Salmond will help the Nationalists, but Galloway’s party is bad news for Unionists

Two decades after devolution, the Scottish Parliament’s election system still confuses ordinary voters and seasoned political observers alike. Politicians on both the Unionist and Nationalist sides have capitalised on this complexity, putting forward new parties – most prominently George Galloway’s Alliance for Unity (A4U) and Alex Salmond’s Alba – that aim to game the system and maximise their side’s (on the matter of the constitution) number of MSPs by pulling regional list votes away from the major parties. But in fact, beneath its byzantine name and workings, Scotland’s modified d’Hondt Additional Member Electoral System translates to straightforward arithmetic, with a clear and inescapable conclusion: Galloway’s A4U gambit is likely to

Salmond’s comeback is a pitiful sight

When Alex Salmond lost his seat at the 2017 general election, he finished his concession speech with a quotation from Sir Walter Scott’s poem, ‘Bonnie Dundee’:  ‘And tremble false Whigs, in the midst of your glee/You have not seen the last of my bonnet and me.’  Well, it is true that we have heard far too much from Alex Salmond in the years since but all roads, I suppose, led to the wholly unsurprising announcement this afternoon that Salmond is getting back into the game. Hell hath no fury like an ego ignored. The Alba party – Salmond’s new venture – will contest seats on the list portion of May’s

Why are so many Labour supporters keeping shtum about Sturgeon?

What now for Nicola Sturgeon? Labour MP Jess Phillips isn’t sitting on the fence. ‘At best Nicola Sturgeon was unprofessional with those women’s lives; at worst, she misled parliament,’ Phillips told Question Time viewers last night. Keir Starmer has also said Scotland’s First Minister must go if she did indeed break the ministerial code in the course of the Alex Salmond saga. But why are so many others in the Labour ranks unwilling to speak out against the SNP? Sturgeon’s departure is, after all, in the Labour party’s best interests. In two months’ time, Labour will be looking to take seats from the SNP at the Scottish election. And, politics

The SNP’s foray into high finance has come at a big price

In a refreshing twist for Scotland’s party of government, the latest potential scandal facing the SNP administration does not involve allegations of sexual misconduct, but rather high finance. Earlier this week, finance company Greensill Capital filed for administration. Greensill specialised in supply-chain finance, which involves acting as an intermediary to raise money on the back of payment commitments between companies and their suppliers. Greensill’s innovative financing arrangements were instrumental in metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta’s rapid expansion of his business empire, including his 2016 acquisition of an aluminium smelter at Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands, plus two nearby hydroelectric dams. Companies within Gupta’s GFG Alliance group bought the industrial assets from

The SNP cares more about power than principles

Defeats in politics sometimes appear to be victories at first, and victories to be defeats. The SNP has survived a vote of no confidence (VONC) at Holyrood, as it was always going to. The Nationalists were home and dry before the debate was even called thanks to the backing of the Greens. The Conservatives tabled the motion against John Swinney, Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy, after he ignored two votes in parliament requesting that he hand over the Scottish government’s legal advice to the Alex Salmond inquiry. Only when the possibility of a VONC was raised did he hastily release some of the documents. Obstruction has been a hallmark of the SNP

Another stitch-up in the Salmond inquiry

It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up: just as Watergate exposed the workings of the Nixon White House the Salmond inquiry is giving the world a glimpse of how the SNP works in Edinburgh. And how the SNP-led committee investigating Nicola Sturgeon is shameless in its determination to rig the system. First, the committee tried not to publish Alex Salmond’s full evidence against Nicola Sturgeon citing legal reasons. That defence fell apart when The Spectator went to the High Court. Then, outrageously, the Crown Office (Scotland’s state prosecutors) told the committee to censor Salmond’s evidence. Leading to a question: what on earth was it playing at by interfering with parliament? Would the Crown Prosecution

