Sunday, 15 November 2009

Boomerang of prosperity

Alex Salmond is leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister in Scotland – in effect the head of government in his country, for all those areas over which it has devolved authority. Back in August 2006, he declared that Scotland should join ‘northern Europe's arc of prosperity, with Ireland to the west, Iceland to the north and Norway to the east, all small independent countries in the top six richest nations in the world’.

Today Iceland is broke and Ireland not far behind. Indeed, the Irish often say that the only difference between their country and Iceland is a single letter.

So, so sad. It sounded so good when Alex said it back then, just three years ago. And now it sounds so laughable. He can hardly just pretend he never said it. And the worst of it? The electorate, so often so easily fooled, sometimes remembers these things.

A couple of years ago, the SNP was on a roll. Why, even a few months ago they gleefully announced that they would gun for 20 parliamentary seats at the next election – not the Scottish elections, the UK elections: they would be taking 20 seats at the Westminster Parliament, not the Edinburgh one. That would effectively end Labour’s dominance in Scottish politics and be one more nail in the coffin of its hopes of holding back the apparently unstoppable Conservative tide.

But then we got a by-election in Glasgow North East. Labour held the seat with 59% of the vote, admittedly on a desperate turnout of under 33%. The SNP came second with – wait for it – 20%.

‘Arc of prosperity’? More like a boomerang, Alex. And it seems to have come back to hit you.

Postscript: the Tories take heart

Meanwhile the Conservatives felt the by-election showed they could increase their representation in Scottish seats at Westminster – currently just one. I suppose they took heart from the fact that they narrowly beat the neo-fascist British National Party into fourth place, taking a whopping 5.2% of the vote.

The BNP got 4.9% which is a lot too high, but I’m perfectly happy with the Tory figure. If they’re heartened by that kind of result, I wish them lots more of the same in next year’s General Election.

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