2007 - 2021

A Bump in the Road

As the turgid civil war that isn’t really trundles on (and on) the circle is complete of the Pitchfork Bloggers and the Unionist hacks salivating over the prospect of the demise of the SNP and some mythical (and as yet unidentified King Across the Water coming to save the day). Today you couldn’t put a Rizzla between Stephen Daisley, the Daily Mail, Stuart Campbell or a handful of other hate-blogs that have spiraled into inchoate rage. They are joined regally by Iain Macwhirter and other top scribes. Christopher McEleny and Craig Murray are joined at the hip by The Spectator as the rage plumes forth.

Kenny McAskill takes to Channel Four News to explain that the party must be destroyed and rebuilt as his old friend Alex Salmond is basically Charles Parnell (yawn) and that worked out so well for Ireland (or something). Half of the cohort that have engaged this fantasy demanded the referendum this year (or last) yet cheer on as the Parnell myth gets pumped out like dry ice to the Soft Rock Musical ‘The Bump in the Road’ they’re all playing air guitar in.

To clear the air the first proposals for the First Home Rule Bill in Ireland were in 1885 – a full thirty one years till 1916. If instant action and UDI stuff is your jam Parnell’s not your boy. But there’s another reason that the Air Guitarists love the Parnell analogy, it feeds into their Great Men of History theory.

Way back in 2014 Macwhirter kicked off the Parnell myth – and today this is perpetuated with continual references to “Kitty O’Shea” which neatly re-frames the whole story.

Kenny McAskill wrote in the Scotsman last year: “As for the independence cause, those who predict its demise can dream on. It’s bigger than any individual and can survive another bump in the road. Irish independence survived the fall of Charles Stewart Parnell. His relationship with Kitty O’Shea while not criminal was contrary to the mores of the time. They slandered great Parnell but Ireland still broke free. They’ve tried the same with Salmond but so has he and so will Scotland.”

The fawning and worship is quite a phenomenon.

Last year George Kerevan wrote: “What is Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark? What is the Old Cause without the Young Pretender? And what is the direction of Scottish politics without a certain Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond?”

“… anyone who expects the former First Minister and hero of the independence struggle to remain in purdah forever, is making a huge miscalculation. Salmond will be back. Like a latter-day General de Gaulle in temporary retreat at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, Alex Salmond expects to hear his nation’s call once more.”

This is Soviet-level stuff.

In terms of expecting to hear his nation’s call once more, a recent You Gov Poll of UK political figures approval ratings put Nicola Sturgeon at +24% approval rating in Scotland and +10% UK. Boris Johnson at -35% in Scotland and -8% UK and Keir Starmer at -17% in Scotland and +9% in UK, making Nicola Sturgeon is by far the most popular political leader in both Scotland and UK. Salmond was rated at -60, worse than Johnson.

In the eyes of Salmond’s supporters and proxy’s he doesn’t need to be reclaimed he needs to be resurrected. They don’t want to assert his innocence they want to anoint him.

One of the reasons this is jarring to people is that the argument for this process is based on purity and principle. McAskill’s “bump in the road” is code for destroying the party in the next few months with the prospect ahead of (according to the latest ComRes poll) the SNP winning 66 seats and the Greens 11, giving a pro-indy parliamentary majority of 25-seats.

And this in the face of further polling which shows – incredibly – continued support for Boris Johnson despite his disastrous mishandling of the virus and widespread cronyism and corruption.

But this is all worth it because Salmond and his supporters are responsible for nothing at all – and the Evil Coven are the Devil (I paraphrase, but not much).

Fraser’s shabby jibes are mirrored in the language by many within the Alt-Nat brigade.


Into this mayhem steps the Independence for Scotland Party (ISP) founded and led by Colette Walker, a disabled activist and former SNP member, and Action for Independence (AFI), founded by former SNP MSP Dave Thompson, but sadly not a third.

Independence as Brexit, Sturgeon as Johnson

With very few other options the Unionist forces are watching all this with undisguised glee. Their stated aim is to sow discontent and promote infighting within the Yes movement. They don’t need much help.

Most of the Unions media operators publish little more than brazen and clumsy propaganda. But some, like the Guardian’s Rafael Behr is taken more seriously (‘Sturgeon and Johnson have made Scottish independence seem inevitable. It isn’t.’)

Comparing Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon Behr writes: “Nationalism needs charismatic leadership. It is always a journey to an idealised destination that requires a leap of faith to get over obstacles and deny downsides. Coaxing people to make the jump is a job for preachers. That is as true of the project to unyoke Scotland from Westminster as it was of the campaign to liberate England from Brussels.”

Sturgeon is accused of being simultaneously charismatic but somehow also not: “Sturgeon has mastered the less showy brand of charisma that seduces its audience into believing it is coolly rational” he writes in slightly tortured logic.

This is followed by the Unionists favourite trick. As Brexit chaos unfolds in exactly the form that was predicted, and whole sectors of industry face closure, as voters surge towards Yes because of this, the Unionists try and turn this on its head. In slightly desperate logic Scottish Independence is just like Brexit, and so we get ‘Scexit’ and ‘Joxit’.

This is all tedious stuff but often repeated, Behr writes: “The arduous process of UK disentanglement from the EU has been an education in the difficulty of dissolving a union of nations, and the one binding Scotland and England is more intricate and intimate than the one that bound the UK to the continent.”

And so it goes.

A process that has been characterised by Dark Money and disinformation is mapped against a future independence referendum. A referendum (2014) that was sedulous in charting a detailed case is compared with a propaganda campaign fueled by racism and made-up figures stuck on the side of a bus.

Behr rails:

“To be serious about EU accession, Scotland needs answers to questions that nationalists don’t like: over currency, national debt, a budget black hole, a customs border with England, and how much it would all cost.”

If the Guardian writer has echoes of the hyperbole of John Ferry from These Islands (‘Is the SNP prepared for Scotland’s next financial crisis?) he is right about one thing.

The Scottish Government needs desperately to update its prospectus for independence. The case as mapped out by the Growth Commission is seriously lacking and full of holes, the largest gaping one by far is the lack of work done on a new currency. The left has been saying this for years and the heavy-lifting of policy development that should have been done by government has often been done by the likes of Commonweal.

