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by Louise Wilson
12 April 2021
Sketch: Back on the campaign trail

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Back on the campaign trail

The 2021 election campaign is in full swing. Newspaper headlines are full of party pledges, political attacks and an Eck-ing big thorn in Nicola Sturgeon’s side.

Six weeks out from polling day, Alex Salmond launched a party whose name no one seems able to pronounce. For a party claiming to have such pride in Scottish history and culture, you’d have thought the new leader would have practiced how to say ‘Scotland’ anns a’ Ghàidhlig.

It led to people arguing that it had three syllables in Gaelic, but in English Alba was pronounced Al-Bah. Funny, I thought Alba was pronounced ‘Scotland’ in English.

Big Eck’s big dream is to create a “supermajority” for independence in the next Scottish Parliament.  A supermajority will require a super shift from a super popular SNP.

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Super-Eck. Ready to save Scotland from the shackles of Tory rule… by taking votes from the SNP.

In a totally expected turn against his former party, he now claims list votes for the SNP are “wasted”. But this isn’t a vendetta against his former protégé, promise. He just wants to “move on”.

He said: “After the two court cases, the jury, the three inquiries, it is time to move on. I wanted to talk about the future of Scotland for the last three years. Now I’ve got the opportunity thanks to the Alba Party and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”

Best laid plans though… those pesky journalists just kept on asking about trust and his character, and whether he would apologise for past behaviour. “Move on,” he insisted, “move on”.

At first it seemed the country was resistant to moving on, with one poll indicating Alba was on just three per cent support. But a second poll put the party on six per cent, ahead of the Lib Dems.

And Salmond insisted Sturgeon would come round once she stopped being “upset”. Hysterical women struggle to see things rationally, after all. That’s why Alba is so intent on creating a positive campaign.

Except for candidate Dr Jim Walker, who called the First Minister a ‘cow’ on Twitter. Reminded of this on the BBC’s Today programme, Salmond insisted Walker has apologised for this, adding: “If I may say, it was a Twitter debate before he became a candidate.”

Perhaps he has a point. Youthful mistakes shouldn’t stand in the way of a successful future. And Walker really had grown up a lot, in the two days since comparing Sturgeon to a bovine. Boys will be boys.

While the SNP was displeased with Salmond’s attempt to return to frontline politics, George Galloway welcomed it. “This is the debate that the public have been longing for. Box office, TV gold. The heavyweights of Scottish politics.”

Foreman vs Ali. Wilder vs Fury. Salmond vs Galloway. Who will win?

To be fair, a boxing match between the two probably would attract a big audience. Two sexagenarians attempting to manage a KO, ego vs ego? Comedy gold.

Maybe Salmond will accept the invite. You wouldn’t want to be called a scaredy-cat by the UK’s leading feline impressionist. Or maybe he’d just send his ‘big hitter’ Alex Arthur instead.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Anas Sarwar announced he’d be pegging Labour’s hopes to his own name, putting it on the ballot paper alongside the description ‘Get Scotland Back Better’.

The party may not wish to campaign on education grounds with grammar like that, but it does channel the successful Make America Great Again slogan. While GSBB doesn’t have quite the same ring as MAGA, Sarwar’s other option is ‘Unite and Rebuild Scotland’, offering the slightly more colourful U-ARS.

Douglas Ross is going full union, insisting the election is a “straight choice” between a second referendum and COVID recovery.

But not a Union Jack was in sight at the campaign launch, despite Westminster colleague James Wild taking the BBC’s director-general to task for not including enough flags in the corporation’s annual report just days before.

He’d be keen to see Scots Tories draped in the union flag, no doubt. The candidates could even alter their names to suitably pro-union alternatives. John Scott-land is part of the UK. Harriet ‘St George’s’ Cross. Stewart red Whyte and blue.

And in all the turmoil of the last couple of weeks, someone forgot to keep an eye on Willie Rennie.

He’s been getting up to mischief, posing with oversized deck chairs and oversized chess pieces and oversized Connect 4. Are they large props or just a tiny Willie?

Maybe the Lib Dem leader has managed to shrink himself à la Honey I Shrunk The Kids. He’ll be forced to battle through grass and ride ants to make it to his election count come May.

That’s better than the alternative, I suppose, a giant Willie Rennie causing havoc across Scotland. He doesn’t realise the damage he’s doing, all he wants is the North East Fife seat… and to play.

Read the most recent article written by Louise Wilson - Derek Mackay invited to submit evidence to ferry inquiry

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