The key moments from Salmond’s Holyrood evidence

This afternoon, in the Robert Burns room of the Scottish Parliament, former First Minister Alex Salmond, for so many years the supreme political force north of the border, came out swinging against his successor Nicola Sturgeon and the wider Scottish establishment. In a remarkable evidence session, Salmond attacked the leadership of the Scottish government, suggested that the inquiry into its behaviour had its ‘hands tied behind its back with a blindfold on’, and argued that Nicola Sturgeon had broken the ministerial code. Salmond’s evidence to the Holyrood inquiry – set up to investigate the Scottish government’s handling of complaints made against him – had already been mired in controversy. The

Alex Salmond’s stubble trouble

For most of the past year, Alex Salmond has been engaged in a vicious and high-profile war against his successor, Nicola Sturgeon, with Salmond suggesting that the Scottish establishment has conspired against him to keep him out of public life and have him jailed. Now it appears that Salmond has been waging war against a Scottish newspaper as well. Today the press regulator Ipso published details of a complaint made by Salmond against the Scotland on Sunday, sister paper to the Scotsman. Salmond had taken issue with an article published by the paper in April in the aftermath of his criminal trial – at which the former First Minister was

Alex Massie

It’s a pity that both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon can’t lose

Henry Kissinger’s sardonic appraisal of the Iran-Iraq War is increasingly applicable to the war between Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon: it is a shame they can’t both lose. Disinterested observers, however, are under no obligation to pick a team. It is wholly possible neither protagonist has offered a convincing version of events. Treating Salmond’s claims sceptically imposes no requirement to swallow Sturgeon’s and, indeed, vice versa. Salmond’s allegations are so extraordinary they risk seeming incredible. It is one thing to allege that senior officials within the SNP – including but not limited to Peter Murrell, the party’s chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband – wished to destroy Salmond’s reputation. It

The Scottish establishment is playing into Salmond’s hands

The most remarkable — and chilling — day in the history of Scottish devolution ends the only way it could: Alex Salmond has pulled out of an appearance before the Holyrood inquiry. The road to his withdrawal began on Monday evening with the publication of a key document in the long-running inquiry. The submission, in which Salmond alleges that Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, was uploaded to the Scottish parliament website ahead of an evidence session by Salmond on Wednesday. However, the Crown Office contacted Holyrood authorities and demanded they remove or redact the submissions. The parliament complied, replacing it with a further-redacted version. When The Spectator published this very document

The Salmond inquiry is a farce

There never has been a clearer case made out for the utility of law and lawyers than the so-called Salmond Inquiry in the Scottish Parliament. The ‘Committee on the Scottish government handling of harassment complaints’ to give it its correct title, has thus far failed to unearth the truth about the machinations within the Scottish government quite simply because it isn’t equipped to do so. Inevitably there is strong suspicion that this Committee was given the job precisely because it would have insufficient expertise or powers to investigate adequately. Committee members appear to have worked extremely hard at carrying out their task. But without counsel to their inquiry, indeed not

Alex Salmond has declared war on Nicola Sturgeon

This is a big deal. The Times says it has had advanced sight of Alex Salmond’s evidence to a Scottish parliament inquiry on sexual harassment and it makes for uncomfortable reading for Nicola Sturgeon. The former SNP leader is allegedly accusing his one-time protege of misleading the Holyrood parliament and contravening the ministerial code. If true, that would be the end of Sturgeon’s premiership. The inquiry stems from a botched probe into sexual harassment allegations lodged against Salmond relating to his time as Scottish First Minister. Salmond denied the accusations and took the Scottish government to the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, where Lord Pentland ruled that the

The Spectator’s notes | 11 June 2015

Two beautiful volumes in a cloth-bound case reach me. They are Speeches and Articles by HRH The Prince of Wales 1968-2012, published by University of Wales Press. The explanatory list of abbreviations and acronyms alone gives a charming sense of the range of subjects covered — ‘Foot and Mouth Disease, Foreign Press Association, Forest Stewardship Council … Myalgic Encephalopathy, Member of Parliament … Non-Commissioned Officer … Not In My Back Yard! … Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil’. Among the many speeches on the environment, however, I cannot find his speech in Rio de Janeiro in March 2009, entitled ‘Less Than 100 Months To Act’. There Prince Charles warned that if