Some of the seeming inertia can be excused by the coronavirus crisis, but the reality is that this state pre-dates the pandemic by some time.

Now What?

If the SNP High Command are vulnerable to the accusation of flailing around lacking in strategy urgency and nous – so too are their opponents. The SNP leadership have some responsibility for the present factionalism by the political vacuum they helped create. They are certainly culpable in creating a party structure characterised by lack of transparency and with a chokingly narrow leadership platform. If the SNP leadership survives the present investigation they will proceed with the charge towards the May elections galvanised. If they don’t there’s likely to be a political bloodbath the like of which we’ve never seen that will see “the dream” descend in flames forever.

Others are more chipper, even if the route forward is obscure.

George Kerevan (‘Will Alex Salmond make a grand return for Holyrood election?’) paints an incredibly upbeat scenario of the coming months. Imagining his heroes return he writes:

“Salmond would command the media agenda in a way no other politician could, except Nicola Sturgeon herself. With Salmond in the fight, a Holyrood super-majority for indy parties come May might not be guaranteed – but it would certainly become very possible.”

I think this is hallucinogenic political analysis.

The sad reality for both sides of the bitter in-fighting is that most of the public are faced with much more mundane issues than the arcane back-stabbing and conspiracism; issues like staying alive and supporting their friends and families through this horrendous experience.

It will cause apoplexy for some but the court reporter James Doleman is right when he says: “As I’ve said before, I don’t think that, outside the Edinburgh ring road, anyone cares if Nicola Sturgeon heard about the Alec Salmond case on Tuesday or Wednesday, it just doesn’t matter to most people.




Comments (85)

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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Thanks for a dose of common sense.

  2. Graeme Purves says:

    Indeed. That’s about where we are.

  3. Alan Johnston says:

    Please have a look at this excerpt .
    It explains such a lot about our national condition.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      So, according to James Hunter in his 1977 review of Hechter’s book, Scotland’s current national condition is all the fault of the b*st*rd*n English after all.

      I thought that, over the past 45 years, our nationalism had gone beyond such crude anglophobia.

      1. Time, the Deer says:

        Only crude thing here is your reading of Professor Hunter’s balanced review, of a book that was admittedly of its time, but not without value. Hopefully as the article is only a couple of pages long, other readers will have a look and make a slightly less clumsy and callow assessment of it for themselves.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          Yes; hopefully, others will make their own assessments of James Hunter’s review. As I keep saying: I speak without authority, and others must make each his/her own truth.

          If, as a result of what I’ve said about the deployment of the ‘internal colonialism’ model to explain Scotland’s current condition, others engage with Michael Hechter’s writing on rational choice theory and nationalism, populism, and more recently on the psychological and political consequences of status reversal, then I’ll have done my job.

          Scotland’s current condition would benefit from such engagements. His work on the psychological and political consequences of status reversal – a phenomenon that has occurred throughout history – might especially serve to illuminate the current degeneration of the SNP (which, after 14 years ‘in power’, is long overdue).

      2. Alan Johnston says:

        It’s a pity that you can’t understand the context of Hechter’s book. It’s not Anglophobic. It’s pointing out that there are many in our society who don’t want anything to change because it may threaten their positions. House Jocks, in the main. Have an adult explain it to you.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          Yes, I know. James’ (now dated) review appropriates it for anglophobic purposes, however, in his suggestion that ‘the British Celts’ have been colonised by ‘the English’.

          I find Michael’s work on colonisation, as an extension and deepening of Gramsci’s, valuable as a resource in our present task of decolonisation. But James’ appropriation of it in his article reveals a racialism that’s no longer acceptable forty years on, and which I’m confident he’ll no longer own as a historian.

  4. Graham King says:

    I’m disappointed and shocked that you seem so indifferent to well-documented wrongdoing, and malign as ‘hate blogs’ those whose journalism makes facts known that would otherwise be more easily concealed.

    Do you deny the calculated ongoing injustices and cover-ups by the Scottish Government/SNP, involving civil servants, COPFS, police, Rape Crisis Scotland, and (inappropriate contact between) anonymous complainants, numbers of whom have quite evidently perjured themselves?

    What is Bella Caledonia and your own journalism for?
    ‘My independence party, right or wrong’?

    1. Peter Arnott says:

      I suppose if you REALLY believe in that kind of coordinated conspiracy, you might also believe that Alex Salmond will assume the mantle of First Minister when the nation bows before him.

    2. John Russell says:

      Well said Graham. There is also a piece by “Newsroom” on https://newsnet.scot/news-analysis/independence-or-bust/ today which would rather any wrongdoing was swept under the carpet in the cause of independence. Shame on those who would have a newly independent Scotland founded on a corrupt government.

    3. I’m not a member of any political party Graham.

    4. james gourlay says:

      Thank you Graham King for this. I was simply going to call Small’s entry a load of drivel. Especially to call Stuart Campbell and Craig Murray blogs full of hate. The man has his own agenda and it doesn’t support independence for Scotland.

      1. India Osaka says:

        “Especially to call Stuart Campbell and Craig Murray blogs full of hate”

        Stuart Campbell and Craig Murray’s blogs deal in smears, innuendo, harassment, misogyny and fiction. Time and again they have demonstrated, whether it’s Bill Walker or Alex Salmond, Eric Joyce or Julian Assange, that as far as they’re concerned independence is secondary to the cause of defending abusive men.

        1. John McLeod says:

          I agree with India.

        2. james gourlay says:

          Would you make a list – maybe just a small one – of statements that S. Campbell has made that could be described as you have said? You could post them on this website.

        3. james gourlay says:

          You say Alex Salmond and Julian Assange are abusive. Again, where is your evidence? Your opinions are not what is needed here.

      2. Time, the Deer says:

        I’m not sure how anyone can look at the Wings blog and not see the incoherent, batshit ranting of a spiteful, angry wee man, but each to his own – 75m Americans voted for Trump, after all.

        1. james gourlay says:

          And what’s your own?

        2. Iain says:


          What of Murray, Dangerfield, Macwhirter and McAlpine?

      3. The idea that I don’t support independence is pitiful and offensive.

    5. John O'Dowd says:

      Thanks Graham,

      I think Mike has a terrible blindspot to all of this. If even one tenth of what has come out about a conspiracy involving COPFS, the civil service, MI5, the SG and the leadership/bureaucracy of the SNP is true -and remember by their own admission COPFS engages in “malicious prosecutions” – then we have big problems for an independent Scotland.

