"all political careers end in failure" (Enoch Powell). If there was ever a political career that deserved to end in failure it is that of alex salmond. Make no mistake about it the announcement of his resignation represents an ignominious failure. With apologies to TS Elliot, "he goes out not with a bang but with a whimper”. His one political goal in life was independence, it was 'thee' single issue, his ‘raison d'etre’, and he has failed to deliver it despite being snp leader during a 20 year build up to this moment. The hatred also that he has created among the Scottish people will take decades to fade if indeed it ever does and it will be his legacy.
The defeat in yesterday’s referendum was decisive and unequivocal and certainly robust enough to settle the matter for at least one if not more generations and that will negate the success he claims of getting 1. 6 million Scots to vote for independence. The profile of those who supported the yes campaign is such that it excludes huge swathes of the population and draws heavily on the poorest areas, without salmond and without a chance of another referendum in the near future that momentum will be lost. All that has really happened is that people who do not normally engage in politics through no fault of their own will now drift away. They have been rallied by dangerous rhetoric based on grievance against our neighbours in England who have been identified as the enemy and seduced by uncosted promises of a better tomorrow, a tactic which, as we know has been used before as a cruel deceit by dishonest charlatans. Everything that the separatists could have hoped for has happened and helped to gain that momentum and it was still nowhere near enough.
His leaving also leaves a huge gap at the top of the snp and, the man responsible for this is salmond himself. He has methodically and cynically over the years created a leadership structure which makes him look good because, quite frankly, those promoted by him are pedestrian in the extreme. Neil, Russell, Swinney, Hislop, Constance, McKay etc. lack gravitas and intellectual rigour. Perversely enough Nicola Sturgeon who will start as favourite to succeed him is the most high profile and over promoted one of all and is simply not credible as a First Minister. He ‘salmond’ has thus presided over a rise in political representation for the snp, gained control of Holyrood and delivered a referendum while at the same time leading them in to a very vulnerable position if they lost the referendum which they did and if he goes and he is going.
Casting a very large shadow over all of this is Gordon Brown. There is growing speculation that he might be eyeing a seat at Holyrood and he is still the biggest political hitter in the UK as was demonstrated this week with his explosive intervention in the referendum which helped to consolidate the NO vote and gave the whole campaign a huge lift. The personal abuse used by the most mild mannered snp supporters toward Gordon Brown is a clear indication of how much they fear him. The fillip that Brown’s presence and possibly Alastair Darling’s as well would give the Scottish Parliament would be difficult to overestimate. And the boost to Labour’s electoral appeal would be massive. Interesting times ahead.