The Lockerbie Affair is Not Over

The death of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted for their part in the Lockerbie Bombing, is a matter of some relief. It marks the end of one part of an affair from which few of the protagonists graduate with credit. As this is Lockerbie, however, you can expect the conspiracy fires to burn for some time yet.  As far as Megrahi’s release is concerned I continue to believe cock-up rather more probable than conspiracy. Alex Salmond was stretching his case to breaking point yesterday when he pointed out that Megrahi had at least died of the prostate cancer with which he had been diagnosed. See, he really was

Does Ed Miliband Have A Clue About Scotland?

I’m not sure Ed Miliband’s people will be altogether happy that James McIntyre’s Prospect interview with the Labour leader devotes quite so much time to Miliband’s leadership credentials. This is not, I think, generally considered helpful. Mr Miliband says he is “Labour’s biggest critic” to which the obvious rejoinder is “Not while so many of us remain alive, you ain’t“. There’s plenty to chew on in the interview but, as McIntyre suggests, it’s worth paying attention to Miliband’s comments on the Scottish Question: [W]hen I ask Miliband if he will help Cameron save the Union in what should be a cross-party campaign for the UK as we know it, he

Salmond and the Murdochs: Shill, Statesman or Pragmatist?

Further to that last post, Leveson released more than 100 pages of News Corp correspondence this afternoon. Alex Salmond features in four emails sent by Fred Michel, the Murdochs’ chief lobbyist and PR guy: 1. 1/11/10 – Libdem MP, former Sky employee, with major Sky customer centres in his constituency and around will contact Vince Cable to ask himm to bear in mind the economic/investment point of view rather than getting influenced by political games, especially in times of austerity and very difficult economic environment for those areas. He will also emphasise the opportunity for Cable to show the maturity of the Libdems as coalition partners, working for the long-term,

Alex Massie

Groundhog Day at Leveson: Dog Still Bites Man

One thing to be kept in mind as we consider the extent of the government’s links to News International is that it helps explain why neither the Telegraph nor Mail groups are wholly in favour of David Cameron and his ministry. It is, I think, fairly clear that the Conservative leadership was happy to accede to Rupert Murdoch’s attempts to purchase the shares in BSkyB that he did not already own. Following today’s revelations at the Leveson Inquiry, Jeremy Hunt’s jacket now rests upon a super-shoogly peg. Several bookmakers have ceased taking bets on the Culture Secretary being the next minister to leave the cabinet. Even allowing for politicians’ willingness

Alex Salmond’s Hampden and Murrayfield Strategies

I’ve written a column for Scotland on Sunday today looking at the SNP’s transformation into a proper national party: [T]wo SNP approaches have helped the party attain its present supremacy. They can be labelled the Hampden and Murrayfield strategies. They are different but complementary, designed to appeal to different branches of the electorate. The Hampden strategy appeals to working-class and lower-to-middle-class voters. It is populist, Saltire-wrapped and keenly, proudly Scottish. The Murrayfield tranche of the electorate is older, wealthier and more likely to consider itself Scottish and British. Though outnumbered by the Hampden vote, its influence – especially in business and the media – is disproportionately powerful. The Hampden voter,

Today in Stupidity: Salmond is Hitler & the Economist is Racist

David Starkey’s declne from competent historian to reactionary nitwit has been a sad business. I’m afraid it shows no sign of abating either. The Huffington Post has this: Historian Dr David Starkey has compared Scottish first minister Alex Salmond to Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler. “If you think about it, Alex Salmond is a democratic Caledonian Hitler, although some would say Hitler was more democratically elected,” he said. “[For him] the English, like the Jews, are everywhere” he added to gasps from the audience. Starkey was speaking at a debate, hosted by the Bow Group think tank, on the teaching of British history in UK schools. Oh dear. Granted, one

Let the Tax Competition Games Begin!

