Magazine article Public Finance

Greece's Gift to the Unionists

Magazine article Public Finance

Greece's Gift to the Unionists

Article excerpt

Things have been going Alex Salmond's way since the Scottish National Party landslide in the Holyrood elections in May 2011. His personal popularity ratings are still higher than those of all the rival party leaders put together. The anti-nationalist parties have yet to come up with a coherent campaign for the forthcoming independence referendum. The nearest they have come so far is a 'tea and biscuits' summit at the Edinburgh home of the former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling. It included representatives, but not leaders, of the Scottish opposition parties.

Prime Minister David Cameron's own personal campaign to save the UK, launched in Scotland in February, petered out in confusion when he appeared to promise greater powers for the Scottish Parliament than his own Scottish Conservative Party colleagues were prepared to concede. It was beginning to look like plain sailing for the SNP in the run-up to the referendum on independence in autumn 2014. Commentators were beginning to write the UK's obituary. But perhaps they should hit the pause button, because, beneath the surface, there are serious problems facing the SNP's project to end the UK.

In the May local elections, Labour stormed to victory in Glasgow and fended off the SNP in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, dashing the SNP's hopes of becoming the largest party in all three cities. This was more of a presentational setback for SaImond than a psephological one - the SNP increased its overall share of the Scottish vote - but it does suggest that the party's momentum may be fading.

Critics blamed Salmond's apparent willingness to lobby on behalf of Rupert Murdoch in his bid to take over BSkyB. The first minister insists that he was only lobbying for Scottish jobs, but few outside the party believe him. The new Labour leader, Johann Lamont, scored an early success at First Minister's Questions, claiming that Salmond had been 'played for a fool' by Murdoch. …

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