Salmond’s bizarre public dig at critical commentator Torrance shows Scotland had a lucky escape

A couple of weeks ago, Alex Salmond picked a fight with the BBC’s Nick Robinson. Cue a mob descending on the BBC’s shiny new Pacific Quay HQ in Glasgow demanding that the journalist be sacked. In fact, much as it pains me to admit it, Robinson was actually in the right on that occasion. Salmond hadn’t answered a question he’d asked. He’d spent several minutes giving  a rambling answer about the first part of his question before lambasting the BBC for publishing a story that the Royal Bank of Scotland would move its HQ from Scotland in the event of a Yes vote. It was quite bizarre to see hundreds of people demand that a news station takes the Government line. Where else would you see that?

Yesterday, political commentator David Torrance, who is probably one of the most fair minded people around, wrote a pretty critical but in my view accurate article about Salmond for the Herald. Torrance had written a well-received biography of the First Minister some years ago. This is what he had to say yesterday:

But then blatant hypocrisy never seemed to bother Mr Salmond. The Liberal Democrats, another party which wasn’t spared his tribal warfare, were pilloried for reneging on their no-tuition-fees promise after the 2010 General Election, yet three years previously Mr Salmond had ditched a manifesto pledge to eradicate all student debt, even though it had arguably captured a significant chunk of the student vote.

And in spite of lofty rhetoric about being “positive”, divide and rule was a hallmark of his style, as was phoney outrage.

Anyone not perceived as a threat was treated with charm and thoughtfulness, but for those who fell outside that category condescension, pettiness and often downright rudeness were the order of the day.

I can think of no other politician who behaved as badly as often and, more or less, got away with it.

It seems that the First Minister choked on his Corn Flakes before reaching for his pen to write a rather bitter rebuke:

The First Minister pulled no punches in his letter to the Herald:

NOW that I have time on my hands to read newspapers, I noted the musings from my self-appointed biographer David Torrance (Why the Salmond magic is in need of a revisionist take, The Herald, September 22).

I understand, of course, that thus far the general Scottish response to the referendum is the exact opposite of what Tory-leaning David would have wished, and also he must be totally devastated by my standing down – thus depriving him of a lucrative income stream.

However, allow me just two observations. First, I hardly know David Torrance. And secondly – and much more problematically for a biographer – he doesn’t know me at all.

The man has already spent two thirds of the term of office for which he was elected focusing almost exclusively on the Referendum. It would be nice if he and his party would just get on with governing now. After all, there are loads of things he could be doing to tackle poverty and sort out housing in Scotland.

Nick Clegg takes much more unfair and downright rude criticism from the likes of Quentin Letts on a daily basis. He deals with it with humour and good grace. Salmond’s intervention just makes him look a bit pathetic and rather diminishes his office. You have to wonder what press regulation would be like left in his hands.

Before John Tilley mentions it in the comments, yes, Salmond’s party has had a bit of an influx in members these last few days. It would be surprising if it hadn’t. It’s actually time for the Liberal Democrats to speak to those 55% who said No Thanks last Thursday and invite them to join us. We, after all, have been campaigning for home rule for Scotland for over a century. Willie Rennie led the way on developing the thinking behind more powers and got the other parties to do the same. Had it not be for him, the cupboard would be embarrassingly bare right now. Not for the first time, the political landscape is shifting  towards our way of thinking.  We get the need for more powers not just to Holyrood but from Holyrood to communities. It’s instinctive to us. That’s why people who truly want to see these powers delivered but don’t want independence, should think about joining us.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Nick Collins 23rd Sep '14 - 12:30pm

    Personally, I thought Salmond’s response to Torrance was fair comment. Are you sure you are not overreacting, Caron?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Sep '14 - 12:55pm

    I just think it’s bizarre for a First Minister to do something like this. And he was ungraciously rude to Torrance. Had it just been this and not the stuff with the Telegraph journalist or Nick Robinson, I might have left it. But there is a rather unpleasant pattern of behaviour here.

  • Allan Heron 23rd Sep '14 - 1:07pm

    If Salmond is unable to shake off the kind of comments Torrance makes without penning a snarky little response to a newspaper then he’s not the politician everyone thinks he is.

    I’m no fan of Clegg but I think Caron’s point about his response to the abuse he gets is an appropriate point of comparision. Newspapers would have a regular “Nick bitches” column every day if he responded as Salmond had.

  • Caron, there comes a time when it might be worthwhile commenting on the appalling position the Liberal Democrats in Scotland are in, not just wittering about something that nobody really cares about. The latest poll in Scotland has the Nationalists at a virtual 50%, the Liberal Democrats at 3.4%. If that is anything to go by Salmond has done a pretty good job, and we have been b….. awful. AND WE HAVE A CONFERENCE IN GLASGOW.

  • In addition there is apparently some distinct concern in North West Labour ranks that UKIP could pull off a remarkable victory at Heywood and Royton in two weeks time, the same day as Clacton is it not. If that occurs what then!!!!!
    This maybe Labour trying to gee their own people up to campaign but even so it suggests a heavy vote for UKIP in second place at least, and considering Heywood is between Rochdale and Oldham a victory is not out of the question.
    Just a thought, the Lib Dems may poll 1% if we are lucky. Beats me why we are even standing.

