How Salmond could set an example by walking to work

IT WAS a lovely day for a stroll when the Scottish Government published its campaign to improve public health and the environment by getting the public to dump their cars and walk more.

Political writer Tom Peterkin walks the route from Bute House to the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

As the Active Travel campaign slogan “If It’s Not Far, Leave the Car” was aired for the first time yesterday, it struck some that Alex Salmond was one politician who has got it in the neck for using his ministerial limo for extremely short journeys.

In the interests of encouraging the First Minister to walk to work, The Scotsman thought it would be helpful to do a recce of a route that Mr Salmond could use should he choose to follow his own government’s advice.

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Starting on the steps of his official residence, Bute House, it was brisk walk from Charlotte Square into the fleshpots of Rose Street.

Betting on the horse 'Global Recovery'. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Given that Mr Salmond has been criticised for taking a limo to his favourite curry house in Leith and an Italian in George Street, it was interesting to notice “The Indian Lounge – Finest Punjabi Cuisine” looming on the left hand side of the street.

Even for a devoted curry lover like the First Minister, nipping in for a snack would be an unconventional start to the day. But should he fancy a vindaloo on the walk home, it would be the ideal stop-off.

Displaying an iron will, The Scotsman strode past the delights of the Kenilworth Bar and the Rose Street Brewery. But in homage to the First Minister’s fondness for a flutter, it was impossible to ignore the nearby Ladbrokes, and £2 was duly put on “Global Recovery”, a nag running in the 2:30 at Fakenham at odds of 25-to-1. Just like the real thing, “Global Recovery” failed to materialise, coming a sorry fourth behind “Not Til Monday”.

No doubt a resilient politician like the First Minister would have been able to cope with such a setback without feeling the need to adjourn to Milnes Bar.

Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The Scotsman, however, was not so strong. After all, walking to work can be a thirsty business. And what could be more appropriate than drinking a pint in a howff which was once a home-from-home for one of the SNP’s favourite poets, Hugh MacDiarmid?

The temptation to order a second pint was resisted and loins were girded for the second leg of the journey. Along Princes Street and past Waverley Station to the strains of a busking piper, the climb began up Cockburn Street.

This was to be the most challenging section of the two-mile ordeal. But bolstered by that pint, it proved no problem at all.

There was only one breather. A short rest was taken outside the fashion boutique – “Pie in the Sky” – not a phrase that is in the First Minister’s lexicon when it comes to discussing the benefits of Scottish independence.

Having passed the heights at the top of the street, it was on to the Royal Mile. From there on, it was to be downhill all the way – literally not figuratively – as the final straight to Holyrood approached.

Around 40 minutes after setting out (having subtracted 20 minutes for drinking, loafing and gambling), the gates of Holyrood were in sight.

Having mapped out a route for the First Minister, The Scotsman can thoroughly recommend the experience and respectfully suggests to Mr Salmond that a morning constitutional is one thing that can be done in Scotland without constitutional change.