As if to keep the groundswell for full democracy propelled like a torpedo at the underbelly of right-wing cynicism and neo-liberal ideology, Alex Salmond published his diary entries written on the run up to the great Referendum, ‘A Hundred Days that Changed Scotland Forever,’ entitled, ‘The Dream Shall Never Die.’
In the light of developments – fifty-six SNP MPs elected to Westminster, isolationist England removing us from European co-operation, halting refugees entry – the elevation of racist Ukip party, it could be entitled, ‘Westminster, My Part in its Downfall.’
A good read well written
I flicked the last few pages first to see how affected he was losing the plebiscite by a mere one in twenty swaying from Yes to No, a story related in the book’s preface. After his last televised debate with Alistair Darling, a debate generally considered won outright by Salmond, he mentions his own adviser was crying, but for long enough I was certain Darling was weeping too. He ought to have cried into his cups. He is the real loser.
Darling risked all – and lost
Darling must have realised how his reputation will be recorded in history books. Did he know his reputation will hang forever on that infamous sell out of a nation’s hopes?
He took the thirty denarii. He tried to please the high priests who flattered him, who encouraged him to be their champion, only for him to discover too late he was a weak man used. He deserted the poor he once fought for. For men more powerful he urinated on his own soul. It would be worthwhile to know why Darling slunk off into the shadows and opprobrium.
The two adversaries held opposing attitudes. “Alistair was all about what Scotland could not do,” Salmond was all about “Scotland’s potential and self belief.” Salmond is up on his steed again ready for the next battle.
A Pan Drop
Salmond’s prose flows easily, exactly like a conversation one might have with him full entertaining anecdote, jabs at his opponent’s chicanery and cant, and gives examples of the United Kingdom’s inability to shake off its colonial past. There’s a welcome amount of couthy humour. That is not to say it is without depth. It offers a lot of insight.
The book is 262 pages long but seems shorter. “My faither had a saying: if the minister’s speech was longer than two Pan Drops he was sucking, the sermon was too long. If he finished sooner than one Pan Drop sucked to oblivion the sermon was too short. I think the book is between one and two Pan Drops.” (Pan Drop: A hardboiled, mint flavoured, sugar-coated sweetmeat.)
Not a valedictory epitaph
The book is not Salmond’s memoirs; he is not retiring from politics but sustaining his attack on Westminster’s iron grip. He has a lot of service yet to give his country. Each section is a page from his diary, postcards of commentary, and as such give a pleasing rhythm to the narrative. You can read this book while multi-tasking.
He speaks in the first person singular, as anybody would writing a daily diary, and almost every politician before him using the same literary device. The overwhelming impression is of a man of boundless energy, one day talking to folk in a miner’s club in Musselburgh, the same day in committee, the next batting off inane accusations from oppositions MSPs.
His recollections met with the expected undisguised animosity.
In a particular obnoxious review – to grace it is to describe it a review – the Daily Mail claimed the book is one long vindictive rant against his opponents.
Right-wing Daily Mail eviscerated
Salmond deals with Daily Mail gutter sniping and Daily Record’s brazen lying with tremendous skill. In another televised attack a woman, an instant pundit so beloved of BBC, thinks his book not “Alan Clarke,” the late disgraced MP who was an inveterate skirt chaser, a man who boasted in his salacious diaries how he had slept with mother and three daughters of the same family. Curious that a woman prefers a womaniser to a man delivering empowerment to a nation.
Former Liberal leader, Paddy Ashdown, describes it as ‘masturbatory,’ a revealing sexual howler from an ardent womaniser dubbed ‘Paddy Pants-Down’ by his political colleagues.
What strikes the reader well before finishing the book is the pathological denial exercised by his opponents over Scotland’s democratic omissions. They simply do not want to see the problems or address them. Salmond keeps asking what it is that keeps them purblind.
Scotiaphobes – Scotland haters
Scots are a breed apart. One minute we are welcome confederates, the next told we are foreigners. We should be repatriated. Salmond deals with those contradictions with a great deal of fair-handedness when he really ought to tar and feather the assassins.
He does impale one politician, the verbally accident prone former Australian prime minister, Tony Abbot, a crass fool who responded to Cameron’s overture to condemn Scotland and happily obliged. Abbott talked about darkening skies and a pestilence. Abbot runs a country that became independent from England some time ago. Epic irony fail.
Salmond also points up Cameron’s arrogance, writ large when Cameron unknowingly on camera, remarks that Her Majesty purrs like a cat when stroked. That publically recorded incident makes Cameron out as immature. and surely ready for a fall.
The Colonial Club
Had Westminster parties been tolerant and wise they might have stepped in proactively with a home rule bill offering Scotland everything it needs to prosper in a modern world, and to become more of a reliable neighbour. Instead, as Salmond’s relates, they first did as they have always done, ignored Scotland, and then, when alarmed at the possibility of independence on the horizon, offered Scotland a pathetic set of watered down powers in the Smith Commission.
