Napoleon would have liked Alex Salmond.
Scotland’s First Minister is lucky and he knows never to interrupt an enemy while in the process of making a mistake
Here the Etonian has made a typical colonial blunder.
This story broke just as I was finishing of a feature length piece for and Irish politics blog on the background of the SNP.
As I was sketching out the recent history the SNP it became apparent that it was the story of Alex Salmond.
It is also about the strategy to achieve independence which he believes in.
Salmond is a gradualist.
The debate between those favouring a gradual march towards autonomy through incremental powers being granted through devolution (gradualism) versus outright independence in one single bound (fundamentalism) has been the wedge issue for most of the SNP’s existence.
The party’s founder John MacDonald MacCormick resigned in 1942 when he couldn’t get the party to adopt a gradualist policy and support limited self-government as a first step.
The party, founded in 1934 out of a merger between MacCormick‘s National Party of Scotland and the more pro-Empire Scottish Party, had a gradualist brain, but had a fundamentalist heart.
It was the rational versus the emotional.
Salmond’s cerebral view was that once the Scots had a little power in Edinburgh they would want more and he has been totally vindicated since 1999.
There isn’t any party in Hollyrood that wants the parliament closed down.
Every party is signed up to the idea that the devolved legislature in Scotland should have more powers.
The current Scotland Bill which involves a major transfer of fiscal powers to Edinburgh is being blocked by the SNP because they consider the income tax proposals to contain flaws which would leave Scotland worse off. Salmond and his ministers also believe that the Bill would return some presently devolved powers to Westminster.
Currently his plan for a referendum on independence in 2014 is just that, a plan.
The SNP government was elected on a platform of having a referendum within the lifetime of the parliament.
The questions are yet to be agreed.
Independence will obviously be one choice; the issue over a question offering the Scottish people the option of going for “Devo max” is currently exercising the unionist parties.
No one is agreed exactly what that second option would mean.
At its furthest extent it would leave Westminster with Defence and Foreign affairs and everything else would be at Hollyrood.
Salmond has lobbed the “Devo max” issue at the unionist parties in Scotland and said it is for them to come up with the question.
My sense of it is, that if the “Indy” option is rejected by the Scottish people in 2014 and he walks defeated with “Devo max” in his pocket then he’ll be happy enough.
This doesn’t mean he is some devolutionist in separatist’s clothing.
As a Holyrood based political correspondent said to me last week:
“Salmond won’t be happy until he goes on a website and when asked to pick his location from a dropdown menu he can find his between Saudi Arabia and Senegal. He wants Scotland to be an independent country.”
If Alex Salmond gets his way then the political project that started in 1707 will be changed, changed utterly.
Simon Jenkins, one of the more prescient commentators within the London city state can see that fundamental change is coming to the island of Britain, but that the Westminster elite are largely unaware of where people are at on the issue in Scotland.
That process that is clearly now in motion in Scotland is of legitimate interest to all of the people of these islands.
It is because of that wily pragmatism that the Westminster elite haven’t, so far, been able to best him.
David Cameron has now barged into the Scottish theatre of operations with no idea of the layout of the battlefield and ignoring the advice of his local commanders.
The little Corsican would promote any general blessed with such an enemy.