A couple of years ago we took a taxi from the centre of Glasgow to a friend’s wedding in Pollockshields. I asked the driver who was a Celtic fan (Rangers fans had taken beating the night before and apparently hadn’t shown that morning) what he made of Alex Salmond. “Ah, he’s a fly *……..”
Fly or canny, the SNP line has been the one coming through most clearly in the Republic’s media. Partly because that’s where Irish sentiment lies. But also because he knows how to tick all the right Irish boxes and when and how to take his chances. And his choice of the British Irish Ministerial Council was a stroke of pure genius:
Salmond was speaking shortly before the start of the British-Irish Council which is taking place at Dublin Castle, the seat of British rule in Ireland until the 26 counties of the Irish Republic achieved independence in 1922. The castle is a mile from the General Post Office on O’Connell Street, the scene of the Easter Rising against British rule in 1916. It was Britain’s violent response to the rising – the leaders were executed by firing squad – that helped trigger the Irish war of independence.
Salmond’s decision to draw a parallel between Scotland and Ireland, however obliquely, may stir a debate in Scotland, where sectarian divisions are still pronounced.
The first minister was warmly greeted by Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin’s deputy first minister, when he arrived at Dublin Castle
The semniotics for a party that still has to capture the Irish Catholic Labour strongholds of west central Scotland where almost pitch perfect. This is going to be a fascinating and epic battle which will likely involve all parts of the United Kingdom and the Republic.