulties, some more profound than others, should provide openings for Scottish Labour to attack the SNP. In some instances, for example the Martin appointment, they certainly have, but on other issues, such as the EU, Labour’s own ambivalence blunts outright assault.
Meanwhile the Labour right in Scotland continues to undermine the left leadership at every opportunity, most recently on the absolutely correct decision by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard to support referring party councillors in Aberdeen to the national executive committee for going into alliance with the Tories.
It would seem that Scottish Labour has monsters of its own to slay.