Alex Salmond. You have to hand it to him. What ever the outcome in the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September, Salmond must go down as the UK politician of this short century. Not a hard choice given the lack of political talent.
The way Salmond – leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) – has managed to sidestepped and out maneuver his rivals and get Scottish voters this close to independence was unthinkable a decade ago.
But Salmond has been aided by the lack of dynamic leadership from any of the 3 main parties both at Holyrood [Scottish Parliament] and Westminster. Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and now David Cameron have underestimated how Salmond galvanised his party and the wider electorate throughout their tenure for this moment.
For the first time a recent poll had the yes vote (for independence) ahead of the no vote. Which has led to scare mongering articles in the media with buzzwords like “anger,” “destroy” “fear,” “disaster,” “no turning back”; which could be counter productive to those undecided voters.
Oil giant BP and Standard Life have come out in favour of a no vote and warned that they will draw up plans to move their main offices from Scotland should the yes vote win the day. I recall Standard Life saying something similar in the lead up to the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution.
With just a few days to go to the vote Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Miliband have decided to miss this week’s Prime Minister’s Question Time and head to Scotland to boost the no campaign. [Not that they will be campaigning in Scotland together on a united front]. Have the national leaders left this united approach too late?
One of the more articulate advocates for the no vote is former Scottish Labour MP George Galloway. The national parties would have been better off putting up Galloway instead of Alistair Darling in the 2 public debates against Salmond. Interestingly some of the Scottish voters who intend to vote yes are not necessarily SNP supporters but generally vote for the other political parties.
Since that crucial poll came out the Tory- led national government has promised to devolve more powers to the Scottish Parliament. Even Gordon Brown has promise to draw similar plans. Really GB?
When Salmond resigned the SNP leadership in 2000 and was replaced by John Swinney the party lost any national and regional significance. But when Salmond returned and was re-elected leader in 2004 the party has enjoyed a meteoric turnaround to achieve regional power. Salmond has been First Minister of Scotland since 2007.
What Salmond has managed to achieve is to make the independence issue a major talking point for the right reasons. Despite the rest of Britain not having a vote they are all talking about it. Many wishing they also had a vote. Rarely has UK politics been the headline news this long without it been due to some scandal or drums of war.
So as a curious bystander – with some Scottish ancestry – whatever the result the politics of Holyrood and Westminster will have a different shape.