      If the thesis offered by Gordon Dangerfield, Craig Murray, Stuart Campbell, Kenny MacAskill, and Alex Salmond himself is even partially true (and I think it goes well beyond that) – and the perpetrators survive to take us to independence (and there is much doubt that that is their intention) – then the corrupt state that emerges will offer us nothing better than the corrupt state that already (mis)rules us.

      1. james gourlay says:

        Thanks for bringing some facts to light. Most of what’s on here is rabid opinions.

  5. Eddie Lamb says:

    I am fed up listening to Kenny McAskills frequent media appearances as Alec Salmonds lapdog. This guy and other so called independence supporters should remember who caused this almighty mess with their behaviour towards women.
    Eck Salmond should do the decent thing and retreat from the political life of Scotland.
    Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of winning a pro independence majority in May. Let’s keep our eye on the main prize that has the potential to change our country long term for the better.

  6. Paddy Farrington says:

    Great piece Mike. The current de facto alliance between the Salmond and the Unionist camps is quite remarkable.

  7. David says:

    I feel very torn Mike. When Stephen Daisley, Craig Murray, The Spectator, Stu Campbell, Iain Macwhirter and Christopher McEleny become circumstantially “joined at the hip” it is all too easy to suggest that they are the main problem. It might also be the case that something quite rotten is festering underneath all of this and has brought them together because either it suits their own agenda or, God forbid, they believe the public has the right to know the truth. That truth might not resemble the ‘facts” as they currently know them but I also observe that, in my humble opinion, a lot of procedural bureaucracy and obfuscation does seem to be sitting between the Scottish Government and right of the Scottish public to know the truth. I’m trying not to take sides, I don’t believe in Alex Salmond as the return of the Messiah but I also feel somewhat reluctant to proceed full throttle with building independence when the main political party machine that might govern at the starting point of independence is found wanting. Our Scottish government and our SNP leadership have not yet proven themselves to be properly beyond corrupt behaviour of a similar type to what we see in many of the leading players of the UK government and the Conservative party leadership. I know independence has huge support and has my support and I know that Nicola Sturgeon has a hugely impressive personal support across Scotland and the world and I await with interest her appearance before the enquiry next week. I just hope it holds more credibility and comes out more in her favour than her husband’s forced encore appearance on Monday February 8th.

  8. Axel P Kulit says:

    Good article.

    I have been saying for years that Independence supporters could lose us independence.

    Myself I could not give a damm about the Salmond case, at this time.

    I wonder how the Unionists managed to get these people to do their work for them.

    Maybe some are scared, if only unconsciously, that Independence will deprive them of their identity and careers.

    The SNP, if not Scotgov, needs to address the problems we will face in the negotiations.

  9. Peter Hurrell says:

    Independence will be achieved with or without Salmond, Sturgeon or even the snp.
    Anyone engaging in illegal or inappropriate activity must be called to account.
    No exceptions, no sweeping anything under the carpet or looking the other way.

    1. Craig P says:


      This article conflates two separate things:

      1. the return of Alex Salmond (not likely)
      2.the cover-up into Government misdemeanours (I don’t know for sure what is going on but something smells bad).

      1. David says:

        Extremely brief but perfectly summarises. Well said.

      2. I agree that the return of Salmond is unlikely but it is the story cultivated and followed by many – as I outlined in examples of his being elevated to the status of minor deity by some of his supporters.

        The idea is that 2) is the vehicle for 1) – therefore they are intimately connected.

    2. I didn’t (and don’t) suggest sweeping anything under the carpet.

      1. Tom says:

        .. true, but that’s a slippery remark, because neither do you advocate investigation of the corruption alleged at the centre of the SNP, Scottish government, civil service, Crown prosecutors, and Police Scotland, or express hope for any corruption to be revealed, and consequences for any ‘corruptors’.

        You present yourself as an intellectual giant hovering above lesser mortals squabbling at your feet, but you are just as much a participant in this awful civil war as everyone else.

        Except that in your case, because you present yourself as ‘above it all’, you’re being dishonest. You’re essentially a ‘wheesht for indy’ advocate or, perhaps more accurately in these times, a ‘wheesht for Nicola’ advocate. Nothing must get in the way of the great Nicola project, even if it is, as alleged, riddled with corruption. Really, best just not talk about it, because you never know where that might lead.

        Its a bit scary, sinister even.

        If I wanted, I’m sure I could stream together a series of important names to link with yours and your positioning on this miserable affair, and which would be anything but flattering. Just as you’ve done with Kerevan, Behr, Campbell (Stuart, that is), Macwhirter (for God sake!), Daisley, McAskill, your self-defined “top scribes” Christopher McEleny and Craig Murray, and everyone at The Spectator. Although I note that poor Robin McAlpine doesn’t even get a mention (although, of course, he’s already been sorted).

        You also pointedly mention that Colette Walker from the ISP (Independence for Scotland Party) is ‘disabled’. She is, yes, but why mention it? Just as a public information service, for those who didn’t know?

        Lastly, you closed your piece with what you undoubtedly thought a clever rhetorical flourish:

        “(who) cares if Nicola Sturgeon heard about the Alec Salmond case on Tuesday or Wednesday, it just doesn’t matter”.

        But as you know Mike, it matters much, much more than that.

        So let me end on my own rhetorical flourish:

        “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

        Or, as in your case Mike, do or say nothing.

        1. Thanks for your kind comments Tom. I don’t “present yourself as an intellectual giant hovering above lesser mortals” at all – I write an opinion column and present political analysis. I also provide a forum for debate where you can vent your spleen.

          I don’t propose a Great Nicola project at all but have in fact – if you would take a moment to notice – been highly critical of aspects of the SNP under both Salmond and Sturgeon’s leadership.

          Contrary to your allegations we at Bella we have unveiled corruption for over a decade. But the reality is I don’t believe the Deep State conspiracy that’s being proposed. I find it wholly unconvincing and its motivations completely discreditable.

          You say “Lastly, you closed your piece with what you undoubtedly thought a clever rhetorical flourish”. I don’t, I quote someone.