Revealed: The reason behind Alex Salmond’s pink champagne order

After Alex Salmond was outed as ordering pink champagne in not one but two interviews last week, naysayers were quick to ridicule the former Scottish First Minister for his lavish choice of tipple. However, Mr S has it on the highest authority that Salmond was guzzling in the name of the people. The rosé tipple, Mr S is told, is not Salmond’s regular order. Instead, he was simply raising a toast to his football team Heart of Midlothian. So cheered by Heart’s championship success in Scotland – after Rangers’ 2-0 win against Hibs meant that Hearts were safely at the top of the championship table with seven games still to play –  he thought it was only fair

Letters: Andrew Roberts on Cameron, and a defence of Kate Bush

Advice for Cameron Sir: David Cameron once saved my life from a school of Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish, so now’s the time for me to save his political life with this advice: to do nothing. The British people are a fair-minded lot; they will give him another term in office because he and George Osborne have delivered the best growth rates in Europe despite the monstrous overspending and boom-bust of the Blair-Brown years. Every newly incoming ministry since the war has been re-elected — except Ted Heath’s, which broke all the rules anyhow — and this one will be too. Douglas Carswell is an intelligent man who has made

Alex Salmond is wrong. Scotland isn’t more ‘socially just’ than the rest of Britain

Alex Salmond’s suggestion that Scotland is more predisposed towards ‘social justice’ than other parts of Britain is absurd, repellent, and embarrassing. Let’s take those points in order. From the Left’s perspective first. To care about the dispossessed must surely imply a sense of solidarity. I walked to the BBC studio this morning through a nearly empty, still cold Brighton. Only nearly empty – the people who’d slept rough the night before were in evidence, of course. Salmond’s message of solidarity, of concern for the dispossessed in England, is: ‘Get lost. You don’t matter, except that my new socially just Scotland will act as a beacon to the socially unjust English.’

What Britain will lose if Scotland goes

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”James Forsyth, Fraser Nelson and Eddie Bone discuss whether the UK could survive without Scotland” startat=41] Listen [/audioplayer]On 19 September, people over all Britain could wake up in a diminished country, one that doesn’t bestride the world stage but hobbles instead. If Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom, it would be Britain’s greatest ever defeat: the nation would have voted to abolish itself. The rump that would be left behind after a Scottish yes vote would become a global laughing stock. Whenever the Prime Minister of what remained of the United Kingdom raised his voice in the international arena, he would be met by a chorus of

Scots and English are the same people, with different accents. Why pretend otherwise?

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Fraser Nelson and Angus Robertson debate Scottish independence” startat=32] Listen [/audioplayer]Sometimes it is easy to understand why countries break up. Some founder on the rocks of their internal contradictions. Others are historical conveniences that have simply run their course. Czechoslovakia was an artificial construct, a country with two languages and cultures, which split soon after the Iron Curtain fell. The division of Cyprus in 1974 marked the end of the fraternity between the island’s Turks and Greeks. The partition of India was driven by trouble between its Hindus and Muslims. It’s a constant, often tragic theme in history — people decide that what divides them is stronger than what

Who Will Rid Cameron of His Part-Time Chancellor?

I commend Fraser’s most recent post on our part-time Chancellor of the Exchequer. But even my flabber was gasted (or my gast flabbered) by this paragraph: Being Chancellor in a recession is a very tough job. Osborne’s predecessors are amazed at the time he has to spend politicking across departments. I’m told that he is heading the campaign to defeat Salmond in a Scottish referendum, taking on yet another job to add to his other one of chief strategist. Emphasis added. There is no reason to doubt Fraser’s information and assuming, as I do, he is correct one must wonder if Mr Osborne finds being Chancellor of the Exchequer –

The SNP Beat a Retreat

Political stocks can go down as well as up. Shares in Alex Salmond are hardly slumping right now but they’re off their peak and flat-lining. The market is becalmed. Perhaps the launch of the independence referendum campaign will reinvigorate the First Minister but it also carries the risk – unavoidable for sure, but still a risk – that concentrating attention on independence will remind voters that the SNP is, at heart, a single-issue party. And single-issue parties tend to run into trouble.  There is a theory that the SNP have over-extended themselves. Even though they still hold more council seats than Labour (and so could claim their local election “failure”