It is not right to say that this is the last United Kingdom budget. Far from it. Nevertheless, the times they be changing. Due to an unfortunate coincidence of parliamentary timing (though doubtless some will see a conspiracy in this) the Scotland Bill will be agreed today. It will, naturally, be lost amidst the budget brouhaha but it is a significant moment nevertheless. The SNP have made their peace with the coalition, recognising that the Calman Commission’s recommendations, imperfect though they may be, are another step towards a more independent future. Significantly, the Scotland Bill accepts the proposition that it is perfectly feasible, and perhaps even proper, for the different

When Rupert Met Alex

So Rupert Murdoch had lunch with Alex Salmond at Bute House today. At a time when politicians are scurrying to distance themselves from the Dirty Digger he is still welcome in Edinburgh. This annoys, even angers, many of Salmond’s own supporters (see Kate Higgins for example) and, I daresay or if Gerry Hassan is a useful indicator, most of the rest of public Scotland too. Anyone but Rupert! Well, fine. The important thing here is not what Salmond thinks of Murdoch but what Rupert thinks of Alex. Their chumminess is another indicator that Salmond, whatever the SNP’s leftwing think or hope, has no intention of turning an independent Scotland into

Can Cameron Deliver on His Promise to Scotland?

Well, Pete, I’m not so sure that David Cameron done brilliant in Edinburgh yesterday. To put it mildly, he has complicated an already complex situation. How does the Prime Minister think Scotland should be governed? How much Home Rule does he think is enough Home Rule? What “further powers” does he mean? Neither his speech nor his answers to questions give us any real idea at all. As I said yesterday, at least we have a reasonable – if still imperfect – idea of what Alex Salmond means by independence. Cameron’s preferences? An utter mystery. Moreover, if, as he plainly concedes there is a reasonable case for “further powers” then

David Cameron Abandons The Tory Diehards

David Cameron’s apparent willingness to contemplate greater devolution after an independence referendum (pithily summarised by one SNP MSP as: Vote no to cake today so I might give you some cake tomorrow) really is both sensible and startling. As recently as last month the official UK government position was, if I remember it correctly, independence or nowt. Now it is some kind of souped-up Home Rule or independence. This is quite a dramatic, sudden shift. Has anyone told Ruth Davidson about this or asked her opinion? Those of us on the right of Scottish politics have reason to welcome the Prime Minister’s shift. Again, just last month Downing Street “sources”

Alex Massie

Mr Cameron Comes To Edinburgh

So Dave meets Eck at St Andrews House today. Earlier in the week there had been talk that their tea-time chat was nothing more than a “courtesy call” from the Prime Minister, popping in for a cuppa since, well, he was in the neighbourhood anyway. Perhaps. More importantly, this is the first meeting between the two since Alex Salmond announced he plans to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in the autumn of 2014. The details of that remain unresolved and important but, in terms of mood and optics, Salmond’s meeting with David Cameron bears some resemblance to a press conference announcing and confirming an eagerly-anticipated prize fight is announced.

Alex Massie

David Cameron Opens the Door to Devo-Max

At this moment, I dare say industrious hacks are searching for politicians to condemn David Cameron for “selling the jerseys” on the question of further powers for the Scottish parliament after an independence referendum (assuming that Alex Salmond is defeated). Isn’t the Prime Minister in danger of conceding what Salmond really wants? Well, maybe. But what if he is? Perhaps Mr Cameron is less beholden to out-of-date Unionist shibboleths than you might think. Or, of course, perhaps he knows not of what he speaks. His speech in Edinburgh today is not, in fact, a bad one. It is better than his article in today’s Scotsman. In fact, it was One

Alex Massie

Alex Salmond, Supply-Sider?

