David Maddox: Lib Dems sure of Alex Salmond loss

NICOLA Sturgeon may deny that a second independence referendum has anything to do with the election, but it is clear that voters on both sides of the independence debate in Scotland are still fighting last year’s campaign.

The Lib Dems believe the former First Minister is in for an uncomfortable night. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Lib Dems believe the former First Minister is in for an uncomfortable night. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

For evidence of this, you only need to look at virtually every SNP candidate for Westminster claiming victory would be a mandate for a second referendum. Interestingly, SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie says they are not off message, which suggests that behind the “progressive” window-dressing, the question of independence is the real agenda.

Many voters in Scotland have taken this to heart on both sides. For the Yes side, the SNP has sucked up virtually all the vote. But on the No side, it is increasingly obvious Scotland is going to see an unprecedented level of tactical voting on Thursday as many voters find the best candidate to keep the SNP out.

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Nowhere is this more the case than the constituency of Gordon, where something astonishing may be about to happen. Lib Dem sources have told this paper they have pulled ahead of Alex Salmond in their canvass returns and believe they are on the verge of victory.

Most people will find such a claim unbelievable. After all, as far as celebrity politicians go there is none bigger than the former first minister.

However, Salmond is a Marmite politician – you either love him or hate him – and it is also clear the cross-party Better Together campaign in Gordon has resumed and gathered around the Lib Dem candidate, Christine Jardine, who has done an amazing job in bringing different groups together. The SNP privately says it is “very confident” of victory in Gordon, and you certainly would not bet against it, but there are signs of desperation.

There was the odd case of Mr Salmond briefing against Ms Jardine for not living in the constituency, a claim made all the more strange by the fact that his own campaign sent a leaflet to her home in Gordon. The same leaflet saw Mr Salmond take credit for policies delivered by the former Labour/ Lib Dem Scottish Executive when he was not even an MSP in Holyrood. These are not the actions of a man or campaign team confident of victory.

Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander last week told me he was confident of victory in his Inverness seat, despite predictions of his demise, and said it was the fear of a second referendum that was driving tactical voting. He also predicted the “biggest surprise” when the votes are counted in the early hours of Friday will be in Gordon, where he predicted victory for the Lib Dems. The claim may be delusional but, if he is right, then Gordon will produce one of the biggest constituency shocks in modern history.