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Daily Record
Daily Record
Paul Hutcheon

Stephen Flynn's victory as SNP Westminster leader is a blow for Nicola Sturgeon and a sign her dominance is coming to an end

Stephen Flynn’s victory in the race to become the new SNP leader at Westminster will not shift the tectonic plates of Scottish politics.

Whoever leads the Nationalists in the Commons cannot deliver independence and none of the party’s 40-plus MPs will enter government. But a fractious group can cause problems for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and act as a lightning rod for criticism of her wider independence strategy.

The new leader’s relationship with Sturgeon was always going to be a dividing line in the contest to succeed Ian Blackford.

On one side was Flynn, whose supporters want the SNP group at Westminster to be more assertive. They complain that the First Minister's advisers meddle too much and want to reassert their own voice.

On the other side was Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss, a party loyalist who is seen as a First Ministerial ally. Sturgeon loyalists have often prevailed in internal contests, even though she has largely sat out the battles between colleagues.

With her husband continuing to serve as SNP chief executive, she possesses huge power at the helm of the party. So the fact Flynn has succeeded is a sign of new-found confidence among SNP MPs and a weakening of her authority.

Flynn, at the very least, will be unafraid to push back on what is seen as the negative influence of the Greens on the Scottish Government. He has, to use a word favoured by Sturgeon, a mandate and owes the First Minister little.

Sturgeon rarely speaks out of turn and her repeated references to a life outside politics should not be seen as a throwaway. Flynn’s win is another sign the Age of Sturgeon could be coming to an end sooner than expected.

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