  • Nick Collins 23rd Sep '14 - 1:50pm

    @ Caron and Alan. I think that the point is that, notwithstanding the result of the referendum, Salmond enjoys a degree of popular support, so he can afford to “answer back” when journalists have a go at him. Clegg doesn’t and can’t.

  • David Allen 23rd Sep '14 - 2:08pm

    Mr Torrance said “Blatant hypocrisy never seemed to bother Mr “Bloggs” … Divide and rule was a hallmark of his style, as was phoney outrage.”

    That is a devastating piece of character assassination. Whether it is justified or not, in this particular case, is entirely beside the point. Anybody in Mr “Bloggs” ‘s position who simply ignored Mr Torrance would effectively be conceding that he deserved ignominy. Mr Bloggs has to answer back. Mr Salmond has done that. He could not sensibly have done otherwise.

    Clegg, when he is in Mr Bloggs’s position, keeps quiet. The reason is that if he argues, he knows that his opponents have barrowfuls of more mud in store which they can quite legitimately throw at him. So he ducks out. Not the best kind of leader to have around when an election is coming up!

  • “Ducks out”? I would say “treats with dignified silence”.

  • This Torrance fellow has Salmond spot on. It is refreshing to read. Salmond responded because it was spot on and hit a nerve.

  • theakes: I have the impression that the Party in Scotland decided to put the maintenance of the Union before that of the Party. In its way a noble stand and not what I would have advised, as I did not think it should have been such a disaster for Scotland or the UK if the vote had been a YES.

    Obviously there is a big question mark for Lib Dems in Scotland over where to go from here, but this article certainly does not point the way. Other than muddying the waters a bit more, the fact that Labour have a similar problem is no particular help.

  • David Evans 23rd Sep '14 - 3:38pm

    John, Remind me. Is that the Nick Clegg who has ministerial responsibility for “leading the government’s political and constitutional reform agenda”?

  • David Evans 23rd Sep '14 - 3:42pm

    Or is it the Nick Clegg who is responsible for House of Lords Reform, the AV fiasco, recalling MPs etc. Is there nothing this man can’t do?

  • Caron

    The SNP has now doubled its membership to over 50,000 since the referendum. It now has more members than the Lib Dems in the UK. I would have thought you might have had more important things to write about other than a refutation by one person of the credentials of another to write a biography of him.

    By the way the answer to the unanswered Nick Robinson question is available on YouTube and has been since the question was asked and answered.

  • Julian Tisi 23rd Sep '14 - 4:17pm

    For what it’s worth, I think David Torrance’s article on Alex Salmond is right on the money. The more I look at Salmond the more he comes across as similar to Nigel Farage. Both base their popularity on trying to appear as the “outsider” standing up for ordinary people against some scapegoat for all ills (Farage: EU, Immigrants / Salmond: the English, Westminster politicians). In both cases this is utter hypocricy. Both demonise their chosen scapegoats. Both have a cavalier attitude to facts and reasonable comment. If someone disagrees with their view they’re demonised rather than engaged with.

  • On the other hand, we are more temperamentally equipped to advocate regional government theand Lanour and Conservatives, so have something important to offer now to re-thinking a big constitutional change

  • @David Evans
    “Or is it the Nick Clegg who is responsible for House of Lords Reform, the AV fiasco, recalling MPs etc. Is there nothing this man can’t do?”

    How is it that in making your point you totally ignore the role of the other two parties, particularly the Tories, in sabotaging and blocking reform?

    Frankly, at this stage in advance of an election, if you are trying to run down Clegg, you are also running down the party, and I, as a fellow member, do not appreciate it.

  • Not surprised Alec Salmond went mental what a brilliantly written piece. Am surprised it was syndicated by some of the broadsheets.

    Am happy to be re-educated by any Salmond supporters if they’d like to deconstruct Torrance’s article?

  • “A couple of weeks ago, Alex Salmond picked a fight with the BBC’s Nick Robinson. Cue a mob descending on the BBC’s shiny new Pacific Quay HQ in Glasgow demanding that the journalist be sacked.”

    Great start to a work of fiction. You might want to know that the protest was about BBC bias throughout the indyref campaign and was planned well before the Nick Robinson episode came to light. Its extremely insulting to say that the protest was about Robinson.

  • As far as I can work out from this exchange, for Caron’s critics the actions of powerful politicians are to be judged on just two criteria:

    (1): Do they win votes?

    (2): Do they win members?

    Silly me – of course that’s all it’s about.

  • Gerry Coogan 30th Sep '14 - 10:25pm

    While Caran was sniping sardonically at a few sentences on the letters page of a newspaper, tens of thousands of people were joining the SNP. By the end of the week, SNP membership in Scotland will probably be double that of the LibDems in the whole of the UK. It can’t have been such a bad letter after all.

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