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Page 3 Profile: Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland

The end of an era?

Very possibly, and what could be more appropriate as the nationalist First Minister enters the year that will decide if Scotland becomes an independent country?

No pressure then …

Salmond has been fighting doggedly for a Yes vote on independence since 2011, when his Scottish National Party won a majority in the Scottish parliament – finally giving it a mandate to call a referendum. On 18 September the long-awaited vote takes place.

So he’s got a hectic nine months to look forward to?

Yep, and there’s still the small matter of running Scotland to worry about too. In his New Year’s message yesterday he described independence as “the opportunity of a lifetime”.

Can he win?

The Yes camp is behind the No camp in the polls, but the latest monthly results from pollster TNS BMRB show the gap narrowing; 42 per cent say they’ll back the union, down from 43 per cent previously. Meanwhile the number saying they’ll vote for independence has risen a percentage point to 16 per cent. Pundits expect things to heat up once 2014 gets under way.

Has he planned any celebrations?

Sort of. Independence Day will be declared on 24 March 2016 if Scotland votes Yes, according to a white paper released by the SNP. On that day in 1707, the Act of Union was signed, making Scotland part of Great Britain.

What if he loses?

It could knock the Scottish National Party off its perch as a mainstream party. Both sides want to avoid repeated referendums, and Salmond himself has described the vote as once-in-a-generation, so the campaign for full independence would be over for the foreseeable future. Whatever happens, this is set to be the biggest year of the First Minister’s political life. 

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