Jamie HeadshotJamie Kinlochan says the scandal engulfing the SNP speaks to a far more fundamental problem – for the SNP, managing perception has got in the way of managing the country.


And so, the Michelle Thomson story rumbles on. I won’t claim to know the ins and outs of how mortgages and home buying works. Another five years under the Tories means I’m highly unlikely to ever own a house.

But I know that:

  • Person A buys house for a cut price from cancer patient who is desperate to sell and move next to family
  • Person A sells the house for £30K more than they bought it to Person B (their business partner)
  • Person B is given almost all of that extra £30K they paid back in cash
  • Person B becomes an elected member and is made spokesperson for Business

sounds a bit off. I’ve watched a lot of Location, Location, Location and Homes Under the Hammer and there has never been a transaction like that. If that cancer patient was my gran, I’d want that £30K to be put towards her quality of life, not the bottom line of a business account.

Just five months after the general election, having campaigned with the support of the First Minster, Michelle Thomson is now a former SNP MP. We now know that her relationship with the pro-independence group Business For Scotland was fraught with tension. To prevent disagreement spilling over into the papers during the referendum, roles were changed but job titles were kept.

Michelle Thomson’s situation speaks to a bigger picture. And at the heart of it is a question that I think the SNP, after eight years in government, is now struggling to answer. “At what point are you worrying more about perception than you are about doing the right thing?”

Every political party is the sum of its parts. Its members and leaders set the tone and the work.

At what point, after eight years of freezing Council Tax, do you change an unfair system that freezes the tax that people living in mansions pay just as it does people living in a high rise?

At what point, after mistakes were followed by people dying, do you admit that something is not right with the policy to centralise the police force?

At what point, after the price of oil plummets and people working in the industry are paid of, do you acknowledge that the financial security that is offered by being part of a union isn’t a ruse?

If you are more worried about perception than doing the right thing, you’re eventually going to make some bad calls. If you have spent the last eight years being pious about your politics, it becomes even more difficult to say “I’ve got this wrong”.

We know this from our own lives. Whether it’s your boss, your head teacher or team captain; leaders who admit that they can be wrong, are open to question and understand where you are coming from are the ones we get most from.

Leaders who tell you to get on with it, to not ask questions above your station and to just do your bit and not worry about anyone else… They’re getting as little from you as you’re getting from them. Watch any First Ministers Questions and tell me which of those is happening.

Scotland’s political focus on whether you are for or against independence has now gone on too long. Families can’t afford another five years of government managing perception. Because as the Michelle Thomson story shows us – managing perception is getting in the way of managing the country.