Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

Alex Salmond teases a reconciliation with Sturgeon

(Photo By Gloria Sanchez/Europa Press via Getty Images)

Even in her absence, Nicola Sturgeon dominated Iain Dale’s discussion with Alex Salmond and David Davis at the Edinburgh festival. Dale invited them both to comment on George Galloway’s suggestion that Sturgeon is ‘Mrs Thatcher in a kilt.’

Salmond flatly rejected this caricature. (Evidently he knows that criticising her in public will do him no favours.) Davis also dismissed the comparison. ‘Mrs Thatcher’s favourite pastime was arguing with people. Nicola wasn’t like that,’ he said, recalling the meetings he held with her during his term as Brexit secretary. ‘Nicola was very passive, very difficult to engage with. She adopted the image of a stern, domineering woman – which a lot of men like.’ 

Dale turned to the aftermath of her resignation which has seriously damaged the independence cause. 

‘It’s tanking in the polls,’ he said. ‘And nothing’s going to change until the investigations are over.’

‘Tanking? That’s a bit strong,’ said Salmond. He quoted statistics offering a more upbeat view. Support for independence is remarkably steady at just below 50 per cent, he said, while the SNP’s ratings have slipped to 30 per cent. That’s significant because the contrary position held in 2011. Back then, the SNP were polling at 50 per cent while support for independence stood at 30 per cent. This volatility informs his strategy for Alba (founded by him in 2021) which has 8,000 members and is already Scotland’s third most popular party. 

‘You’ve got more members than the Scottish Conservatives?’ asked Dale.

‘We surpassed the Conservatives very early in the process,’ said Salmond dryly. 

In that case, asked Dale, why is Alba not profiting from the SNP’s decline? 

Salmond pointed out that it takes decades for a new party to gain traction. The SNP was formed in 1934 but didn’t win a Westminster seat until 1967.

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