Saturday, 20 September 2014

"The Political Death of Alex Salmond"

You may remember that last year, I had a minor spat with a low rent wannabe Nostradamus in relation to his use of the above phrase.  My bone of contention was that Salmond would survive beyond the referendum because of his…  er… opponents.  The crap nostradamus' opinion was that Salmond would be damaged goods after the referendum.  I’m claiming victory over that one because, though Salmond has resigned, it was at his own choosing and as I previously blogged you can’t really blame just Salmond for the referendum result.  In short, at the moment his stock is still very high.

Scottish Independence Referendum, 18 September 2014 – Final Result

Yes, the pro-independence campaign did make several tactical mistakes – and those could be attributed to Salmond.  But you can’t really blame only him for the result.  Maybe Salmond himself does.  Perhaps with hindsight the “air” campaign looked a bit tired & jaded and slow to respond to the pro-Union claims in the last days of the campaign.  It’s certainly not a criticism you can level at the canvassers.
Will we see this outpouring of political sentiment again?
The criticisms you can make are the one’s I always thought would be decisive – Currency & the Economy – sovereignty (in terms of the EU) just did not appear as an issue.  I’ve blogged long and hard about Sterling zone during the campaign and it appears as if Salmond’s choice of a currency union, the settled will of Westminster not to entertain the idea and Salmond’s non appearance of a “plan B” was a decisive factor among the commuter belts that voted against Independence.  What hasn’t been discussed is how much Sterling zone sucked out of the campaign.  Darling & co went for that issue time and time again, yet Salmond & yes couldn’t formulate a response until the second television debate.  Currency union looks like the big policy mistake, when other more common sense options were available.

The economy is a much less straightforward argument.  Yes Scotland had the better arguments, but again got tied up in a fight – this time in the last weeks over big business making (false) claims regarding increased costs and the moving of headquartered facilities.  There was also the claim that an Independent Scotland would have a deficit on day one of £6 billion.  Whether that was true or not, it went unrebutted – bearing in mind that in 2010 £6 Billion was the amount raised by increasing NI by 1p.

In the post mortem, it’s too easy to gloss over what went right though.  When I made my original prediction two years ago, I thought that it would be a thumping win for the No camp – with Scotland still very much a default pro-union country.  Not any more.  Scotland has changed.

What the Yes supporters have done very…  very well is that they have mobilised a grass roots movement for a fairer, more equal society.  If you hadn’t guessed, last Saturday will live long in these memory banks.  1.6 million voters to leave the union is a remarkable achievement and torpedo’s Cameron’s ludicrous claim that staying in the union is the settled will of the Scottish people.  Salmond would have settled for more powers, and thanks to Westminster repeatedly hitting the panic button last week should get some sort of powers – though still far short of Devo Max.

So why has Salmond gone now.  Possibly he felt as if he had taken the SNP as far as he can & that the referendum was a once in a lifetime opportunity missed (something I don’t agree with…  but that’s for a future post).  Already buoyed by their victory at the polls, the NO camp quietly celebrated the demise of the most able politician in the country, certainly someone that can best Cameron, Clegg, Milliband…  only Brown is perhaps Salmond’s equal.

What is not in doubt is that Salmond leaves behind a huge hole in the SNP.  Apart from the Swinney years, Salmond has lead for all but 4 years since 1990.  That’s Ferguson-esque service in the one job.  The favorite to take over will be his deputy Nicola Sturgeon.  She is able and very capable – at times she has outshone Salmond.  My only quibble would be the record of anointed successors in this country is not a happy one.  Certainly Sturgeon was one of the few front line politicians to come out of the referendum campaign with their reputations enhanced.

Friday was not a happy day for pro-Independence supporters, even before the sectarian toned disturbances in Glasgow late on.  It may not look like it now, but Scotland did take a huge step towards cutting it’s ties with the Union.  Cameron’s assertion that Independence is off the table for a generation (quoting Salmond) badly misreads the situation the union finds itself in.  In the meantime, the feeling that pro-Independence supporters have that victory was close is no sort of consolation.

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