          1. Tom says:

            Thanks for your reply Mike.

            You say you don’t believe ‘the Deep State Conspiracy’ (your words, not mine).

            Is that because of your ‘belief’ (or, if you like, your faith) that corruption, whether Deep State or any other state, just isn’t possible from the kind of people you think you know at the top of government? You point in this direction when you further say: “I find (the corruption allegations) wholly unconvincing and (the Deep State’s) motivations completely discreditable”.

            Or alternatively, have you done a careful review of at least some of the allegations and concluded, after reviewing the evidence, that there’s nothing to see, nothing at all, and that they result only from mad theories by a bunch of conspiracists, including me? If so, could you explain how you went about sifting the evidence (for, say, a couple of the big allegations; you choose which) and came to your conclusion, because so far we’ve heard nothing.

            Then, hopefully, we could judge whether you really believe there’s nothing to see; or, if there is, that it really doesn’t matter in the great scheme of things; or alternatively that you are just a believer ‘keeping the faith’.

            Thanks again Mike.

          2. Hi Tom
            There may well be corruption and there may well be wrong-doing and lies. There normally is in politics.
            I have of course reviewed the allegations and the evidence and I don’t find it compelling at all. I’m aware of facts that aren’t in the public domain that influence my understanding. Sorry if this angers you, but I just don’t.
            I may be completely wrong of course.
            I find key actors in the plot utterly discredited.
            In terms of “hopefully, we could judge whether you really believe there’s nothing to see” … sorry I’ll write what I like. If you have faith in my integrity after editing Bella since 2007 then fine, if you don’t, also fine.

            The idea that we need to all agree and all subscribe to the narrative that you believe in is a strange one.

  10. Gavin says:

    “Don’t follow leaders”!
    But we do. If Sturgeon falls, then I would expect independence to be set back for at least a decade. The atmosphere in the SNP has turned toxic very quickly.
    Bad actors involved? Of course they are, but that does not excuse the disgraceful infighting, the lack of preparation for independence, and the lack of serious oversight at the top of the party.
    Don’t follow leaders—exactly. There should be an elected body at the top, not a single figure making all the divisions (and mistakes).

    1. Niemand says:

      It is interesting this rapid outbreak of infighting. Regardless of the specific detail, the apparent total unity of SNP politicians has always struck me as suspicious. I don’t know if it is literally true, but my impression is that all the SNP Westminster MPs, for example, have voted the same way on every single vote for a long time. This is pretty unprecedented with a major political party. This looks initially like great unity of purpose backed by strong discipline but over time it began to look more and more like a veneer only of unity, policed by an oppressive ‘whip’. If MPs do not feel free to sometimes openly disagree and vote with their conscience (and without dire consequences), it builds disquiet and resentment. So I think the current major outbreak of disunity has been much more slow burning than might be immediately apparent.

      In short, the current crisis is much more the fault of the SNP leadership than the ‘rebels’. It is the leadership that needs to change its ways and the current serious threat to the independence cause has its roots in their approach. This is why appealing to focus only on the end game is falling on deaf ears.

  11. John Mooney says:

    Well stated Mark,I am into my Seventies and have supported Scottish Independence all my adult live,I am getting truly pisshed off with the coterie of so called “SNP” backstabbers and grudge merchants,all they are doing is giving aid and comfort to gleeful unionist,surely it is time to pull together and focus on the real prize,an independent Scotland!

  12. Edward Andrews says:

    My interest is in the Parnell parallel. What people forget is that by the fall of Parnell the attention of the youth of Ireland moved on from the IPP and you had the development of cultural Nationalism which eventually led to Sinn Fein (the Arthur Griffith 1905 incarnation) – See Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923 Foster.

    So I would respectfully suggest that the people who try and build on Parnell don’t understand Irish history. As far as Parnell is concerned for Scotland, his important contribution is “No man has a right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation; no man has a right to say to his country – thus far shalt thou go and no further.” The problem is that both Salmond and Sturgeon tried to do that with the “once in a generation statement”. The throwaway line which keeps on given for the British Nationalists.

    There are however two other issues which I wish to raise. Both covers by the question of morality. I don’t care how good a politician Salmond is, he is simply poison as far as many are concerned. The people who have to address are not the true believers, but the people who have to change their mind from No to Yes I don’t believe that Salmond is right for that. Polls suggest that he is simply wrong.

    However there is enough of a question about the behaviour of the Inner Party in the SNP. The whole prosecution of Salmond does not reflect well of the Sturgeon regime and there is much about what has happened since 2014 which raises questions about the judgement , and the ethical basis of some people. This has to be reviewed by external players. The depth of family connection in the SNP is what you would expect from a body with tis immediate history, but as the pool of talent has got larger it is essential to move on form the family connections.

    Scotland will become Independence, but we will need to work at it a lot harder than we have been doing. In a way Devolution is merely a side issue, yes Scots are able to govern themselves, the real challenge is to gan independence.

  13. Muiris says:

    The first (Irish) Home Rule Bill may well have been 1885, but the first uprising against the Union (of 1800) was in 1803, not much more than a minor riot, I understand, again in 1848, & 1867 (The Fenian Rebellion).
    Daniel O Connell (aka The Liberator), having achieved Catholic Emancipation in 1829, devoted the rest of his political life to ‘Repeal’, repealing the 1800 Act of Union.

    Parnell & the Irish Parliamentary Party were only one chapter in a book, whose Epilogue is yet to be written.

    1. True true Muiris – my point was that Scottish politicians use Irish history often with good intentions but with poor detail – and there is a deep irony in the same squad who want (wanted) independence NOW (BY Any Means Necessary!!! etc etc) also are (apparently) really happy to wait twenty years. That’s very odd.

      Also, to get back to Irish history, Parnell wasn’t the ‘deliverer’ of independence.

  14. Robbie says:

    If we are looking for perfection before voting for-independence, then it will Never happen

    1. BSA says:

      Exactly. The question is whether the clean up demanded by the pious will be any more achievable with a demoralised and diminished independence movement and an emasculated Holyrood following the collapse of the SNP. This is not a rehearsal.

