With all three other parties at Holyrood against a Referendum he knows only too well that he cannot muster enough support for such an exercise. He knows too that he could not hope to win such a plebiscite at the moment, so he is not too bothered by this.
In fact the best thing the other parties could do is to force his hand now and hold such a referendum anyway, as soon as possible. Firstly this would shoot the Nationalist Fox before it has had a chance to gather any momentum. Secondly it would settle the matter for the best part of a generation. Thirdly it would remove the principal raison d’être of the SNP.
Sadly the other three parties are far too stupid to see this, though Lord Forsyth has bravely spoken up against the Tories stance and advocated such an early poll. Equally sad was seeing the Scottish Tories ganging up with the Scottish Labour Party and Scottish Liberal ‘Democrats’ on this matter at the same time as castigating Labour nationally for not holding a referendum on the Union Treaty, which simply makes the Scottish Tories look utter hypocrites.
So Salmond must for now concentrate on governing competently as well as finding good opportunities to needle the English by fomenting in them as much anti-Scottish sentiment as possible. If you want to destroy a bridge over a chasm it is much more effective to loosen the ties at each end to ensure its demise.
So he agrees as often as possible with anyone who raises the West Lothian Question. Logically he should, for he would object to English MPs having any sort of vote on matters that touch upon Scotland and so supports those in England who complain about Brown’s Scottish Labour Lobby Fodder which ensures him a majority in the House of Commons. Since this tends to translate as much into an anti-Scottish sentiment as an anti-labour sentiment, he is happy to stoke that fire whenever he can.
It is the matter of money that has him much exercised just now, not least because it represents something of a godsend. For The UK Government has allotted a block grant that is £600 million short of the figure upon which plans were laid which will almost certainly mean that he cannot deliver on a whole raft of goodies promised in May to win the Holyrood elections. He is, as his appearance on Newsnight last night demonstrated, very very annoyed at this, though how much of this is synthetic anger is very much a moot point.
He also loves to mention, as often as possible, ‘Scottish Oil’, in the sure knowledge that will also irritate the English, who rightly make the point that development of the UK’s oilfields was not exactly bankrolled exclusively by the Scottish Taxpayer. As the oil price rises, so does his rhetoric on Scotland’s divine right to ‘their’ oil.
He perceives himself, therefore, in a win-win situation. The more money he demands the more irritated the English become at how this translates into largesse for Scots who are not pulling their weigh in the UK Plc enterprise. The less money he gets, the more irritated the Scots can be made to be because of alleged unfair Westminster parsimony. Thus he burns the rope attaching the bridge to the canyon walls at both ends. No wonder he smiles so much.
In this way the Union is subjected to Alex Salmond’s constant process of salami-slicing the Union: death by a thousand cuts with a happy smile on the face of the executioner.
Meanwhile on another front the SNP has decided that it will campaign for a referendum on the other Union, the big bad one that lives in a nasty hole in Brussels. Not only will they support a referendum on the Union Constitution but they will campaign for a ‘No’ vote, given that control over fishing has been abandoned to unelected Union officials. It would be an irony indeed if it could muster a majority to hold such a referendum in Scotland on the Union with Europe but not on one on the Union with England.