OF all the UK’s national leaders Nicola Sturgeon is widely regarded as the most adept at negotiating the treacherous shallows of social media. Yesterday though, her navigational skills deserted her when she re-tweeted a message about losses sustained by Russian armed forces since they invaded Ukraine in February.

The original tweet, sent by Ukraine’s Defence Ministry, included a graphic detailing the enemy’s losses in 13 categories. The biggest of these was 41,170 “eliminated personnel”. The First Minister felt moved to add a strong arm emoji along with a quote by Robert Burns and the hashtag #solidarity.

We can only guess what Burns would have felt about his work being used to glorify the deaths of young men in a war they were forced to join by a psychotic tyrant. And why the leader of a party which likes to portray Scotland as an oasis of peace and goodwill in a turbulent world sought to glorify war in this way is similarly open to conjecture.

It was surely possible to express sympathy for the innocent victims of the Russian invasion without seeming to glory in the deaths of conscripts. She must surely also have been aware that Russian mothers have already risked the displeasure of the state by expressing outrage at the way their sons have been mistreated by the Russian military.

Following a backlash on social media, Ms Sturgeon wisely opted to delete her tweet.

In her seven years as First Minister I can only recall one other occasion when she made a serious error of judgment. That occurred in January last year when she issued a video message expressing her support for trans people in such strong terms that it was widely interpreted as an attack on feminists in her party opposed to the self-ID proposals in the controversial GRA bill.

A few days later Joanna Cherry was threatened with extreme sexual violence by a known party activist who was eventually sentenced for his criminal act.

Unlike some others I’d be disinclined to condemn the First Minister for her Ukraine tweet and acknowledge the speed with which she withdrew it. It was clumsy rather than malevolent.

It does though, invite speculation about the prevailing mood and atmosphere around the government and the people who currently carry influence within the party.

Not long ago the idea of Nicola Sturgeon sending such a tweet would have been unthinkable. This was when opposition to the NATO military alliance was a sacred tenet of the SNP and dove-tailed with its abjuration of nuclear weapons.    

Since then, the party has moved through several stages of infatuation with NATO – the most aggressive military alliance on the planet – to something bordering on fetishism. Alongside this has been a shift in its attitude to nuclear weapons.

In May, the SNP’s Defence Spokesman, Stewart McDonald suggested that an independent Scotland could temporarily host the UK’s nuclear weapons. This seemed to be entirely incompatible with the vow Mr McDonald had taken when he signed the SNP’s pledge for the Treaty on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.

And if you subscribe to the theory that Ms Sturgeon is making plans for her career after party politics you might be forgiven for suggesting that her Ukraine tweet was part of a longer “come and get me” letter to the major western powers and its institutions.

Just as it’s possible to express solidarity with the Ukrainian people without cheering the deaths of Russian soldiers, so it is also to question the gunboat diplomacy of NATO and the western powers towards Russia without being deemed to be an apologist for President Vladimir Putin.

This week’s visit by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan has elicited serious concerns across the political spectrum about the consequences of needlessly provoking China. Yet, no-one is suggesting that harbouring such concerns indicates sympathy for the Beijing regime.

What’s more irritating is that the Ukraine tweet came just a day after Liz Truss, Prime Minister-designate, expressed contempt for Ms Sturgeon and the people of Scotland as she played to the gallery at a Conservative leadership hustings in Exeter. In an extraordinary outburst, the UK Foreign Secretary said that the best way of dealing with the First Minister of Scotland would be to ignore her. “She’s an attention-seeker, that’s what she is,” she added.

It was only the latest example of the infantile posturing of Ms Truss since she was promoted to the cabinet. You’d be struggling though, to think of any other UK Prime Minister who had ever previously been so contemptuous about Scotland and its democratically-elected leader. As such, it presented a golden opportunity for a few days of feasting for the SNP. Ms Sturgeon’s maladroit intervention has rather ruined that. Worse, it was a message that could easily have been by Liz Truss.

 

ENDS