Alex Salmond's dark day has become a week from Hell for the Scottish first minister, as the SNP's independence campaign limps from one disaster to the next.
Alex Salmond’s dark day has become a bleak week as he desperately tries to keep his backbench MSPs together over the party’s NATO u-turn.
Just a day after the resignations from his party of MSPs John Finnie and Jean Urquhart left the nationalists with a majority of only one, asked if he too would resign, fellow NATO-sceptic and the party’s member for Central Scotland, John Wilson MSP, responded with a “no comment” after his wife, Cllr Frances McGlinchey (North Lankashire), had announced she was jumping from Salmond’s ship.
Meanwhile, the revelations ministers at Holyrood had launched legal action to block the publication of advice given to them on Scotland’s place in the EU if it accepted independence – that doesn’t actually exist (despite Salmond having previously indicated it did) – has been followed by yet more headaches for the first minister as the Spanish foreign minister concluded an independent Scotland would simply have to “join the queue” for membership.
Addressing the country’s Senate on Tuesday, José Manuel García-Margallo explained:
“In the hypothetical case of independence, Scotland would have to join the queue and ask to be admitted, needing the unanimous approval of all member states to obtain the status of a candidate country… and to sign the final treaty [of accession].”
Whilst ministers yesterday argued that, as a constituent part of the EU already, an independent Scotland would somehow automatically remain in it, the events this week are likely to prove highly embarrassing as MSPs prepare to grill the SNP leader at First Minister’s Questions this afternoon.
Bringing the week’s developments together, across the Scottish press a clear narrative has now emerged that the SNP have seen trust in their government slip away completely.
Questioning who would ever trust the first minister again, Bill Jamieson, Executive Editor of the Scotsman, this morning concludes in his column:
“Trust is a finite quality in politics. Time and again the first minister will need to say to the Scottish people on this and other issues: “Trust me; you know I will not deceive you.”
“But who is going to trust Alex Salmond now, having been caught out in such a cheap lie?
“And in this he has just cost the independence cause dear. Who now is going to believe what he says without double and triple-checking every jot and tittle of his pronouncements?
“Little wonder this week is being seen as quite the most damaging for the first minister. But by his own fancy-footing, he has tripped up and brought condemnation upon himself. Who would trust the word of the first minister now – on this, or on anything?”
For Michael Kelly, meanwhile, writing for the same paper, the events are likely to prove red meat for the Better Together campaign, seeking to maintain Scotland’s place in the union.
Arguing they have exposed Salmond he today observes:
“This is the opportunity that the No campaign has been waiting for. Opponents of separation knew it is merely a matter of time until the deception and obfuscation caught up with the SNP and it has come early.
“A self-respecting party would be demanding that its leader resigns. But, conscious of how much of a one-man-band it is there is no chance of that. The Orwellian bluster will continue unabated.
“But it has been exposed as that.”
In its editorial, the Herald concludes the Scottish people are fed up with being “fobbed off”.
Noting how easy it is to lose trust and how difficult it then is to regain it, the paper says of this week’s events:
“The public is heartily sick of being fobbed off. There is a hunger for truth and clarity that is supposed to be the result of every inquiry. But this week we have yet again seen prevarication and obfuscation from those in positions of power and responsibility.
“The SNP achieved their majority at Holyrood on their record of a competent first term in government, with judgment suspended on the prospect of independence. Before that can be given, other questions must be answered, including whether an independent Scotland would have to apply for membership of the EU, the future of the nuclear bases and whether Scotland would be accepted into NATO with or without nuclear weapons.
“Trust in politicians and in public institutions is at rock bottom for good reason. It can only be restored by honesty and transparency.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Record, noting that for too long Alex Salmond has appeared invincible, has one conclusion to take from this week.
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“It seems selling the independence dream is proving too difficult a task for even a politician of Salmond’s talents.”