  15. SleepingDog says:

    Rafael Behr’s statement on nationalism needing charismatic leadership is absurd, but hardly uncommon in British political reporting. If you have to be persuaded by the charm of the leader, the nation (by any reasonable definition greater than any individual) is in big trouble. In any case, nations are often held together by relatively banal things, which do come up as symbols or totems in discussion (blue passports?):
    It could be that many political journalists operate at the level of schoolboy/girl crushes on their heroes, but more likely it is a slur on ‘followers’ and an attempt to damage movements by the cheaper method of targeting the leadership.

    The chapter “L’Etat, C’est Moi” of Norman Baker’s book And What Do You Do? What the Royal Family Don’t Want You to Know (2020) takes its name from the Sun King’s proclaimed self-identity with the state. It is unlikely that a similar utterance by any UK party member would be taken as seriously. The chapter moves from the unusually person-centric national anthem to the more serious personal oath to the British monarch. Yet, who would seriously claim that British nationalism relied on the ‘charisma’ of the Royal Family? Charisma is often allegedly something that ‘other people’ fall for, appears often divisive or invisible to others, must at least sometimes be cyclic (too much of Blair, time for something different in Brown), and ever likely to gaffe, gutter and go out.

    The myth of charismatic political leadership is like the modern myth of entrepreneurship (sometimes basically a pitch to con prospective shareholders or cover up shady business practices/lucky incompetence), and I agree is related to the myths of great Man (Occasionally Woman) of history. Attempts to deny the deliberative collective and some of the complexity of political decisions. The current leadership battles of the SNP have surely as much to do with the system of political parties (one day we will leave these behind) as much as the ‘personalities’ the media would like us to focus on. Leaders are vulnerabilities for movements, not strengths. Sturgeon and Salmond will have some appeal simply because the bar is so low; MP expenses scandals were not so long ago headline news, and scandals and corruptions of various sorts keep bubbling to the surface. There are more serious questions of who watches the watchmen (enforces the rules lawmakers have to follow) and how. But the independence movement will only be sunk by leadership squabbles, crimes and misdemeanours if enough people want it to. I agree with the conclusion: I don’t think most people are that petty, they are interested in ideas and ideals, can cope with codified constitutional complexity and would like a system that spent more time on solving our planet’s problems than creating them.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      There’s nothing mythological about charisma, SD. As Max Weber pointed out in his Theory of Social and Economic Organisation, where he remixed the Judeo-Christian concept for secular sociological purposes, the power of charisma consists in its recognition on the part of those subject to its authority. It comes originally by grace from the people rather than from any fictive divine source; and, as politicians from Adolf Hitler to Nelson Mandela, from Donald Trump to Greta Thunberg have demonstrated, it’s very real also in its effect.

      I don’t think charismatic leadership is healthy for democracy. It feeds off the attribution of certain ‘special’ personal qualities, which aren’t accessible to others, and which set the leader apart from ‘ordinary’ men and women as ‘exemplary’ and therefore ‘more worthy’ of leadership. But it’s nevertheless a real force to be reckoned with and isn’t to be so casually dismissed or poo-pooed as mythological.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @ Foghorn Leghorn, historical evaluations of the charisma of long-dead persons are myths. I do not mean that charisma is not effective in politics, but that there are good reasons for suspecting that many descriptions are false and serve some agenda. Was Rasputin really a monster of captivating charisma? A recent historian’s view is that the Monk was effective in calming the Tsarina’s haemophiliac son, and the lurid tales of his spellbinding charm were (at least in large part) an invention of opponents to the Tsarist regime. Horrible Histories paints perhaps a more realistic picture of England’s Queen Elizabeth I. Courts are full of flatterers. And when it comes to being held accountable for following the wrong side, how much more self-exculpating to claim you were under some leader’s personal spell (now conveniently broken) rather than admit you were in for gain or had closely-aligned ideologies. Anyway, any given instance charisma seems to be one of those Marmite things, meat to some, poison to others.

        Historian Richard Toye apparently met with a hostile response to his assertion that Winston Churchill in WW2, far from winning over the British public en masse with his bulldog charisma, was criticised for his style, while the general populace was more concerned with accurate announcements:
        Perhaps later politician-historians viewed that as a dangerous trend.

        Personal loyalty or obligation, on the other hand, seem to me quite separate from charisma, and may play a significant part in feuding between some political cliques.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          Yes, I agree; charisma is but one cause of personal loyalty, some sense of obligation is another. In fact, the sense that we owe personal loyalty to our natural betters in the divine order of society (‘The rich man in his castle/ The poor man at his gate/ God made them, high or lowly/ And ordered their estate.’) has historically been of far greater significance in Scotland. Even our ‘great men’ have lacked charisma; we gave them moral authority instead.

          One of the by-ways I’ve been exploring recently in my thinking is the charismatic nature of patriotism; the attribution to one’s country of certain ‘special’ genius, which isn’t shared by others, and which sets it apart as ‘exemplary’ and therefore ‘more worthy’ of one’s love and loyalty. ‘Wha’s like us…’ and all that.

    2. BSA says:

      And in the meantime most normal folk will look at the popularity of the current charismatic leader and be thankful for the traction it gives us in defeating and escaping a regime whose cruelty, corruption and incompetence dwarfs anything Scotland is capable of and which is nowhere near finished yet.

      And the appeal of Salmond and Sturgeon has little to do with the much lower bar currently set by Westminster. The SNP, over decades, has overturned the two party British stitch up and is now coming very close to overturning the British State, to the benefit of all four components. That is the standard by which they should be judged and not some mealy mouthed comparison with British Nationalists at Westminster. You’ll be telling us next that the Scottish Government has only outperformed the Tories on the pandemic because we have a lower density population and that Sturgeon just talks a good game.

      1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        In what respects has the Scottish government outperformed the UK government in its response to the various crises caused by the global pandemic? Isn’t it too soon, at what’s still a relatively early stage in that response, for any evidence of this to be available?

        1. BSA says:

          Too soon ? There are some 120,000 dead ffs ! The breakdown between the four administrations on all measures has been available throughout the pandemic for anyone with the wit to look beyond the BBC for some explanation of that shocking figure.

          1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            So, are you saying that the Scottish government has outperformed the UK government in terms of it having so-far better managed the death-toll from the pandemic?

            If so, that’s a rather gruesome competition your betting on.

