THIS column has friends in high places at BBC Scotland. And so, to borrow a phrase from one its most distinguished servants, we can exclusively reveal that Alex Salmond has achieved a notable victory in his battle to get himself on national television talking about the rugby, a piece of theatre that was denied him last Saturday evening when England were in town.
With the determination of a charging Richie Gray, the First Minister has recorded an interview with the BBC – titled Oh Eck! Oh Calcutta! – that will be broadcast before this afternoon’s Six Nations clash with the Welsh at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
An advance copy has been smuggled out of Pacific Quay. Those involved: John Inverdale, the wonderful anchorman, Jerry Guscott, the great England centre, Jonathan Davies, the Welsh wizard and Keith Wood, the colossus of Ireland.
Crouch, touch, pause, engage...
John Inverdale: First Minister, welcome. Judging by your bombardment of the BBC this week you’re obviously a huge rugby fan. Firstly, could we get your thoughts on the game at Murrayfield last Saturday?
Alex Salmond: Thanks for inviting me. The game. Yes, very disappointing. Dan Parks at stand-off. Scotland were very conservative on the day. And we know what happens to Scotland when we go conservative.
Jerry Guscott: Oh God, he’s off already.
Inverdale: First Minister, please. You said you wouldn’t politicise this discussion. Those are the rules.
Salmond: Apologies, John. It won’t happen again.
Guscott: Yes it bloody will. He’ll be talking about Thatcher soon. Wait and see. The poll tax, Butcher Cumberland, 1990...
Salmond: Ah Jerry, those days are passed now, and in the past they must remain, but we can still rise now and be a nation again...
Inverdale: First Minister, please sit down and stop singing.
Salmond: Sorry. I lost the place there for a second.
Inverdale: Can we have a look back at Murrayfield. A missed opportunity for Scotland?
Salmond: Yes indeed, presiding officer.
Inverdale: Er, you can call me John.
Salmond: Well, John, the first thing I’d like to say is that it was really great to see so many 16-17-year-olds at Murrayfield last weekend. If a 16-17-year-old is allowed to register to join the army, get married and pay taxes then I think it’s only proper that they be allowed in to vote for – sorry, I mean support – their country. We could all learn a lesson from that I think.
Jonathan Davies: What’s he on about?
Salmond: Let me finish, Jonathan. I was really confident before the game. I took a look at that picture of Ross Ford on the cover of the consultation paper and thought: “Oh yes, today’s our day.”
Davies: What’s a consulation paper?
Keith Wood: He means programme. Ross Ford was on the cover of the programme.
Salmond: Like a young John Swinney. With hair and muscles.
Davies: Who’s John Swinney?
Inverdale: Moving on, Alex. What about Scotland’s inability to score tries. From our perspective the team is going nowhere until you fix what has become a chronic problem.
Salmond: With all due respect, John, we don’t need to be dictated to from London on this issue. This is a matter for the Scottish people and the Scottish people alone. London should stay out of this. We have a right to self-determination in the business of why we can’t cross the ol’ whitewash. In the 253rd anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns all I can say is this: “Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner. Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner”
Guscott: Look mate, you’re on the BBC now. Talk in English.
Inverdale: Yes, First Minister. But didn’t Burns also write: “My love is like a red, red rose”. Clearly he was an England rugby fan.
Salmond: “Lay the proud usurpers low, Tyrants fall in every foe, Liberty’s in every blow, Let us do or die!” Bannockburn. Ever hear of it, Inverdale, you smug arse?
Davies: I’m completely lost, Woody.
Wood: I’ll tell you about it later. We had 800 years of this shit in our place.
Guscott: Any chance of some rugby chat here? Or shall we just move on to the Krankies next?
Inverdale: Mr Salmond, you talk about a partnership of equals but if I recall correctly England beat you last Saturday. And Wales will hammer you if you don’t find a way of scoring some tries against what is going to be a brutally physical Welsh defence.
Salmond: The bookmakers don’t give us a chance, but let’s not forget that they didn’t give the SNP a chance of achieving an overall majority in the Scottish election either. So it shows what they know. It will be a very close game in Wales. But like I said in my referendum speech, I want Scotland to be independent not because I think we are better than any other country but because I know we are just as good as any other country.
Guscott: So what does that mean, a draw in Cardiff?
Salmond: Surely it’s not beyond a country with the sixth highest GDP per capita in the OECD to go to Wales and get a result? Scotland is a land of unlimited potential, its culture, history and reputation for innovation are renowned throughout the world, its universities are world class and its energy resources are unrivalled in Europe. So what I’m saying is this: Big Jim Hamilton is bound to batter his way over at some point.
Davies: To be fair, Alex, you’re very ordinary. You’ve no creativity, no imagination. Where’s your surprises?
Salmond: We brought two pandas over from China. How many bloody surprises are you looking for?
Inverdale: First Minister, we’re trying to stick to the rugby.
Salmond: Sorry. Jonathan is right to a point. We need to stand taller in the world and take responsibility for our own destiny.
Inverdale: You mean your rugby destiny?
Salmond: That too. To quote the words of James Robertson, a contemporary poet of whom Burns would undoubtedly have approved: “The road that was blocked has no end. The unknown journey is known. The heart that is hurt will mend. The bird that was trapped has flown”. The bird has flown and cannot now be returned to its cage. He could have written that about Greig Laidlaw. It’ll be a different game in Cardiff. The bird is out of his cage. Wee Laidlaw will run amok.
Wood: Wales will be too strong. They’ll win by ten points.
Guscott: Wales by 30.
Davies: Scotland will have to play out of their skin to keep it to 30. I’ll go for 40 points and Alex here to be sent homeward to think again. He-he-he.
Salmond: “Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!” Scotland by 100 points and Jonathan to be crying into his Sospan Fach in the land of his fathers all night long.
Inverdale: First Minister, thanks for joining us.
Guscott: Are you leaving so soon?
Salmond: We all are, Jerry. All five million of us!