Salmond refers a lot to First Minister’s Question Time. And it soon becomes clear that what we read in the White Paper came from the best minds in the business, including estimates of oil profits.
Salmond keeps himself well-informed of topics and trends on social media. The Better Together internet sensation, their disillusioned housewife video, he sees as “the most disastrous political broadcast of all time.”
A hapless woman is shown finding politics all a bit too complicated. “It’s about as distant from modern woman as dancing around the maypole is to contemporary England,” writes Salmond. He correctly sees the Unionist press as the only reason the Better Together fiasco of a campaign is given credibility.
As often as Salmon is cocky in the face of his opponent’s derision, he is as often self-deprecating about his slowness in adopting good ideas. He tells us affordable nursery care was something he resisted until convinced it is not just a good thing, but “one of the essential economic strategies for developing democracies.” And he is always gracious in naming those who have enlightened him and helped the cause.
Think tanks pretending intellectual honesty
There are instance’s where he touches upon the perfidiousness of right-wing think tanks, and the overly bleak statements of various fiscal institutions, each one offering dubious, doomsday advice without declaring their real agenda.
He is particularly angry about Treasury mandarins who over-stepped their brief to derail the Referendum vote by making false claim that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was moving its head office and staff south in the event of independence, a despicable ruse that amounts to sedition. No one has been called to account. The British Establishment can be guaranteed to protect its own.
In plain Scots
Salmond writes as he speaks, in plain Scots-English, down-to-earth, and with good humour. You get the measure of a man who loves his work and loves life even more. And he knows his audience. When he thinks a television or radio broadcaster is being ‘a wee bit too nippy’ he doesn’t care when he is in a good mood. And that is a quality that strikes you throughout the revelations – he seems in a perpetual state of optimism bordering on euphoria. Galvanised by the knowledge what he is doing is in the nation’s interest, his enthusiasm is irrepressible.
The majority know the inevitable
Edinburgh University published the results of one of the largest opinion surveys conducted in the UK since the Referendum. It arrives at the calculation 69% of Scottish voters think Scotland is going to become independent at some stage.
You can feel that change of attitude in the air, hear it in the openness with which people discuss the future, see it in the pained expression of neo-liberal politicians.
Membership of the SNP has surpassed the believable, over a 120,000 members. What a turnaround for the ‘defeated’ Salmond, an extraordinary event.
Post-Referendum corruption scandals, HSBC proving emperor of money laundering scams, the UK protecting its tax havens abroad, prepubescent perversion and murder to silence victims, all contribute to an unshakeable perception Westminster is fatally rotten to the core, a stinking zoo exhibit.
Throughout his diary Salmond highlights the awful mendaciousness of the British establishment, its barely hidden contempt for Scotland’s democratic rights and health. Salmond read that process perfectly and its inevitable outcome, and it is that that drives him back to Westminster to tackle the opposition on its flank while Nicola Sturgeon faces them head-on in Scotland. Political life in Scotland is guaranteed to be very eventful.
The Brown effect
Surprisingly he states he never countenanced Gordon Brown might elect himself the true leader of the Better Together campaign, side-line Alistair Darling, and intervene in the last weeks of the Referendum to alter its outcome. That is uncharacteristic naivety.
Brown made plain his intention of getting involved many months earlier and was as good as his word, or perhaps that should be, as bad as his word. It was all there even further back in his student days, in his compendium of left-wing intellectual ideals, ‘The Red Paper,‘ a modest blueprint for Scotland’s constitutional future. (See essay ‘Gordon the Hapless.’ )
Salmond has a few words to say about carpetbagger Jim Murphy, mainly that Murphy runs scared. If Murphy thought coming out for cannibalism would increase Labour’s chances in the general election he would fatten his loud-mouthed harpy ‘Mags’ Curren tomorrow.
Which reminds me, looking for more references of the cadaverous Murphy or anybody by name uncovers an omission – the book would benefit from an index. It is annoying to note page numbers in order to refer back.
What of the immediate future?
Sour-faced Westminster MPs are already back-pedalling exactly as Salmond predicts. A report by Westminster’s Public Affairs Committee warns that the speedy timetable for change has been “over-ambitious and impractical.”
Even when Westminster demands final cut and gets it, it still complains it is too generous. In an MP’s mentality ‘listening’ to Scotland is actually about strengthening the Union and blocking Scotland’s progress and prosperity.
A new Scotland
Salmond’s observations makes plain we have been through the pain barrier of self-doubt and realised it psychosomatic; nothing is self-induced, nothing written by fickle fate.
In Salmond’s considered opinion “Scotland 2015 is fundamentally different from Scotland 2014.” He means better, more confident, more assertive, more informed.
He is right. For that we must thank him and his team. Oh, how his enemies must hate him more than ever! Salmond just will not go away!
‘The Dream Shall Never Die’ by Alex Salmond. Published by William Collins. (£12.99.)