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Saturday, 14 January 2012

Is Alex Salmond losing his grip?

Alex Salmond gets a pretty easy ride from the media in general. There is no doubt he is able and can usually come away with the quick sound bite or one liner, which says very little but which seems to satisfy the media's need for rapid fire responses. I have yet to make up my mind whether it is the calibre of some of the journalists who are sent to question him or, this is less likely, a sympathy for the cause he is championing. But the SNP has been wide open to attack on their policies on the EU and the currency and yet, have been allowed off the hook time and time again.

In the old '79 Group days, Group members adopted a technique which attacked their opponents personally, rather than the issue under discussion. The "claque", a group of young party members, dressed alike, carrying the same brief cases, the same hairstyles, the same red ties, followed their leaders around, ensuring they were in the hall to mock and shout down Group opponents, whenever the leaders rose to speak. Alex was good at the mockery bit and, there are distinct signs of it in his dealings with opponents both inside and outside the Scottish Parliament. The "claque" is also still there in the form of the "cybernats", SNP supporters who inhabit the internet sites attacking personally, anyone who disagrees with the SNP. Personal abuse is always the first line of attack and several media pundits and journalists have been on the receiving end, to the point where they have seen fit to mention it.

Joan McAlpine, The Scotsman columnist, recently elected MSP and personal assistant to Alex Salmond has been filling the news media this week - for all the wrong reasons. She claimed that pro-Union parties, opposed to the SNP's plans for a referendum were "anti-Scottish". The opposition saw an opportunity to put the boot in and Ms McAlpine has had a rather uncomfortable week. Given the opportunity to clarify things, she made a bad situation worse by first of all claiming she had been "quoted out of context" always the first port of call for politicians who have put themselves in an uncomfortable position. Then she claimed she was not directing her remarks at individuals but at the party leadership, who must be something other than "individuals". Her reason, according to her "clarifying statement was  that, "they should not be ganging up against Scotland's democratic right to decide our own future" That suggests the opposition have no right to oppose.

Now to be honest, if she had given it some thought, there are plenty of examples where the actions and behaviour of the opposition parties in Scotland, and their colleagues in England, have had consequences where it could be said they were anti-Scottish - the consequences that it. If the opposition politicians knew what they were doing, then they could be accused of acting in a way which had anti-Scottish consequences. If they didn't know or understand what they were doing, they could have been accused of being both stupid and anti-Scottish. Unfortunately Ms McAlpine seemed to take cold feet and panicked, denying she said it at first and even worse, on "Call Kaye" on Saturday morning when asked if the MP or MSP from Labour who was in the studio or on the line, was anti-Scottish, she refused to answer, making herself look rather daft. This is the second time in two weeks that Ms McAlpine has let her guard and the party down by ill-judged remarks. Will Alex be having a word?

Scotland and Ireland.

Before he does have a word with Ms McAlpine, Alex may ponder on his own gaffe, one which is potentially much more embarrassing than anything Ms McAlpine did. On a visit to Dublin this week Salmond made the comparison between Scotland being "bullied" by Cameron and Osbourne and Ireland's fight for independence. Only he will have any idea why he made such a stupid mistake because any Scottish politician, with any sense of history, never mind knowledge of the subject would know to stay well clear of that kind of involvement. First of all it was an insult to his Irish hosts, whom no doubt he was trying to impress. Secondly, Salmond was born and brought up in West Lothian therefore he must have seen an Orange Walk or two or three. Has he ever wondered why they are so prevalent in Scotland? Has he ever asked himslef why there has always seemed to be such animosity towards independence among the Irish immigrant population in Scotland. Cardinal Tom Winning did much to allay some of the fears of the descendents of the Irish immigrant population but he could do nothing to change the hsitory of the two countries and their historical relationship.

Seamus Mallon, the one time leader of the SDLP reminded Salmond, that Scotland had done its share of the "bullying" in Ireland, that Scots aloud themselves to be part of the Plantations in the north and Scottish regiments have usually done several "tours" in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. As a Nationalist it has always dismayed me, the part Scots palyed in the subjugation of Ireland and Salmond got off lightly. Perhaps he has been getting away lightly for so long, he just got careless, but in Ireland, that can sometimes be very unpleasant.

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