            Still, when there’s political capital to be made, I suppose anything goes.

  16. Donald McKillop says:

    Thank you Mike for a good analysis of reported anti SNP rhetoric. My first comment here, as at times I feel I should not get involved as I have lived in Australia since 1964. At times I shake my head in disbelieve at bloggers such as The self styled Reverend living in Bath quoting Ruth Davidson and Craig Murray attacking the FM et al at the drop of a hat. My only defence for commenting is that my family tree dates back to a great, so many times, grandfather George, born 1725, who was a farmer in the Glasgow area. From my teaching days, I understand the difficulties you encounter in trying to persuade those with long held views to at least be open to alternative conclusions., but your persuasive language is your strength, as is your logic.

  17. raineach says:

    If I were to offer some explanation for some of the criticism of Nicola it is that those who call for some form of investigation, apart from deserving an OBE, tend to be men’s men. I suspect the idea of a strong woman is a new concept for some of them

  18. Richard Easson says:

    I can’t Behr it. Funnily enough it is only in recent history the the Tories have linked the Union to Scotland and the Union of 1707. Their true “Unionist” title was The Conservative and Irish Unionist Party. which considering how they have treated Northern Ireland is a laugh. They, however do not use thia title anymore since it does not suit them just as they also use the fictional title “The Scottish Conservative Party” which is not registered with the Electoral Commission, who of course they want to abolish.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party was born in 1965. Previously, it was the Scottish Unionist Party, which had been founded in 1912. The ‘Union’ to which its name referred was, however, that of 1800 rather than that of 1707; its great bête noire was Irish nationalism and ‘the menace of the Irish race to our Scottish nationality’. So, it was in its own way an ethnic nationalist organisation, inspired by hibernophobia rather than anglophobia. As an independent Scottish party, it also drew electoral appeal by setting itself against the threat of a London-based centralising Labour Party.

      A bumpy road indeed!

      1. Richard Easson says:

        Hi there, I would still maintain since I have checked that there is no political party registered as the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party with the Electoral Commission but I bet you some candidates will be having this printed on their election blurb and even on the voting forms as we speak. (to be fair like the BBC there are also no parties called The Scottish Labour Party or The Scottish Liberale Party) The Scottish Greens are as are the SNP.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          You’re right, Richard; the SCUP isn’t registered with the Electoral Commission. It’s an affiliate of the UK party. So what?

          1. Richard Easson says:

            If that is what is printed on Ruth Davidson’s membership card I would be interested for her to show it in the Parliament.

          2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            You should report any wrongdoing to the Electoral Commissioner and the Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

            I’m surprised the Scottish National/Green Parties haven’t made more of this far from petty issue.

  19. John Monro says:

    You don’t have to believe Alex Salmond is Scotland’s saviour any more than you have to like the man (I don’t particularly – I never forgave him for cuddling up to Trump and his wretched golf course) to believe he may be the victim of a rather nasty conspiracy. I certainly don’t believe that Craig Murray has ever suggested that Salmond is any sort of saviour, in fact he hardly knows the man, but he does sincerely believe, and puts forward a very good case, that Salmond has been such a victim. Not living in Scotland, I don’t quite know what it is that makes Salmond so unpopular, at least as you claim here. However, he was accused of serious sexual assault, including rape, which could have seen him imprisoned for many years; it’s difficult to exaggerate how stressed any presumably innocent man might feel faced with such a threat to his freedom and his future life. . He was found innocent of all charges, and it was evident, at least from the reports I’ve read from Craig Murray, that witnesses / alleged victims, were not telling the truth. This strangely doesn’t seem to be important to you, because if that’s the case, you have to ask the question “why?”. The fact that these accusations appear to have been of a coordinated kind and involve the higher echelons of the SNP, some very dubious behaviour by the Lord Advocate (who appears to be a serial offender, viz. Rangers scandal) and a curious and very unhelpful reluctance to reveal important communications that would bring some light to the affair, should invite the even the disinterested, as you claim the Scottish populace to be, to have some real doubts about the probity of some important members of the governing SNP, the judiciary, and the police.

    I follow Craig Murray’s blog, he can be shrill at times, and I’ve no doubt too he might be a “difficult” man, but then so too were Gandhi and Mandela, and Assange, but Craig didn’t gain his reputation by kowtowing to authority when there was a more righteous moral path to take. He lost his high-flying career and his health and reputation when blowing the whistle on information obtained by the CIA and others obtained by torture, and more recently he has made himself available, as almost no-one else has, to follow in detail the appalling judicial mistreatment of Julian Assange, another successfully slurred but brave and principled man. In addition, Salmond has already been the proven victim of a miscarriage of political action in regard to the “botched handling” of allegations against his behaviour . Confusing or conflating the political aims or trajectory of Alex Salmond (with or without his supporters’ excesses, which should be totally irrelevant) with a possible serious injustice and cover up in the higher realms of Scottish government and politics, and thereby dismissing their importance, is seriously unhelpful. You then compound this injury by adding a bit of an unnecessary slight on a very capable and thoroughly moral Craig Murray, and likely some of the others mentioned, treating their concerns by tarring them with same sarcastic and dismissive brush as being “joined (with him) at the hip”. Sorry, Mike, you’re very guilty of missing the justice wood for a thicket of political trees.

    1. “I follow Craig Murray’s blog, he can be shrill at times, and I’ve no doubt too he might be a “difficult” man, but then so too were Gandhi and Mandela”.

      This is just offensive.

      “Not living in Scotland, I don’t quite know what it is that makes Salmond so unpopular, at least as you claim here.”

      I don’t ‘make that claim’ I present polling evidence.

      1. james gourlay says:

        Offensive to whom? You?

        1. The idea of comparing Craig Murray to Nelson Mandela should be offensive to anyone

      2. John Monro says:

        What on Earth can be “offensive” about stating that great men can also be “difficult”, many great people are “difficult” to those that are opposed to them and my comparing their treatment to the dismissive attitude by many, including you, to Craig Murray. Your comment is ridiculous. Mandela was for many years an acknowledged terrorist, and Gandhi was to Winston Churchill a “malignant subversive fanatic” as well as more famously “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer posing as a fakir…..”. As for proving Salmond’s unpopularity by quoting a poll that still doesn’t explain why he is apparently unpopular, which is the question I asked, nor is being “unpopular” necessarily the judge of someone’s true worth. Many worthwhile moral people who seek honesty and not popularity are “difficult” or “contentious” or “unpopular” – weasel words of dismissal and no more than a trite ad hominem. The recently deceased Robert Fisk comes to mind, but many others such as Pilger, Assange, Corbyn, Chomsky – name any moral person who speaks honestly to power, and you will get this treatment; Craig Murray should be proud to wear the same moniker.

