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Mandy Rhodes: No, First Minister, this is not about what he did, it’s about what your government did

© PAFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

With opinion polls consistently predicting a majority for the SNP at next May’s election, independence support at an all-time high, and Nicola Sturgeon’s personal approval ratings sitting at 72%, it seems an odd time to claim she’s having a bad time.

But torn apart at FMQs by Ruth Davidson, batting off questions about her husband’s messages about police investigations into Alex Salmond, her own sketchy evidence to the Salmond inquiry revealing gaffes and gaps, and then an unexpected tone of interrogation on a UK Sunday political show that would normally be kinder.

She looked flustered, sounded rattled and in a terse response to persistent questioning about what she had or hadn’t done as regards her predecessor, we were told ultimately this was about his behaviour not hers.

She suggested that it benefited the former first minister for the focus to be on conspiracy theories rather than on his conduct, and told Sophy Ridge on Sky: “This is age-old here, that a man is accused of misconduct against women and often it’s a woman who ends up answering for them.”

That may be an easy line from a woman looking to find some sympathy in a tight spot, but it doesn’t hold true here. The FM isn’t being asked as a woman to answer for Salmond’s misconduct – she is being asked perfectly valid questions as the woman who heads a government whose catastrophically bad mishandling of complaints made by women left the taxpayer with £630,000 legal bills and left those women potentially exposed.

That is the nub, and no amount of flam about men and their power and how they abuse it should deter from a forensic interrogation of what her government got wrong.

Sturgeon, by her own considerable talent, experience and political graft, has earned the right to be at the top. It’s her ability, not her sex, that got her there. And so, despite any efforts to argue to the contrary, that’s where the buck stops. With her.

So, forgive me for being a tad irritated that she would now play the “woman’s card”.

What’s the point in a woman breaking through the glass ceiling if she then delegitimises her own achievements by blaming a man simply to deflect the questioning of her?

Salmond’s behaviour, and it was dreadful, has been detailed during a court case where a jury examined the 13 serious charges that included sexual assault and attempted rape, and acquitted him. And while Sturgeon is right, that his wider behaviour was found wanting, in this examination, it is not the issue.

The behaviour of her government, is.

The remit of the parliamentary inquiry, set up to investigate the circumstances that led to the government’s botched investigation, was never expected to bring Sturgeon down.

But it is with her own account that doubts are mounting.

Some argue she should be forgiven for any mistakes, or errors of judgement, if they were done in good faith but that’s no excuse when things go horribly wrong. It’s about accountability.

If we have travelled anywhere in terms of equality, then surely, it has to be to a place where women answer for their own actions?