Alex salmond

Diary – 31 January 2019

For legal reasons I shouldn’t say much about the Alex Salmond case, but it does bolster the argument that the world right now operates beyond most fiction writers’ (and readers’?) imaginations. Fiction needs to be credible; I should persuade the reader that the events in my stories could happen, if they haven’t already. Reality, however, seems otherwise inclined. Salmond’s journey — from taking Scotland closer to independence than many thought possible to RT chatshow host — would test the mettle of most contemporary novelists, before even adding the cocktail of charges against him. Salmond, a shrewd operator and orator with a side-order of braggadocio, might seem a gift of a

Portrait of the week | 31 January 2019

Home Theresa May, the Prime Minister, set off to seek a change to the Irish backstop of the EU withdrawal agreement after the Commons voted by 317 to 301 for a government-backed amendment by Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, proposing unnamed ‘alternative arrangements’. Mrs May said there was ‘limited appetite for such a change in the EU’ and hardly had the words passed her lips before Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said: ‘The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.’ An amendment by Dame Caroline Spelman to rule out no deal passed 318 to 310, but lacked legal force. Amendments from Yvette

Alex Salmond’s arrest is the latest twist in an extraordinary drama

This morning Police Scotland announced that a 64 year old man had been arrested and charged with unknown offences. Not just any 64 year-old man, however, but Alex Salmond, former first minister of Scotland, twice leader of the SNP, and the politician who, more than any other, led Scotland to the brink of independence. Even if Salmond did not quite achieve that, his SNP still replaced Labour as the natural party of government. Salmond will appear in court this afternoon. I wrote about this for last week’s Spectator: here is the article.  Amid the wreckage of a Brexit process that has disrupted every aspect of British political life, it is

Salmond’s fishing

The ex-leader of the SNP, Alex ‘Five Pensions’ Salmond, has scrounged nearly £100,000 from the people to help him in an impending legal case. How shameless can you get? In the ancient world, it was commonplace for the wealthy to massage their reputations by magnanimous public gestures — providing the cash to build a library or a school, for example. The 5th-century bc thinker Democritus reckoned that there was nothing like the rich giving to the poor to produce concord that strengthened the community. For politicians, it was essential. The Greek orator Hyperides (4th century bc) argued that the Athenians allowed statesman and soldiers to make large ‘personal profits’, provided

Sturgeon takes another tiny step towards Scottish independence

It has become one of those journalistic clichés to talk about ‘firing the starting gun’ in politics. There has been some debate among the hacks at Holyrood as to whether or not Nicola Sturgeon has already ‘fired the starting gun’ on the next Scottish independence referendum campaign. So, to do justice to that cliché (and to mangle it completely), I suggest something like this: today the First Minister reached for the key to the cabinet holding the starting gun, which would launch a second Scottish independence campaign. She hasn’t yet opened the cabinet but she has the key in her hand, should she decide to place it in the lock and turn. What

Alex Salmond: why I have resigned from the SNP

I truly love the SNP and the wider independence movement in Scotland. They have been the defining commitment of my life. But today I have written to the National Secretary of the party resigning my membership. I read carefully Nicola Sturgeon’s statement on Sunday and watched her television interview of a couple of days ago. She made it clear that the SNP have never received a single complaint about my personal conduct in my many decades of membership. And the Scottish Government have confirmed that they did not have any such complaint before this January, more than three years after I left office as first minister. That is the record

Alex Salmond denies sexual assault allegations

Scots are used to tumult and unpredictability in their politics but this morning they are waking up to something of a different order. Former first minister Alex Salmond has been reported to police following allegations of sexual assault by two female staff members, according to the Daily Record. One of the alleged incidents, the paper claims, took place in Bute House, the official residence of the first minister of Scotland and now home to Nicola Sturgeon. The complaints were reportedly uncovered by an internal Scottish Government investigation and handed to Police Scotland.  Salmond denies all allegations against him and, what’s more, is now taking his own former government to court. In

