There seems to be no end to the Unionists’ loathing for Alex Salmond. If ever a politician needed confirmation of his success (as if), the last SNP leader receives it daily from aggrieved opponents in the commentariat. The charge of grudge and grievance has been swapped neatly from Nationalists to Unionists as they continue to lash out at the former leader even as he retreats to the backbenches.
He stands accused today in lurid terms of appropriating Charlie Kennedy’s death for a partisan purpose. Here’s what Salmond said: ‘Yes, he was an extremely generous human being. I have had one or two, but not many, people who had a bad word to say about Charles, and that’s very rare in politics. In terms of the independence referendum, I don’t think his heart was in the ‘Better Together’ campaign. His heart would have been in a pro-European campaign, that’s a campaign that Charles would have engaged in heart and soul. That is something he absolutely believed in.’ See? No? Well, he is clearly implying Kennedy was a secret Nat. Isn’t he?
There has been an outpouring of criticism unleashed with a particularly vitriolic item by Alex Massie in the Spectator describing his remarks as contemptible. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/06/alex-salmonds-reaction-to-the-death-of-charles-kennedy-was-as-revealing-as-it-was-contemptible/ As usual, I am out of step with our friends in the pious mainstream media who see it as their duty to regulate the rest of us on behalf of decency and good journalism. His recorded comments in all media have been kind, warm-hearted and thoughtful. I found myself asking: What did Salmond say that was so wrong?
Was Kennedy a secret Nat? Of course, not. There was never a hint of doubt that he remained a committed Unionist who believed in federalism. To imply otherwise would not only be wrong but transparently foolish – hardly the automatic description of Salmond. But was ‘his heart in the Better Together campaign’? Try this from the Sunday Post http://www.sundaypost.com/news-views/politics/westminster/charles-kennedy-brands-better-together-campaign-as-stupid-1.293864 ‘I looked at some of the rhetoric from last week’s Labour Scottish conference, It’s Salmond versus Scotland – I don’t think that’s the tone we are looking for. A lot of Scots probably think Alex Salmond is on the side of Scotland whether they agree with his ideas or not. So it’s a bit stupid to pose it as Salmond vs Scotland but I do appreciate Labour have a specific contest of their own, essentially anchored in the central belt against the SNP. The danger is that this drowns out the broader rhetoric needed to appeal to the landmass and islands of Scotland as a whole.’ Branding a campaign stupid and with the wrong tone might just indicate doubts about it.
Or there’s this from the BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-26602996 ‘When asked about the charge of negativity in the No campaign, Mr Kennedy said: I’ve made that criticism. I think that we should be more positive in terms of the way in which those of us on the Better Together side are putting over our key messages. I think we’re right to ask the pertinent questions, of course. But if you take, for example, the recent figures on the state of the Scottish economy, the decline in the oil revenues and so on and so forth, I’m not sure that the right response to that from our point of view is to say There we are, we told you so, Scotland could never go it alone. I’m not sure that’s a resonance that you can establish with the people and I’m not sure it’s the right one anyway.’ He just might be implying there the campaign wasn’t meeting his aspirations.
Or how about this on the threat to withdraw the pound: ‘I don’t think that the Scots will feel bullied. I think that the national instinct, if you like, is more Who are they to come up here and tell us what to do? Which is a different mindset. I think it’s We’ll make our own mind up, thank you very much.’
He wasn’t finished: ‘I think it would be better if we had a more coherent blueprint to put to people, to say, voting No means Yes to this distinct proposition, as opposed to, well, something that will be worked out in due course. Because then you’re open to exactly the accusation that we’re making of the other side.’
So Better Together was variously stupid, had the wrong tone, set Scotland against Salmond, was negative, mistakenly told Scots they couldn’t go it alone, told the Scots what was good for them and didn’t offer a coherent blueprint after a No vote. To me this is sounding pretty conclusive – that while remaining a dedicated Unionist, Kennedy was less than impressed by the campaign his side was running. You could say his heart wasn’t in it.
I can’t say either that I saw very much of Charlie during the campaign apart from the occasional TV interview. I don’t know why but on the simple basis of visibility he was hardly the central focus of No.
All this contrived apoplexy, remember, on the very day Kennedy’s death is announced. Even if the conspiracy-minded were suspicious, couldn’t they wait 24 hours before turning mourning into controversy? Have they lost all respect as well as reason? It does seem that in the Unionist mindset commentators can write the most horrible stuff about our country and be lauded as heroes exercising their right to freedom of speech but woe betide the Nationalist who thinks that right extends to them, even honoured former First Ministers whose contribution to the nation is unmatched. Reason has deserted them in defeat and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that fine-combing Salmond’s remarks is all they have left for the fight.
(One right wing source even yelped on Twitter that Salmond had gone on – in the quote above – to mention Europe. Europe! The horror of it all. Is there no end to this man’s crassness?)by