Alex Sal­mond is a dis­trac­tion

The former Scot­tish Na­tional Party leader is in trou­ble.

Vocable (All English) - - Sommaire -

As the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions reach their fi­nal stages, and with a no deal exit a real pos­si­bil­ity, the Scot­tish Na­tional Party, led by Ni­cola Stur­geon, will be con­sid­er­ing a new ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence. Mean­while a scan­dal im­pli­cat­ing Alex Sal­mond, former party leader, could be a prob­lem. Nev­er­the­less, the Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence de­bate is back on the ta­ble.

N icola Stur­geon came bear­ing good news. Sup­port for in­de­pen­dence was edg­ing up, de­clared Scot­land’s first min­is­ter and leader of the Scot­tish Na­tional Party, to ap­plause from her MSPs gath­ered in Holy­rood, [early in Septem­ber]. But their joy was con­strained. The rea­son? Alex Sal­mond, the party’s pre­vi­ous leader, who faces al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct dur­ing his time as first min­is­ter in 2007-14.

2. Mr Sal­mond de­nies the al­le­ga­tions and rejects “any sug­ges­tion of crim­i­nal­ity”. The case has dom­i­nated Scot­tish pol­i­tics since the ac­cu­sa­tions emerged in late Au­gust. Mr Sal­mond quickly jumped from the party to cut off de­mands that he be pushed. He has also launched le­gal pro­ceed­ings against the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment over its han­dling of the probe.

PO­LIT­I­CAL FRIEND­SHIP

3. Ms Stur­geon was Mr Sal­mond’s pro­tégée and their re­la­tion­ship one of few ex­am­ples of a suc­cess­ful po­lit­i­cal friend­ship. Now, for the first time, there is a rift be­tween the two. Talk of a civil war within the SNP is overblown, in­sist party in­sid­ers. Mr Sal­mond holds no of­fice. While still pop­u­lar among older mem­bers, he has less pull over the swathes of young­sters who flocked to the party after the failed in­de­pen­dence vote in 2014. But Mr Sal­mond is more than an em­bar­rass­ing un­cle who can be ig­nored. For decades, he per­son­i­fied the push for in­de­pen­dence.

RE­VIVAL OF THE IN­DE­PEN­DENCE MOVE­MENT

4. The al­le­ga­tions against him come just as Scot­land’s flag­ging in­de­pen­dence move­ment shows signs of re­vival. SNP mem­ber­ship now out­strips the Con­ser­va­tive Party’s across the whole of Bri­tain. Brexit, which 62% of Scots voted against, is be­ing bun­gled, stok­ing de­mands for free­dom from West­min­ster. A poll in Septem­ber found that after Brexit, 47% of Scots would back in­de­pen­dence, com­pared with 43% who would vote to stay in the union.

5. Yet the pitch to break away from Bri­tain has be­come trick­ier, too. About a third of SNP vot­ers backed Leave in the Brexit ref­er­en­dum. And the eco­nomic case has weak­ened. In May a re­port com­mis­sioned by the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment ad­mit­ted that spend­ing would have to come down as a pro­por­tion of GDP if Scot­land went it alone. Ms Stur­geon’s job is made no eas­ier by the re­newed promi­nence of Mr Sal­mond.

(Scott Hep­pell/AP/SIPA)

Alex Sal­mond has been ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

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