Alex Salmond’s defence of Russia Today is inexcusable

On his RT television show this morning, Alex Salmond shrugged-off criticism that, by working for the Russians, he has reduced himself from erstwhile statesman to useful idiot. Look, he said, RT is no different from the BBC, ITV or Sky. It is regulated by Ofcom and so, “by definition”, cannot be a “propaganda station”.  “I hold no brief from the Kremlin, nor am I required to have [one]” Salmond said. “No-one has tried to influence the contents of this show in any way, shape or form whatsoever.” But then they don’t need to, do they? Not when, as evidence of his editorial freedom, Salmond is happy to offer a platform,

Sunday political interviews round-up: Theresa May says Conservatives will not raise VAT

Theresa May – Conservatives will not raise VAT Touring both the BBC and ITV studios today, Theresa May tried her best to avoid giving specific answers about the Conservatives tax policies after the election. However, during an interview with Robert Peston, the Prime Minister appeared to disown David Cameron’s ‘triple lock’ and make a commitment that a Conservative government would not raise the level of VAT above 20% over the next Parliament: Peston: Given what you say your record as a party is on taxes, do you need to repeat David Cameron’s triple lock – no rise in VAT, no rise in National Insurance, no rise in income tax –

Spot the difference: BBC’s varying approaches to IndyRef2

Although Nick Robinson claims the BBC no longer has a duty to be balanced over Brexit now the referendum has been won, what about Scottish independence? With ‘IndyRef2’ on the horizon indefinitely, Mr S was curious to note the approach Andrew Marr took to interviewing the SNP’s Alex Salmond compared with unionist Ruth Davidson. When Davidson — the leader of the Scottish Conservatives — appeared on the Andrew Marr show last month, the BBC presenter gave her a grilling on her objections to the SNP’s call for ‘IndyRef2’. As Davidson tried to argue that there was no appetite for a second referendum in Scotland, Marr interrupted her at several points: Among

Boris Johnson vs the virtue signallers

As the government ‘consider’ inviting Donald Trump for a state visit, the president-elect was top of the agenda at today’s Foreign Office questions. With the Westminster establishment riled over Trump’s latest tweet claiming Nigel Farage would make a ‘great’ UK ambassador to the US, Simon Burns hit back — suggesting Boris Johnson return the favour and request Trump send Hillary Clinton to fill the role of US ambassador to the UK. Continuing the theme of putting people forward against their will for jobs that either aren’t available or don’t exist, Labour’s David Winnick said that it was Brandon Dixon — the Hamilton actor who made an anti-Trump speech over the weekend — who

Alex Salmond: Scotland should block Brexit

Although Alex Salmond is Scotland’s First Minister no more, luckily the public still have a chance to hear the SNP politician’s thoughts on a weekly basis thanks to his LBC phone-in. Today Salmond led the charge for Nicola Sturgeon blocking Brexit: ‘If Scotland could block Brexit, then I think Nicola Sturgeon should do that. I think Nicola Sturgeon should take her instruction from the verdict of the Scottish people; she’s Scottish First Minister. If you remember the Scottish people voted decisively to remain.’ With recent polls suggesting the appetite for Scottish independence is still at the level it was pre-Brexit (despite repeated warnings a Leave vote would destroy the Union), Mr

The SNP has played Scotland’s Catholic Church for a fool

In England and other places there can still be surprise when discussion of football in Scotland segues too smoothly into the discussion of religion. And vice versa. It can also get entangled with toxic politics too. The sectarian divide between Celtic and Rangers doesn’t need to be rehearsed, but the tribal hinterlands behind this ancient sporting rivalry point to the sad opposition between Loyalist and Republican, Royalist and Nationalist, Britain and Ireland, Catholic and Protestant. Some say it’s fading away, some say it isn’t, but there was a manifestation last week that it may be evolving – into something worse. Celtic played the Israeli team Hapoel Beer Sheva in Glasgow

Now the SNP are in power their skin seems to have thinned

Scotland is a small place. This has many advantages. There is an intimacy to Scottish public life that can, on occasion, be charming. It is a place where everyone knows everyone else and this helps foster a climate of relaxed informality. Politicians, even more than elsewhere, are known by their first names. So it’s Nicola vs Ruth vs Kezia and this isn’t just because they are all women and all, in their different ways and to different degrees, quietly impressive figures. But a small place, like a family, can be suffocating too. Intimacy is the other side of cosy. If that reflects itself in tight connections between politicians and those

