We’ve been racking our brains for a few hours now, but we still haven’t been able to think of a single UK citizen of the last 100 years – indeed, probably the last 300 – who has terrified the British establishment more than Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond.
By any conceivable measure Salmond is the most successful Scottish politician of all time. He’s the only one to date to have won a (supposedly impossible) majority in the Scottish Parliament, the only one to have secured an independence referendum, and the man who took Scotland to the brink of regaining its democracy, where – despite the best efforts of his successor – it still just about remains.
He survived a uniformly hostile media for 20 years as SNP leader, then also survived a corrupt and criminal conspiracy within his own former party to have him imprisoned, walking out of court a free and innocent man despite a police and government operation of unprecedented scale trying to convict him.
(A point that hasn’t been made enough in coverage of the entire fiasco is the amount of police resources which were devoted to the case. Ask the average woman who’s alleged a sexual assault below the level of rape if SHE got a team of two dozen dedicated police officers interviewing over 400 people at a cost of millions of pounds to try to firm up HER claim.)
So you’d think that when he formed a brand-new political party, which got numerous elected representatives from the SNP to defect to it, and contested a notionally-crucial Scottish general election, it would sound like a work of absurdist dystopian fiction if one were to suggest the media would exclude it from even participating in televised election debates in a manner more befitting North Korea than a Western democracy.
And yet here we are.
In 2016, the year of the last Scottish Parliament election, UKIP never polled more than 6% on the regional list, despite at that point having been a well-established political party for many years and despite years of endless promotion on the BBC in particular. Their average in the 21 polls conducted before the election was just 2.9%.
Yet their imbecilic Scottish spokesman David Coburn was still invited onto debates.
Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party has only existed for three weeks, yet is already polling better than UKIP did in 2016 (averaging around 4.5%). But the nation’s broadcasters refuse to include it in the debates, despite not only the political arguments but the sheer box-office value of having the First Minister have to face the predecessor she famously hasn’t spoken to for several years after she tried to have him put in jail for the rest of his life.
And even though Salmond was always hated by Unionist voters and is now hated by a substantial proportion of SNP ones, with the media constantly and gleefully pointing out his poor personal approval ratings, the Scottish public – according to a Panelbase poll commissioned last week – still doesn’t think that’s fair.
Excluding don’t knows, a majority of voters think excluding Alba from the debates is unacceptable, and what’s noticeable is that there isn’t that much difference according to party loyalty. SNP voters and Tory voters returned almost identical numbers, with Labour and Lib Dem supporters the two groups noticeably opposed to Salmond getting airtime – but even then by less than overwhelming margins.
But the SNP in particular have also been doggedly pushing the line that Alba’s participation in the election itself – not just the TV debates – is somehow illegitimate, an attempt to “game the system” by unfairly stacking the Parliament with pro-indy MSPs. The electorate, though, are even more unimpressed with that claim.
An absolutely VAST majority – three to one – of Scots think Alba should be allowed to compete for seats just like every other party, including significant majorities among the voters of every Unionist party despite the fact that they’re the ones by far the most likely to lose out on seats (the SNP having almost no list MSPs to lose).
Even 2014’s No voters broke almost two-to-one in favour of Alba being allowed to run and potentially create a pro-indy supermajority from barely 50% of the vote. And quite interestingly there was a 14-point margin between men and women, with women MORE in favour of Salmond’s party’s right to stand.
Alex Salmond now terrifies the Scottish establishment – an entity which now firmly includes the SNP – as much as he does the British one. It is extraordinary to witness in a supposed democracy the way in which the media and every party in Scotland are colluding to exclude Alba’s voice from the election, and doubly so when you discover how firmly the public is opposed to the conspiracy and wants to be allowed to make its decision free from interference and censorship.