It’s fair to say that Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, the two people who have done most to bring Scotland to the verge of independence, are not best mates right now. Last week Salmond denounced the massive conspiracy of the SNP and the Scottish civil service and just about everyone else, saying they had conducted a witch-hunt and done their best to have him imprisoned. Tomorrow, Nicola Sturgeon will face Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and try to correct the testimony of her erstwhile friend Salmond.
Toilet-paper rags like the Daily Mail are delighted with this turn of events. And there is some expectation that this bare-knuckle bout between Salmond and Sturgeon will split the Scottish National Party and frustrate what looked like a massive electoral victory by the SNP in May of this year. Word is that it has already dented SNP ratings in the opinion polls.
I hope not. Firstly because I think Scottish independence would be a hugely significant event for those intent on Irish reunification. Secondly I hope it doesn’t damage the Scottish independence movement because if it did, it would reveal Scottish voters as irrational and blind to their own interests.
Let’s use a comparison I was given in another context: Irish sport. In recent years, Irish sport (think swimming, think the FAI) has been rocked by doping scandals, financial scandals, sex-abuse scandals. All of which are appalling. But have you heard anyone say “That’s it. I’m not going to another League of Ireland game”? Or giving up on sports generally because there is such obvious malpractice within it? Au contraire, as Eamon Mallie might say. Their devotion to sport isn’t diminished, even though some of those at the top of the sport have been shown to be stinkers.
I’m confident that Nicola Sturgeon will produce a classy display at her inquisition tomorrow. But even if she didn’t, it wouldn’t change in the smallest degree my attitude to Scottish independence. The value of what is being aimed for should have nothing to do with the character of some of those involved. Eyes on the prize, guys, eyes on the prize.