Tartan-ing up the arts

Many years ago an arts spokesperson for the SNP launched an extraordinary attack on Scottish Opera, saying, ‘If push comes to shove, if I were arts minister and had to choose between the survival of Gaelic music and Scottish Opera, I would say rich people could always go to Salzburg for lieder and Sydney for opera.’ With various parties now competing for the class-war-and-grievance vote, I sense a return of this kind of rhetoric in debates on Scottish culture, arts and politics. Scottish Opera routinely invite Scotland’s politicians to their productions and their invitations are routinely ignored. The feeling is that there are votes to be lost in being seen

Immigration dominates first BBC EU debate

The Lincoln-Douglas debate it was not, but we have just had the first prime time TV debate of this EU referendum. With Alex Salmond and Alan Johnson for In and Liam Fox and the UKIP MEP Diane James for Out speaking to an audience of 18 to 29 year olds in Glasgow. Many in the audience wanted to complain about the tit for tat tactics of the two sides in this referendum campaign or to condemn the scaremongering by both sides; interestingly, they seemed very sceptical of the Treasury’s forecasts of economic pain if the UK left the EU. One audience member, though, seemed to object to the idea that

Fear and loathing

Strange as it may seem, there are still people around David Cameron who regard the Scottish referendum campaign as a great success. Yes, they say, the nationalists didn’t like the original ‘Project Fear’ — the attempt to frighten Scotland into voting no — but it worked. Alex Salmond was defeated by a 10 per cent margin — proof, it’s argued, that relentless negativity works. Those who complain about it are either losers, or too squeamish to win. Andrew Cooper, chief of the Scottish ‘in’ campaign, said afterwards that the only criticism he would accept is that it was not negative enough. This attitude is a poison in the bloodstream of

Collapse in North Sea revenues destroys the SNP’s economic argument

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Fraser Nelson, Isabel Hardman and James Forsyth discuss today’s Budget”] Listen [/audioplayer]Alex Salmond had planned 24 March 2016 as his independence day and the budget he published during the Scottish independence referendum envisaged it having up to £7.5 billion of oil to spend. Today’s Budget shows that the figure will, instead be zero: precisely 100 per cent less than what the SNP had told Scots. Without it, the Scottish budget simply would not stand up. The basic point – ‘it’s Scotland’s oil!’ – has been the SNP refrain for years. There’s still oil in the North Sea but there’s no profit. The above graph shows how North Sea revenues – seen by the

Watch: John Bercow takes Anna Soubry to task in Commons showdown

Last year Alex Salmond told Anna Soubry to ‘behave yourself, woman‘ after the pair clashed in the chamber. While it was Salmond who found himself in the firing line on that occasion for his choice of words, Soubry is now back in the spotlight over her Commons etiquette. John Bercow took the small business minister to task on Friday during a debate about job losses in Sheffield where Labour MPs accused her of lacking compassion. Soubry repeatedly heckled Gordon Marsden as he spoke, leading him to ask: ‘will the minister stop chuntering from a sedentary position?’ The Speaker then launched into a rant — urging Soubry to show ‘a basic dignity’: ‘Order! Minister, you have had your

Alex Salmond misses the Syria debate (but finds time to unveil his portrait)

MPs in the Commons are currently debating whether or not to vote in favour of airstrikes in Syria, after the Prime Minister delivered a statement on the issue this morning. As members of the opposition — including Dennis Skinner and Chris Leslie — raise questions over the potential airstrikes, where are the self-titled ‘real opposition‘? Well, for all their talk, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesperson is nowhere to be seen during this Westminster debate. Instead Alex Salmond has decided it is the opportune time to take a trip up to Edinburgh to attend First Minister’s Questions at Scottish Parliament. While Mr S doesn’t doubt Salmond’s intentions, he couldn’t help but notice