Alex Salmond was once a star turn with the late Wendy Richards, Nicolas Parsons and Sandi Toksvig on the game show Call My Bluff. But, it seems his well-honed skills of brinkmanship deserted him this week.
Scotland’s First Minister had his bluff called and lost his Education Minister as a result.
The week was to be a triumphant high for the SNP – launching their plans for Independence on St Andrew’s Day and Mr Salmond spending time in Brussels as the Scots leader abroad only waiting for full Independence to deliver him to the real power he craves. Almost like the Prince in exile. It was all carefully choreographed. But then “events” spoiled it all.
On Sunday the Scottish press were highlighting the SNP’s “Damain McBride” moment when an SNP aide’s abusive blog was revealed on the eve of the launch of the nationalists’ long awaited dream – rather sullying the SNP’s big day.
When Monday arrived, leader Alex Salmond was still enthusiastically trumpeting his White Paper on a Referendum which will be given a wide birth by all the other parties in the Scottish Parliament except the duo of Green MSPs.
By Tuesday Mr Salmond was abroad but was forced to look more closely to home after Labour sided with their former coalition partners the Lib Dems on a no confidence motion in Fiona Hyslop the beleaguered Education Secretary.
For weeks there have been calls for the head of the Education Secretary – but matters came to a boiling point last weekend when she threatened to take education out of the control of local authorities in a fit of petulance. With other troubles piling up on her desk over the SNP’s new curriculum and a fall in the number of teachers, Miss Hyslop’s coat was on a very shaky nail. The opposition rallied under Lib Dem Tavish Scott’s motion and reminded Mr Salmond that he is in a minority afterall and threatening behaviour is not the consensus approach expected.
Salmond had long threatened that should there ever be a no confidence motion in any of his team all his Cabinet troops would march out and there would be a general election in Scotland – which could be seen to be like the cry of a seventies Union baron – “one out all out”…
But, when the reality came calling Mr Salmond – still smarting after a severe beating in the by-election in Glasgow last month and less than encouraging poll ratings signalling an end of the longest honeymoon in Scottish political history – apparently “blinked” according to the opposition Labour leader Iain Gray.
Miss Hyslop has long been seen as the SNP’s “weakest link” by the Tories who could not bring themselves to save her so she was bumped to a junior role.
After spending time on the European stage earlier this week, the fact that all politics is local was brought sharply in focus with the ploy of the Lib Dems – it served to show that no matter how much press attention there may be on your flagship policy it counts as nothing if you cant get your basics right. The SNP are now in more troubled waters and the opposition are circling them possibly eyeing their next victim.