For those concerned at the lack of any heavyweight politicians prepared to take on Alex Salmond, this weekend it emerged that one George Galloway, he of Bradford West fame and a former MP from Glasgow, has made clear he intends to fight the SNP’s proposals.
Speaking to the Sunday Mail this weekend, Galloway argued that whilst the first minister had increasingly looked like Rangers footballer Jim Baxter in recent years, “strolling through the opposition”, he plans to stop him on his way to his goal of independence, “by taking on the role of Celtic legend Bertie Auld”.
“Salmond is good but he is not that good. He has looked good because of the flatness of the surrounding landscape. He needs heavyweight people up against him to puncture the sanctimonious bubble he has puffed around himself.
“He is beginning to get his comeuppance with the Rupert Murdoch affair, which shows, as I have always argued, that Salmond is not as nice in private as he is in public.
“In the past, Salmond looked like Jim Baxter strolling through the opposition, head up, feet on the ball, playing keepy up. I would like to get into him, as they say at Parkhead, like Bertie Auld.”
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Calling on the SNP to simply get on with the vote, Galloway explained that he would be prepared to campaign alongside those in the Labour movement who he has previously fallen out with in an effort to preserve the union.
“I will do anything I can to stop what I believe would be bad for Scotland and worse for the working people in England.
“If that means sharing platforms with people who hate me, then fine. The future of the country is more important than that. I will share a platform with any Labour movement people. A lot of these people were close friends of mine once. Margaret Curran was a very close friend of mine.
“Johann Lamont is an enemy of mine, but I wish her success in this because I think the break-up of Scotland from England after 300 years would be a mistake for Scotland and it would doom the English working people to permanent Tory rule.
“There are 59 Scottish seats at Westminster, all but one of them anti-Tory. If you take them out of Parliament, the Tories would be almost impossible to beat in England.
“That would be bad for working people in England, but it would also be bad for Scotland because a low-tax, low-spend, right-wing Tory England would lead to business and industry relocating to England from Scotland.”
Elsewhere, further questions emerged over the not so imminent referendum on independence with the SNP government performing what amounted to a u-turn over the role the Electoral Commission will play in the campaign.
Alex Salmond has previously stated that whilst the Electoral Commission would be responsible for the conduct of the campaign, he has been far coyer about it being given responsibility for testing the validity and fairness of the question to be put to the Scottish people.
However, having been accused by the Scottish affairs select committee of producing a “biased” question, a view shared by a number of senior pollsters, ministers at Holyrood now appear to have changed tack.
As the Scottish government’s consultation on a referendum drew to a close on Friday evening, Bruce Crawford, Cabinet Secretary for Government Strategy, explained:
“We have had a fantastic response from the people of Scotland, with over 21,000 contributions to the consultation – over seven times the number that responded to the UK government’s consultation on the same issue.
“This positive response also sends a clear signal that the people of Scotland believe the Scottish Parliament is the place to decide the terms and timing of the referendum – and that these should not be imposed by Westminster.
“I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to make their views known.”
In welcoming what she described as this “latest concession from the SNP government”, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont continued:
“This latest concession from the SNP government is a welcome one. I hope Alex Salmond will now sit down with all party leaders to discuss the wording of a single, straight question that we can put before the Electoral Commission.”
Meanwhile, John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, responded:
“Our priority has always been that any referendum must be run in the interests of voters. We therefore welcome the Scottish government’s announcement that it wants us to play a role in both regulating the referendum and undertaking independent testing of the referendum question.
“We look forward to sorting out the precise details with them in the coming months.”