This article is from the August issue of Total Politics
As the Jubilee weekend squelched to a close, our status as New Elizabethans cemented by the juxtaposition of splendour and squalor at London Bridge, some commentators got a bit over-excited.
As crowds streamed away from The Mall, they proclaimed that this was the launch of the Scottish ‘No’ campaign. What have you got, Alex Salmond?
The short answer is: a healthy dose of political nous.
On paper, Salmond is up against it. ‘Yes’ is 20 points behind, the campaign launch ignited no heather, and despite being nearly 80, the SNP doesn’t seem to have a plausible currency policy yet.
Two things could win it for the nationalists. One is Salmond himself, one of the country’s top three political operators.
The other is if the ‘No’ campaign actually believes that waving royalty and bunting-drenched street parties (there were only 200 in Scotland) will sell the union.
Salmond, born-again monarchist, has shot that fox, because the Queen is part of the independence package – so long as she doesn’t mind being called Elizabeth I during her Balmoral summers.
I’m instinctively unionist: not through rose-tinted attachments to an undivided Britannia, but because I believe in subsidiarity – a phrase far too John Major-esque to be romanticised. There are things best done at a UK level, and I suspect many Scots, hard-headedly, agree.
The key referendum voters are those who went SNP for the first time in 2011.
These are no Braveheart-inspired nationalists, however, and Salmond is too smart to try turning them into ‘Yes’ voters through the power of tartan and cries of “freedom!”
His appeal will be based on competence and Scottish distinctiveness, which is why, if the ‘No’ campaign reverts to appeals to Queen and flag, it could well lose.
Braveheart v Balmoral may be the campaign you dream of. But it’s not what Salmond’s going to run.
Political Animal blogs at http://politicalanimals.wordpress.com