The Declaration of Eck

LAUNCH: Salmond set out his party’s stall from Aberdeenshire.

Alex Salmond spoke at the campaign launch for his new Alba Party on April 6, 2021. This is the text of my Scottish Daily Mail sketch of the speech. 

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Alex Salmond is modest to a fault and so what better way to launch his Alba party’s election campaign than by issuing a new Declaration of Arbroath. If anything, he was being under-ambitious. The Ten Commandments could do with a Doric translation.

The former First Minister was speaking on the 701st anniversary of the original declaration. Nationalists get very excited about this document for, although it was an assertion of the divine right of kings, the asserting was being done in a Scottish accent.

The Declaration of Aberdeenshire, from where Salmond was pontificating, stated: ‘We hereby proclaim the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and declare and pledge that, in all our actions, their interests will be paramount.’

This new season of Outlander sounds a bit heavy-going.

The declaration aimed ‘to assert the sovereign right of the Scottish people, acting through their parliament, to secure independence, to mobilise Scottish and international opinion and to ensure that this right is respected and acted upon’.

I’d settle for getting a £20 note accepted in a London boozer.

Some electioneers toss red meat to their voters, Salmond planted the fatted calf at their feet. If Alba was elected to a separatist-majority Holyrood, MSPs could ‘issue a clear and unmistakable instruction to the Scottish government to open negotiations with Whitehall on independence’.

In fact, he wanted them to do it in ‘week one’ of the new parliament, perhaps in between finding out where the pencils are kept and learning to avoid the canteen coffee.

This was one of the benefits of the nationalists holding a ‘supermajority’, which is defined in statute as two-thirds of seats at Holyrood. When this was pointed out to Salmond, he riposted: ‘That is not the definition of supermajority we are using’. They’ve never been good with figures, this lot. They still don’t get that 55 per cent is higher than 45 per cent.

For all his chuntering about the Scottish people being ‘sovereign’ (spoiler: they’re not), what Salmond is arguing for is amassing moral force for a campaign of pressure on the Prime Minister. ‘Even if he can ignore a party, he cannot ignore a parliament and a nation,’ he insisted. If Downing Street didn’t back down, there could be court actions and even ‘peaceful and popular demonstration’.

Asked whether Nicola Sturgeon could work with him after the bad blood of the past few years, he ventured: ‘I expect all politicians, Nicola included, to accept the verdict of the people and to work with the parliament that the people give us.’ They were at each others’ throats five minutes ago, now they’re getting the band back together.

Once again, women were to the forefront, with Salmond’s speech teed up by a succession of females explaining why they had joined Alba. Salmond touted the sex balance of his candidates: ’18 women, 14 men!’ He talked about ‘a paper on women and inequalities, which will go to our women’s conference this coming weekend’.

Of all the upheavals in Scottish politics in recent years, none has been so dramatic or so bold as Alex Salmond’s emergence as a radical feminist.

The presentation was several leagues above the past few weeks of cringe: videos freezing, streams going down, Zoom contributors left on mute. Salmond even joshed that the absence of technical hiccups was ‘showing our developing experience as a new political force’.

Where before he had sounded like an ageing end-of-the-pier stand-up down on his luck, now his voice thundered with the righteous cry of an oppressed nation. Or at least in his head. This was classic Salmond. First Minister Salmond. Trouble-beckons-for-Sturgeon Salmond.

His speech was a reminder that, for all his deficiencies, he is a consummate politician. He sells bargain-bin politics as though it were a case of the finest claret in Harrods. There are nationalists out there fed up with Sturgeon and ready to buy his wares.

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Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Letters: scotletters [insert @ symbol] dailymail.co.uk

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