19 Sep 2014

The two camps of Yes Scotland: nationalists and radicals

Alex Salmond is to resign – both as first minister of Scotland and as leader of the SNP, following the party’s defeat in last night’s referendum.

At his press conference he revealed David Cameron had refused to commit to the timetable Gordon Brown announced two weeks ago, for a rapid parliamentary process to devolve more power to Scotland by Burns Night 2015.

Salmond will stay on until November – and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is front runner to lead the SNP.

But this dramatic move – after a night of drama in Scotland and a day of confusion in Westminster – adds another variable to the outcome of the constitutional crisis.

Last night I saw Ms Sturgeon mobbed by the accredited yes campaigners at the Glasgow count. She looked stunned, exhausted, and the bigger issue for her was that there were more anarchists and eco-warriors slapping her on the back than there were the traditional SNP-types with tartan ties.


The yes camp was really two camps: nationalists and radicals, and of the two the latter had the better campaign. Mr Salmond said today “the dream goes on” – but it is really two dreams, or a variety of dreams.

For 20 years he has been the figurehead of the party, allowing most of the dreams to co-exist; and his political achievement is clear. Scotland is a country already on a different pathway to England economically and will diverge further.

But who now fronts up the response to the defeat? A diverse party like the SNP only works if there is a strong leadership with agreed policies and tactics.

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