Alex Salmond is hosting a show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this week. It’s called ‘The Ayes Have It’ and features special guests such as old mucker David Davis, trusty lieutenant Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and former Commons sparring partner John Bercow. SNP notables Kate Forbes and Fergus Ewing are popping up and there will be a guest appearance from former first minister Henry McLeish. Salmond, some suspect, might be dreaming of a political comeback – but is a return realistic?
Salmond is probably the only independence supporting politician in Scotland who could mount a show like this without fear of outright ridicule. By contrast, former first minister and festival regular Nicola Sturgeon has just one low key appearance, while Humza Yousaf won’t be participating at all. That is probably wise. It’s hard to imagine any takers for an audience with the anodyne current first minister.
The first show – featuring David Davis – was certainly more entertaining than many of the political offerings at the Fringe. Davis had a hard time from the crowd during his appearance. ‘I’m clearly here for the villain part,’ he told the crowd. Even if SNP supporters in the audience didn’t like it, his appearance also showed this is no indie love in. Salmond clearly anticipated some push back from the audience as he has appealed for supporters to come along to counter any unionist festival bias.
So should unionists be worried about Salmond? There is some reason to take his third coming seriously. There is a gaping hole at the centre of the independence movement crying out for a big beast untainted by the recent financial controversies of the SNP. And even his detractors would probably agree that Salmond is a far more substantial figure than Sturgeon, one with a genuine career, in finance, behind him and a breadth of experience and political know-how.
Salmond’s friendship with David Davis proves his ability to reach out beyond the separatist zealots and at least engage with those with other viewpoints.