If the theory goes that British Politics is becoming increasingly presidential in style, with the focus less on the parties and ever more on individual leaders themselves then Alex Salmond has taken the theory and turned it into a successful art form.
If British Politics is becoming increasingly presidential in style, with the focus less on the parties and ever more on individual leaders themselves, then Alex Salmond has taken the theory and turned it into a successful art form. He is not content at just being a leader but has managed to embody Scotland’s anger and opposition to the Conservative-led government in Westminster.
When even Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph shortly after the Scottish elections in May, dubs the first minister of Scotland a “brilliant politician”, you have to sit up and conclude he has a strong case to be considered as the centre-left politician of the year.
Undoubtedly the sheer scale of his victory and the manner in which it happened in May, breaking through a system designed to prevent the nationalists dominating the Scottish Parliament, while at the same time seeing off all three of Holyrood’s main opposition leaders will be seen a high watermark for Salmond.
But it’s what he’s been able to achieve which has been so impressive as opponents struggle to figure out how to respond in his wake. Cameron, Clegg, Osborne et al in London have sought to restrict spending and oppose the idea that government spending can play a major role in bringing an economy out of recession.
However, the UK government’s decision just days after SNP victory to provide the Scottish Government with immediate authority to borrow at least £300m annually from the Treasury to help boost Scotland’s economic recovery was not only a recognition in Westminster of the realities of the SNP mandate – it was also a boost for Salmond’s continued case that Government spending has a major contribution to dragging the country out of its economic malaise.
And then there is domestic policy, with Salmond so often at ease and fending off criticisms as being too costly of polices such as continued free tuition for Scottish students and the abolishment of all perception charges, which the SNP leader has used as an attempt to fight off the nasty Conservatives south of the border.
But most of all, through Alex Salmond’s achievements, what was once a pipe dream for many, namely independence for Scotland, is now closer to being achieved than ever. It is a threat which opponents seem slow to respond to as they turn in on themselves to consider what went wrong for them in May.
When Alex Salmond resigned the party leadership in 2000 after his first 10 years in charge, his suggestion that his party could form a government in Scotland seemed someway off, yet he was right to predict it. With a lack of any strong opposition, few can be 100% confident that Scotland’s most dominate politician with the communication skills to suit will not pull of independence.
The term “big beast” get’s branded about in politics perhaps too often, but for Alex Salmond it is perhaps the best description for him. He now dominates Scottish Politics in a way that no one has perhaps since Donald Dewer, and what’s more, when we consider the future of the UK it’s a dominance that is set to continue.
Scotland’s first minister continues his master class in how to stoke up grievances within people over Westminster and the direction the coalition is taking the country and use that to his advantage.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.