Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist Keith Hann

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist Keith Hann

Article excerpt

FEW things gave me greater pleasure in 2014 than the resignation of Alex Salmond after his referendum defeat.

I was not so naive as to suppose I had heard the last of him, but at least I hoped for a decent interlude of remission from the dread disease.

Instead he is back in the headlines and all over Conservative billboards as the great bogeyman of the forthcoming General Election: the one-issue obsessive who may well determine which of the leading contenders enters Downing Street.

And, of course, he will do so at a high price. This will mean either another independence referendum that he will surely be oddson to win, if the SNP has indeed eliminated Labour as a political force in Scotland; or a "devo max" settlement that it will be hard to discern from independence by the naked eye.

As political stratagems go, there can surely be few that have failed more spectacularly than Labour's brilliant idea of creating a devolved Scottish parliament with a voting system rigged to prevent the SNP ever attaining a majority, thus granting themselves a cosy fiefdom they could rule forever.

But then the fundamental problem seems to be that contemporary politics is all about stratagems. Trying to outmanoeuvre the other side with the promise of a tactical tax cut here, a raid on someone else's savings there, or yet another scare story about the NHS.

And always seeking to crow that someone who has wandered off-message by saying what they genuinely think about any issue has committed an unforgiveable "gaffe".

It's a contemptible game. Small wonder, then, that the British public has come to treat politicians with such contempt. Condemning them to a Western Front-style stand-off in which both sides pound away with small hope of gaining more than a yard or two of ground, let alone clinching an outright victory.

I no more understand the Scots' sense of grievance that propels the independence movement than I can comprehend what drives the militants of Islamic State. Both seem to me to be based on a misreading of history.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the piscine double act of Sturgeon and Salmond can tap into a genuine passion for a cause, however wrong-headed it may be. …

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