Today’s Chat With Dave is all very well and good but Alex Salmond’s speech to the LSE last night was just as significant. Much of the wrangling about Scottish independence has, for respectable reasons, concentrated on matters of process leaving the substance of what an independent Scotland might actually be like for another day. This too is reasonable since so much is speculative at this stage and, in any case, one should not necessarily presume that the SNP would dominate post-independence politics. Nevertheless, it is useful to have an idea of what Alex Salmond considers important. What he emphasises now is the best available guide to what might be emphasised

Donald Trump: I Am Trying To Save Scotland

The SNP’s other big idea – apart from independence – is to make Scotland a kind of renewable energy pioneer. To that end, something close to open season has been declared on parts of the countryside as developers rush to erect as many windfarms as can feasibly be erected in, well, just about every part of the country within easy cabling distance of the national grid. Like many others, I am not wholly persuaded this is an unmitigated blessing. Tidal and wave power in the Pentland Firth (or Sound of Islay) is one thing; plastering the countryside with windmills another. Enter Donald Trump, harrumphing from stage left. The “tycoon” has

Alex Salmond’s problems with women (and the wealthy and the old)

Like the Peat Worrier and Kate Higgins, I think the headline figures on polls asking Scots whether they fancy independence or the Union are much less interesting than the numbers lurking beneath the surface. For it is these that reveal where Alex Salmond has the upper hand (at least for now) and where he most certainly does not. The latest Ipsos-Mori poll reports*, as Brother Jones noted the other day, that 39% of Scots certain to vote in the referendum favour independence. That’s dandy but not all that intriguing. Poke beneath the surface, however, and you find this: 45% of men back independence; just 30% of women do so.  45%

Can Home Rule Solve Scotland’s Problems?

This is not a Question To Which the Answer Must Be No. I too saw the headline Now 51% Back Independence and thought, “Well, that’s interesting but implausible“. Then I noticed it was a Sunday Express splash and revised my appraisal to “That’s obviously cobblers”. And so it is, making it mildly foolish for SNP types to boast of a breakthrough on the back of a sample of 200 Scots that’s harldy more dispositive than polling, say, my Facebook pals. Nevertheless, Fraser’s post yesterday won’t quite do either. For instance, the boss writes: My hunch is that Cameron’s intervention will not have helped Salmond. The idea that an independent Scotland

Salmond: Scotland Free By 2016?

So, the game is afoot. The Scottish government today published its consultation document on an independence referendum to be held in the autumn of 2014. You can read it all here though I should warn you that most of it is entirely unobjectionable. If Mr Salmond is the salesman he hopes he is, the next Scottish parliament – due to be elected in May 2016 – will be the first to govern an independent nation since that auld sang ended in 1707. I notice, however, that the favoured question proffered by the SNP has changed. As recently as last year it proposed asking for a mandate to open negotiations. This

Alex Massie

Alex Salmond’s Inevitability Strategy

Apparently it is all but compulsory for London-based observers to note that Alex Salmond is “wily”. Those possessing an Anglo-Scots dictionary may add that he’s “sleekit”. By this they really mean he’s not a numpty and this, given the pressures of the times and all of that, is as much of a compliment as any minister can hope to receive. Alex Salmond is an intelligent politician who is often on manoevres. Shockerooni! Be that as it may, it is evident that the First Minister appreciates the importance of image-projection and, accordingly, is doing his utmost to present Scottish independence as a destination that’s as logical as it is inevitable. It

The Pound, the Euro and Other Scottish Pink Herrings

The crisis in euroland continues unstaunched and, perhaps, irrevocably. Naturally, being self-obsessed sorts and this being the week it is, one is drawn to consider the impact this must have on Alex Salmond and the prospects for Scottish independence. Plainly, the currency question is a difficult one for the First Minister. While the euro seemed solid it was at least straightforward, even though one wondered if swapping monetary policy set by the Bank of England for monetary policy set by the European Central Bank would necessarily be a great bargain. But the euro is no longer solid and uncertainty reigns. So one can appreciate why George Osborne has intervened, arguing

Peter Oborne Returns to Form

After last week’s mishap, Peter Oborne returns to form with a column best considered as a mash-note to the Radio Four theme. Because Peter is, essentially, a romantic he allows himself to be carried away by the fond vigour of his desire to see Great Britain preserved for future generations to enjoy. That should not detract from the central thrust of his column: Alex Salmond, that most brilliant and attractive of modern British politicians, is capable of superbly articulating the sense of nobility, romance, mission and fierce patriotism felt by many SNP supporters. Nationalism and the cry for liberty can be an intoxicating cocktail, even at the start of the