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.
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.’