The big beast of Scottish politics is coming back. Only weeks after quitting as leader of the Scottish Nationalists, Alex Salmond is set to return to frontline politics as MP for Gordon in Aberdeenshire, assuming that he wins the seat off the Liberal Democrats in May’s general election. With an eye on the sensitivities of Nicola Sturgeon, his successor as SNP leader, Mr Salmond has denied any ambition to become leader of the party caucus in Westminster, which would make him an alternative source of authority to Ms Sturgeon. We shall see. It is hard to imagine the old chief of the SNP taking a back seat.
Mr Salmond says his motivation for wanting a seat in Westminster is disappointment over the scale of devolution being conceded to Holyrood, which he says falls short of what was promised. That may be – but his other motive quite obviously is the knowledge that the SNP is on course to make sweeping gains in Scotland, which may well transform it into the third-largest party in Westminster and thus the kingmaker in the event of a hung parliament.
Much may change before May, but for now the SNP is resurgent, enjoying the support of about 46 per cent of voters in Scotland, way ahead of Labour on 26 per cent and the Tories on 14. The Lib Dems face a virtual wipeout, which is why Gordon, a seat they now hold, looks inviting. The SNP has only six seats in Westminster to 56 for the Lib Dems, but if the opinion polls reflect the election’s outcome, the SNP may have at least 25 seats after May, while the Lib Dems are on course to retain only 21.
None of this would matter if either the Tories or Labour were on course for a convincing victory. However, as Mr Salmond knows, the likelihood is that Labour gains at Lib Dem expense will be counterbalanced by SNP gains at the expense of Labour. If Labour and Tories emerge evenly matched, the decisions then facing the SNP could be momentous. No wonder Mr Salmond hankers to be part of them.Reuse content