Tom Peterkin: Sturgeon and Salmond’s good cop/bad cop routine

Former first minister Alex Salmond and current first minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Robert Perry
Former first minister Alex Salmond and current first minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Robert Perry
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Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond appear to be developing a good cop/bad cop routine.

Salmond, needless-to-say, has cast himself in the bad cop role with his determination to stoke up old rows and settle scores.

The most recent example of this was his willingness to reheat his pre-referendum spat with the BBC political editor Nick Robinson.

Salmond could not resist turning up the temperature after Robinson complained of protesters outside the BBC during the referendum “bullying” and “intimidating” journalists.

It was, according to Robinson, like a scene from Putin’s Russia.

Putting on his bad cop uniform, Salmond raged that the BBC’s referendum coverage was a “disgrace” and Robinson should be “embarrassed and ashamed” of it.

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Wearing her good cop uniform, it would appear that Sturgeon does not share Salmond’s view of Robinson.

She likes him enough to have him round to Bute House for supper, a gesture that must rankle with Salmond.

Sturgeon has also played the good cop when faced with some of Salmond’s more excitable remarks about holding another referendum in the near future.

Sturgeon’s role appears to be to reassure those members of the Scottish public who are fed up with the relentless tribalism of constitutional politics.

These are the people who did not share Salmond’s view that crowds of Yes-supporter people shouting abuse at the BBC and its journalists did not constitute a “peaceful and joyous” gathering.

By distancing herself from Salmond’s more controversial remarks, Sturgeon can present herself as a more unifying figure than her deeply divisive predecessor.

But in a way, it also suits her to keep Salmond playing the bad cop.

By acting as a bad loser intent on settling old scores, Salmond appeals to hardline Yessers who find it difficult to accept last year’s referendum result.

Now that he is no longer the top dog in the SNP, Salmond seems to be positioning himself as a figurehead for the “45”, for whom the dream of independence must never be extinguished.

These are the people who joined the SNP in huge numbers in the aftermath of the referendum.

Sturgeon knows they will react badly to any dilution of the independence message.

Salmond could play an important role in keeping them happy within the party.