  20. Graham Ennis says:

    I think everyone should read the classic book, “Black Skins, White Masks” by the noted Algerian nationalist Franz Fanon.
    It says a lot about the colonial cringe, the disempowerment, the struggle for clarity and a practical path.
    Its a text book of the problems that Scotland now has.
    Nothing changes. Everything suddenly changes
    Or as Lenin said: “For decades, nothing happens. then in a year, decades happen. “.
    Scotland slouches forwards, towards its appointment with history, which is all going to happen after the next Scottish election.
    Or Not. People are self-sabotaging.
    The general population are more fervent about football than about freedom.
    I think we live in strange and mysterious times.
    Where is a brilliant astrologer, when Caledonia needs one?

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      Franz wasn’t Algerian; he was un Martiniquais. He spent a total of four years in Algeria, working as a clinical psychiatrist, responsible for treating the psychological distress of the French soldiers and officers who carried out torture in order to suppress anti-colonial resistance. In his spare time, he wrote political philosophy. His Black Skins, White Masks is a classic exploration of the social psychology of colonisation. The Caribbean Philosophical Association offers the Frantz Fanon Prize for work that furthers the decolonisation and liberation of mankind from mental slavery.

      I’d recommend that everyone reads Black Skins, White Masks at least once. Prompted by the articles on decolonisation in Bella, I recently re-read it as an account of phobogenesis, with a view to understanding how the concept might be applied to an analysis of anglophobia. The idea is that the phobogenic object (e.g. the English or any of its proxies) elicits feelings of dread, fear, and hate in the phobogenic subject. This phobic reaction is extremely irrational and exaggerated, as is the danger posed by it. The object is attributed ‘evil intentions and… a malefic power’, thus giving excessive weight to its threat to the subject. Learning how to overcome this phobic reaction of dread, fear, and hatred is part of the ‘cure’ of decolonisation – part of one’s self-liberation from what many Caribbean writers recognise as the mental slavery of colonisation.

      It’s a fascinating subject.

      1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        For clarity, the last sentence of that first paragraph would be better rendered as: ‘The Caribbean Philosophical Association offers the Frantz Fanon Prize for work that furthers the decolonisation of mankind; our liberation from mental slavery, in other words.’

        1. Niemand says:

          And of course forms the basis of a famous Bob Marley lyric

          1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Yep, been there on the Nanny of the Maroons thread some months ago.

  21. MacNaughton says:

    The SNP leadership, both past and present, have let us all down very badly.

    To hold numerous boozy nights in Bute House, or to even contemplate a husband and wife team leading the party and the country, and more farcical still, to agree to an inquiry which rather than clarify things, muddies the waters even more, are all indicative of a set of people who think they can live in impunity for ever and obviously hold their voters in mild contempt. Their record in government is very disappointing too.

    I would always advocate voting for the party which is best placed to deliver independence. But I would not endorse either Sturgeon or Salmond even one inch more. Two of a kind who, let’s not forget it, worked hand in glove for many a fine year. As for Murrel, he should have gone a long time ago. It is an international embarrassment to have a husband and wife running the country, and Sturgeon is at least popular…her principal virtue according to Mike Small….

    1. MacNaughton says:

      Mike Small talks about grand conspiracies and how outlandish they sound, but a husband and wife team leading the country is already a conspiracy of sorts and is bound to give rise to serious misgivings, not to say paranoia, especially in a party as hegemonic and large as the SNP.

      Nicola Sturgeon knows that no modern European democracy would ever tolerate such a concentration of power, that it is simply not serious politics. So why on earth is she complaining when people start floating all kind of theories? Why not be a professional person and get rid of Murrel?

      And as Nicola surgeon says – and Gerry Hassan – what about the women? Well, indeed, what about the women? What do they really think about her govt s botched internal procedure against Salmond- a total balls up at best – and this farcical enquiry now? Probably, they just wish the whole thing was over and done with.

      I find it impossible to believe any person, woman or otherwise, with a serious complaint against the former First Minister can feel anything other than bitter disappointment and frustration at the – at best – total incompetence and ineptness of Sturgeon, Murrell and co and their handling of this whole affair…

      As for the Scottish public, it’s not they don’t care I’m sure, they are most probably just quietly sickened by it all and have switched off. Who really cares about these people and all their power and status and money?

      I certainly dont….I care about Scottish independence….

      1. MacNaughton says:

        If you want an example of leadership and statesmanship, here is the President of Ireland’s sensitive piece in The Guardian yesterday, about the British Empire, decolonization n Ireland and putting the past behind us by paying due respect to its innocent victims:


        That the Scottish independence leadership of twenty years standing have chosen to tear each other apart precisely now is totally unforgivable. And if there were foul play involved in some shape of form through the undercover forces of the nefarious British State, I would not be surprised by that at all.

        I am not saying there is, I have no proof of that, but what do people think he British Secret Services are for? It’s absolutely a certainty that they will have somebody in a high position of power in the SNP or the Scottish govt or elsewhere on the payroll. That’s what they do.

      2. Niemand says:

        I am in the same ballpark but Salmond was tried in court and found innocent of all charges (by a majority female jury too). What the SNP / NS did prior to that is not actually that relevant to the actual trial is it?

        So did the court and jury balls up as well then?

        Or was it a put up job?

        It is one or the other and that really matters to how we judge NS compared to Salmond.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          But Niemand, it’s ‘absolutely a certainty’ that the British Secret Services will have had somebody on that jury. That’s what they do.

        2. MacNaughton says:

          I am not casting any doubt on the verdict of the Alex Salmond trial. I merely mean he was unprofessional and reckless to host all those bacchanalia at Bute House in the run up to the 2014 referendum.

