Is Alex Salmond lying about ‘The Vow’?

As ‘indyref’ aficionados know, one of the minor sideshows of the campaign was some ‘Will he, won’t he?’ speculation about whether Alex Salmond would consent to be interviewed by the forensically unforgiving Andrew Neil.

Well he didn’t. Surprise.

However, in the warm afterglow of failure the erstwhile first minister did agree to appear on Neil’s This Week BBC1 programme on 27 November, in the cuddly slot that has the week’s ‘guest of honour’ doing a piece to camera followed  by some relaxed discussion with Neil and his regular guests Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott.

The slot (masochists can view it here for the next twelve months, at about 4:25 minutes in) wasn’t as cuddly as Salmond might have expected. Both Neil and Portillo had some quite sharp questions for him.

I was going to write a blow by blow account of the whole thing but time moves on and if you’re that keen you can, as I say, view it online.

The reason I’m dredging up a two-week old TV programme here is the specific question of ‘The Vow,’ the promise made to Scottish voters by the leaders of the three UK parties.

Part of the exchange on This Week went as follows:

NEIL – You say the vow promised home rule, devo max and a federal state. But it didn’t concede any of these things.

SALMOND – Well these were actually quotes from Gordon Brown, the guarantor of the vow …

NEIL – The vow promised ‘extensive new powers for the parliament’ isn’t that what the Smith Commission delivered today? [their report was published on 27 November]

The discussion then continued pretty much as you’d expect, with Portillo in particular wading in with reminders of the actual result of the referendum and Salmond’s statement about it being a once in a generation opportunity.

Fast forward to today, when Salmond confirmed that he would be seeking the SNP nomination as Westminster parliamentary candidate for the Gordon constituency in North East Scotland.

[As an amusing but inevitable sideline, the incumbent PPC was heard saying today that he has no problem with Salmond’s interest as he now has two small children and wants to spend more time with his family. ‘Aye, right,’ as they say in the corridors of power.]

Salmond got some free publicity for his putative candidacy on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend (5:10 on – this one’s only available for the next four weeks). Mark Mardell described Salmond as ‘the amazing bouncing man of British politics,’ not unreasonable in the circumstances, and asked him amongst other things why he was standing. Salmond’s answer included the statement (and I quote directly)

We want to ensure that the vow, the promise of home rule, near federalism, devo max that was made to Scotland during the referendum campaign is honoured and delivered.

He wasn’t challenged on this, unlike his outing with Neil, but I think people should see what ’The Vow’ actually says. As Scots will know it appeared in the Daily Record on 16 September.

the vow

Note the key words – ‘extensive new powers.’ No home rule, no devo max, no ‘near’ federalism, whatever that is.

On 27 November, Salmond had the chance to correct Neil’s statement about his (mis)understanding of The Vow. He didn’t. Today, he used almost identical words himself. An unkind person might say he is telling a lie. In these matters I tend to be unkind but in any event I can sense the fabrication of yet another nationalist grievance, the creation of yet another myth.

Cybernats I bump into on the web who moan about The Vow can expect a brief message directing them to this article. Its contents will not be news to many but it feels good to have it clearly set down in one place. I look forward to the obfuscation and excuses of any separatists attempting to support Alex Salmond’s distorted version of ‘The Vow.’

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8 Responses to Is Alex Salmond lying about ‘The Vow’?

  1. Sound analysis as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John Drummond says:

    Please explain how the first vow will be met. How will the Scots Parliament be made permanent?


    • Roger White says:

      John – I’m not sure what you mean by the ‘first’ vow. The text as on the Daily Record front cover is *it* as far as I’m aware. The answer as to ‘how’ the vow will be met including the pledge to make Holyrood permanent must be by legislation of the UK parliament. You will find details including the UK government’s proposed timetable (section 2.2) in this document – . Thanks for your questions.


      • John Drummond says:

        The first line of the Vow, following “We are agreed”: says the ‘Scottish Parliament is permanent’. I am simply asking how this is to be achieved, particularly in light of Lord Smith’s remarks that it is not possible. And if the very first part of the Vow fails to be delivered what Implication does that for the integrity of the rest?


      • Roger White says:

        John – I’m a guy who writes a blog. I haven’t seen Lord Smith’s remark you quote nor would I be qualified to judge it. I think you need to direct your enquiries elsewhere, perhaps a constitutional lawyer? I suspect you’re against the whole endeavour and really want independence. That’s fine but it’d be better for you to say that than pick away at what is essentially a small detail in an alternative way ahead that I’m content with – more devolution. Meantime, I would maintain my view of Alex Salmond and his approach to what is underway.


  3. Toby Fenwick says:

    Roger, John perhaps I can help on the question of permanence.

    Smith was referring to the constitutional problem of constitutional entrenchment. Smith is correctly making what is essentially an arcane technical point: the Commons will pass legislation to make the Scottish Parliament permanent, and as such it is *possible* for a future Commons to repeal the Act and then abolish the SP. However, it’s unthinkable. Indeed, there are few things more likely to drive the call for indyref2 and a pro-Indy vote than the Commons abolishing the SP: it simply isn’t going to happen.

    This problem should get swept up when there is a constitutional convention that results in a written constitution which will be a supreme law that Westminster can’t abolish by legislation.

    Hope this helps,


    Liked by 2 people

    • John Drummond says:

      Good points, Toby, however. Lord Smith is poorly advised. It is entirely possible to transfer sovereignty permanently to another legislature, as the Vow requires. It is called a Charter of Autonomy and is used extensively in post colonial settings.
      Re abolition: as Westminster once abolished the assembly in Northern Ireland, not quite so unthinkable.
      Very much like the notion of a constitutional convention, however a sovereign body often finds it exceptionally difficult to reform itself. The inability to change the voting system and to reform the House of Lords suggest little hope for improvement.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Richard says:

    Is Alex Salmond lying? Are his lips moving? Yes – then he’s lying!


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