Although I didn't hear the report in question, I have little difficulty imagining that Sarah Smith said exactly that, because she's been playing this little game ever since the election of June 2017. She's been repeatedly informing viewers and listeners as a statement of fact that Nicola Sturgeon has a private position on indyref timing that bears no resemblance to her public position, and that the only question in any real contention is which tactic will be used to let the SNP rank-and-file down gently. At no stage has Smith issued a disclaimer that this is pure speculation on her part and that alternative interpretations are available. If her speculation is rooted in private gossip from SNP sources, at no stage has she made that clear or given the slightest information about the quality or the breadth of those sources.
I'd suggest it's fair comment to say that if the BBC are ever going to recover some of the trust they undoubtedly lost in Scotland in 2014, this kind of nonsense is going to have to stop. The BBC's job is to report reality, not to attempt to shape reality in line with a worldview that places a premium on the unity of the British state, and thus wishes confusion upon the enemies of British unity.
Let's look at this in a way that Sarah Smith won't much appreciate. It's only a week or so since Nicola Sturgeon started dropping heavy hints (indeed more than hints) that an indyref timetable would be set out very soon. Given the expectations that have been generated on an already impatient Yes side, some would argue that it's "inconceivable" that there will be any further substantial delay. If Smith thinks that logic is incorrect, it's incumbent upon her as the face of a public service broadcaster to explain why and to support her argument with hard facts. Punditry masquerading as news just isn't good enough - not when the future of our country is at stake.
As far as the Alex Salmond controversy is concerned, my own view is that Nicola Sturgeon has got the emphasis slightly wrong throughout this process. She rightly stated at the outset that the allegations against Mr Salmond could not be swept under the carpet and must be thoroughly investigated, but what was missing was a reminder that Mr Salmond was entitled to due process and a presumption of innocence while the investigation was underway. By the same token, when Mr Salmond won his legal challenge against the Scottish Government, Ms Sturgeon rightly went out of her way to express regret for the negative impact on the two complainants, but failed to make what would have been an equally appropriate apology for the injustice done to Mr Salmond. Essentially the impression that's been given is that the need for the allegations to be actually proved is just a formality. For all the sanctimonious commentary a few months ago about how Mr Salmond's legal challenge and his crowdfunder had something to do with "toxic masculinity", the value of what he's done is to make it less likely in future that someone's career can be ended simply by an untested allegation - which should never be the case for a person of any gender or at any pay grade.
So, yes, there are differences of opinion within the SNP on this topic, but the characterisation of those differences as a "civil war" is extremely silly, and the idea put about in one or two newspapers that Ms Sturgeon's leadership is seriously under threat is in the realms of fantasy. I would also note that the one thing guaranteed to heal any slight rift and to bring the SNP together with a unity of purpose would be the swift timetabling of an independence referendum. I very much doubt if I'm the only person that point has occurred to, even if it's yet to occur to Sarah Smith.
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