Salmond, not Hawking, expanded our universe
I stopped admiring Scotland’s Labour party when I saw how they kissed each other on the cheeks but took a body swerve to avoid poor in the street, and refused to live among their voters. For their Tammany Hall stertorous superficiality there was no known cure.
I looked for better and saw the SNP was not as accused, a Tory party in Highland dress, but a semi-socialist party able to balance that doctrine with a dash of benign capitalism. Moreover, it was the only party to devote itself to the well-being of Scotland and the dispersal of power to people. Horror of horrors, it respected democracy and practised it!
But it didn’t take on that mantle until led by Alex Salmond.
Like his successor as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, I had the good fortune to talk to Salmond once but in his case for ten minutes of a private chat. Wits about you, not over-awed by the moment, you can glean a lot about somebody in ten minutes.
Talking to the man
Years earlier I had been invited by the SNP to shoot their party political broadcast. (PPB.) It was so well received I was given two others to devise and direct before I began working many months a year in the City of Angels movie industry. I aimed for a higher standard of PPB than hitherto, as innovative as possible.
One PPB had a teenager talking to camera against a blue screen that allowed the introduction of a cartoon backdrop illustrating his opinions; the second shot in widescreen like a cinema movie, an aerial travelling sequence over Castle Campbell, the independence message narrated by Sean Connery.
Incidentally, the sound recordist’s junior assistant on the Castle Campbell shoot became head of BBC drama a year later – a signpost BBC was demoting Scottish fiction. The department demoted, withered. Not unexpectedly she moved on to new pastures.
Westminster has only loathing for Scottish politics
I was canvassing when the opportunity arose to meet Salmond. He was on the move, bustling in and out of his associates-packed limousine, yet gave me some of his time. I praised his stand calling our Parliament a parliament and not as Westminster had defined it by diminutive sobriquet, as an ‘executive.’
Here was an example of Salmond in full spate kicking over generations of the Scottish ‘cringe,’ the inbred feeling we ‘cannae be as gid as them yins doon sooth.
Before we had a chance to sit down and talk he caught me unawares. “I can see you’re a man who won’t take no for an answer,” he said, a remark delivered pronouncing with as ‘wif’, his thick tongue unable to create the fricative ‘th’. With a degree in Phonetics, this was not the moment to offer speech therapy as a cure for: “We will succeed wif integrity, notwifstanding the rightness of our cause,” a result of childhood laziness uncorrected that fails to slide air between the tip of the tongue and upper front teeth.
His remark reminded me of why some women dislike him, “He’s cocky,” the invariable reply. A man never short of snapping at stupid questions, I was surprised he took time to talk about ideas. My offer to help win our independence back again by ways other than sticking fliers in letterboxes met with no response.
Disappointed I couldn’t offer a more constructive contribution to the party’s march toward full democracy, I resigned myself to establishing a blog of essays, and arguing ideas with confederates and opponents.
A mission to democratise
The main qualities I got from the meeting were boundless energy, a dynamic person who had a plan no one could divert. And boy, did he know his political history, especially that of his foes. His farewell speech to his party’s annual conference was one of the best I have heard him make. As ex-Murdoch editor and television journalist, Andrew Neil, duly impressed, said, “Salmond’s victory speech: What would he have sounded like if he’d actually won?!”
He lifted our awareness of ourselves as a nation. He placed a searchlight on Unionist claims of Scotland as freeloader, and our own belief we are mendicants – he proved we give what we earn to London and they give as an allowance in return. And Whitehall admitted it. He showed us how small-minded and petty his political adversaries can be and still are compared to his statesmanship.
From the constant gybe supporters of independence are a lunatic fringe, never greater than 30% of the population, he took us to the brink of full democracy by the people for the people and the possibility we can win back our country from the grip of brutal neo-conservative ideology and the worst of globalisation.
If I have any criticism of Salmond it’s a preponderance to be cocky, a quality not liked by women voters in any man, or by men who find themselves at the end of a tongue lashing. That smirk of a smile that goes with knowing he’s beaten his rival verbally, doesn’t help.
A worse faux pas is glad-handing Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch has altered the western world to his likeness, a ruthless megalomaniac whose newspapers and media empire lie to readers and viewers as a matter of policy, shifting popular sentiment to the right. Murdoch’s empire swallowed up Collins, Scotland’s best, most successful book publisher. The first thing Murdoch did on acquiring Collins was to cancel publication of a biography critical of him.
Salmond hoped to secure Scotland’s preferment from his newspapers and it did result in a neutrality from the Scottish Sun. The quid pro quo implied approval to locate Murdoch’s UK headquarters in Scotland.
Still, you negotiate with your enemies, not with your friends.
The right to try again
Generally, Salmond is credited with shifting the SNP to socialist policies, drawing out Scotland’s enemies, identifying them, politicians and business leaders who will do their best to regress civil rights for reasons of self-interest, greed and power.
Above all he taught us empowerment can be achieved for the masses even in these times of immense, unaccountable power and wealth held in fewer and fewer hands, given to crooked banks, big business, politicians in hock to corporations, a press and media unable to throw off the straight-jacket of nineteenth century ‘Britishness.’
Alex Salmond gave Scotland a renewed faith in itself, a wonderful confidence, and the chance of shaping our own destiny free of the taint of corrupt capitalism. By careful and verifiable argument he demonstrated the Union is a fraud.
He gave us a plebiscite denied by other politicians for over 300 years. He taught us to punch out the lights of irrational fear. But there is a sacrifice, a cost to pay.
He made himself a marked man. The British state is always vindictive.
Together with 56 of SNP colleagues, Salmond was elected to the Westminster parliament, becoming spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, in a landslide victory at the General Election. He later lost his seat to a swing to the right in Aberdeenshire.
Early in 2019 he was accused of various sexual crimes by two women. His case is liable to be heard in 2020. He won his initial action against his own party – known to be hasty and slapdash in such matters – for removal of his civil rights. To the other counts, unsurprisingly, he pleads innocent.