Gerald Warner: Goodbye reality, and welcome to the delusional world of Alex Salmond

ALEX in Wonderland: politics does not come more surreal than this. The First Minister fell down the rabbit hole last May and his grip on reality is receding as the hubris born of untrammelled power, albeit in the Disneyland ambience of Holyrood, inflates his megalomania to clinical dimensions.

His diary now records such Walter Mitty fantasies as “Reclaimed Scottish regiments, am; rescheduled Faslane as wind farm, pm…”

The grandstanding of this increasingly delusional politician is cheered on by an army of constitutional and economic illiterates whose acclaim for the Awfy Dear Leader is North Korean in its sycophancy. That is good news for Unionists: the more the separatist fringe drifts off into outer space, the more assured the future of Planet Scotland within the constellation Great Britain. The only two factors which afford a fig-leaf of credibility to Salmond and his posturing are the complicity of the Scottish media, which refuses to honour its responsibility to point out that the emperor has no clothes, and the incompetence of the so-called Unionist parties.

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Last week, in a London-based paper, the entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter described Salmond as “possibly the most consummate politician of his generation”. Uh-huh? Would that be the same Alex Salmond who championed the “penny for Scotland” and condemned the “unpardonable folly” of intervention in Kosovo? Would it be the Alex Salmond who, in his first week in office in 2007, demanded a separate Scottish Olympic team? Or the chap who made a fetish of introducing a Local Income Tax and failed?

Would it be the prescient First Minister and former RBS employee who wrote the “Dear Fred” letter to Sir Fred Goodwin, pledging to assist him in the doomed acquisition of ABN Amro – the grotesque extravagance that brought down the former Scottish icon RBS? Is it the shrewd economist whose ambition was to model Scotland on the “Arc of Prosperity”, encompassing such basket cases as Iceland and Ireland? Or are we perhaps talking about the Alex Salmond who released the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, causing Scotland’s name to be vilified around the world?

Could it be the irresponsible clown who has vetoed nuclear power in favour of useless wind turbines, performing at 24 per cent of capacity, raping the Scottish landscape, and offering the prospect of the lights going out in Scotland? It is audacious of Salmond to attempt to postpone an independence referendum until 2014, since by then Scots may be obliged to read the ballot paper by candlelight. The increasingly bizarre claims made by the SNP about Scotland’s prospects under independence are daily departing further from reality. Yet the Scottish media, terrified of the accusation of being “anti-Scottish”, solemnly entertain these fantasies in equilibrium with the fact-based objections of their critics.

Salmond’s statements are absurd, but they go largely unchallenged within the Potemkin village that is post-devolution Scotland. Not for Alex sober confrontation of an independent Scotland’s £140bn share of the national debt, still less the consequence of having to take ownership of toxic Scottish banks – the assets/liabilities of RBS and HBOS alone amount to 1,400 per cent of Scottish GDP. Nor will he come clean about the fact that the EU would undoubtedly impose the euro on a separate Scotland as the price of readmission to that cartel. Even with all eligible North Sea oil and gas revenues hypothecated to Scotland, it would still have recorded a £9bn deficit in 2009-10 – tolerable in a large nation, but not in a small country embarking on independence.

Take over the Scottish regiments? In your dreams, Alex. Those units are part of the army of the United Kingdom, not mercenaries to be hived off due to political expediency. Professional soldiers want to see active service, not to languish in the doldrums of a Scottish Defence Force. It is interesting that Salmond, who formerly championed three air bases in Scotland, would now be content with one. The Salmond wish-list is patently ridiculous; but one must not say so. The SNP, like the other Holyrood parties, is a confederacy of dunces; yet the media talks up mediocrities such as Nicola Sturgeon.

Behind all the independence bluff and bluster, the elephant in the room is the intractable fact that no opinion poll has ever recorded a majority of Scots in favour of independence. That is the inescapable reality. Business is already fretting over the damage being caused to economic recovery by prolonged constitutional uncertainty. If Salmond delays an independence vote until 2014, he will face a backlash from Scots for whom referendum fatigue is already setting in.