          They talk these days about “ministerial codes of conduct” and things like that, but there is something much more basic called professionalism and Salmond was guilty of unprofessional behaviour and has paid a very steep price for that. The idea that Salmond is attempting a come-back is I think a bit of a red herring. On the other hand, he did go out of his way to sow doubt when, on leaving office he declared to the press in a misguided rhetorical flourish, “you’ve no heard the last of my bonnet and me” (the words from an old Scots song).

          Nicola Sturgeon is also guilty of at the very least unprofessional behaviour by insisting that her husband remain CEO of the SNP. That is indefensible from a democratic point of view. It leads to complicated situations like the one we have now in which her husband is alleged (or maybe he admitted as much?) to have spurred on the police to nail Salmond. Clearly, if Sturgeon had done such a thing then that would be a serious abuse of power and she would have to resign. But her husband doing so is neither a crime nor an abuse of official State power because he holds no official position. Which doesn’t make it anything other than very, very wrong of him.

          As for the possible infiltration of MI5, well, anybody who knows anything about how the British Secret Services will know they have people in high places on the payroll in the upper echelons of the Scottish State / SNP. That is their job. They infiltrate CND, Greenpeace, the Trade Unions, all the old revolutionary parties on the Left, any organization which poses a threat to the “British national interest”. Obviously, they will have people on the payroll high up in the SNP.

          And the history books show it already happened here. The Radical War of 1820, in which a republican independence rising in Scotland was crushed by the British State, and some of its leaders executed (James Wilson, Andrew Hardie and John Baird) was most likely provoked by British spies in the Radical Movement. In fact, the entire Committee for the Organization of the Provisional Government melted into thin air when the rising took place…

          …it is possible that the entire Committee, who nailed the Proclamation to the streets of Glasgow and Paisley and such like places were in fact, in its entirety, agent provocateurs. It is one of the great mysteries of Scottish history. What happened to the Committee for the Organization of the Provisional Government? Hugh MacDiarmid rightly described it as a “The Man Who Was Thursday” scenario…

          The Proclamation read thus: “Friends and Countrymen! Rouse from that torpid state in which we have sunk for so many years, we are at length compelled from the extremity of our sufferings, and the contempt heaped upon our petitions for redress, to assert our rights at the hazard of our lives.” by “taking up arms for the redress of our common grievances”. “Equality of rights (not of property)… Liberty or Death is our motto, and we have sworn to return home in triumph – or return no more…. we earnestly request all to desist from their labour from and after this day, the first of April [until] in possession of those rights…”

          The rising was brutally crushed, and the British spies who provoked it achieved their ends by flushing out many Scots with democratic, republican and nationalist sympathies…

          1. John Monro says:

            Thanks for a very interesting history lesson, I had never heard of the “Radical War” (I was not brought up in Scotland, so will have missed this story in any history curriculum). Wikipedia has an article about it and a picture of a path up Salisbury Crags, even now apparently called the “Radical Road” , built by unemployed weavers at the instigation of Sir Walter Scott, who also organised a visit of King George IV and the allaying of discord by appealing to a safer Scottish nationalism, with tartans, kilts, bagpipes and the whole paraphenalia of the “tartan plaided pageantry” . Perhaps tellingly in an anniversary debate in the Scottish Parliament speakers for all the different parties found some lessons for their own philosophies from this history (unreferenced statement in Wiki)

      3. SleepingDog says:

        @ MacNaughton, I would have thought that some aspects of patriarchy must amount to conspiracies. For example, the Japanese medical student results-tampering scandal to exclude numbers of female applicants:
        but also more general collusion behind closed doors.

        Niccolò Machiavelli wrote a chapter on conspiracies in the Discourses; I gather he thought them rather difficult to pull off. But perhaps in our high-speed modern world, even a short-lived conspiracy can often achieve its aims. Some members of the British establishment seem well-practised in the arts of nod and wink, so they don’t need full-blown, signed in blood conspiracies, but act most economically in each others’ interests. I suppose the Herman–Chomsky Propaganda Model is mostly made up of that kind of collusion, conspiracies of silence maintaining the secrecy of their modes of operation. And some people just need pointed at a target.

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          Yep, more chumocracy than conspiracy. The ruling ‘elite’ (aka ‘the Establishment) is largely made up of people from the same background who went to the same schools and universities and know each other socially. It’s nothing more sinister than that.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Foghorn Leghorn, unless you find the idea of supposed representatives of democracy habitually serving the interests of oligarchy sinister, of course. Corruption seems to come in waves or cycles, and corrupt ways seem to be learnt (human plasticity: the old themes of town and country: courtly and private education: generational corruption and resistance). So it is not just political corruption we should be interested in, as this BBC animated thinking short tells:

          2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Yes, we should, of course, be concerned about dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power. We need to legislate against it as part of the evolution of our free and democratic constitution and to police the conduct of those in power accordingly.

            Extending and exercising such checks on the abuse of power is part of the business of democracy; indeed, it’s its core business. That’s why the Salmond found himself in court, where the charge that he abused his power in his conduct towards a number of women was tried and found wanting; that’s why the Scottish government currently finds itself subject to a parliamentary investigation, where the possibility that its ministers and/or officers abused their power in their handling of the complaints that had been made against the Salmond.

            We need more of this kind of vigilance and scrutiny. Rather than a ‘bump’ in the road to the better governance of the res publica in Scotland, it’s a huge and important aspect of the democratic process of governance itself.

  22. gehetacicl says:

    Hmm.. You’re not wrong that the veneration of Salmond is politically pointless. But OK, the man has supporters and long standing friends. It happens you know? After 50 years in politics. The real “Soviet-level stuff” is the constant background hum of illiberalism in the SNP and its rank and file, and the way it spreads by osmosis into the “don’t think much aboot politics but aye Sturgeon seems to be doing a good job” people. For all the plastic idealism of the independence movement, we now seem, as Peter Mandelson said in a very different context, to be “intensely relaxed” about forming a whole new nation state within such a political culture. One where the winning party (that all important WInning!) is way ahead of the curve in rolling back civil liberties like freedom of speech, a culture where an ex party leader can be guilty until proven innocent, and guilty after being proven innocent, and where journalists (oh, sorry “bloggers”) get hauled up in the courts for reporting concerns about biased investigations into the matter etc etc. Salmond is kinda like Scotland’s own “EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN”.

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