Salmond’s campaign could be a pivotal one

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Will Alex Salmond become the big, bad bogeyman of the general election on May 7?

It is looking inreasingly likely that this man - one of the most astute politicians in the United Kingdom - will do more than anyone else to snarl up the hopes and prospects of both Labour and the Conservatives after the election.

When, after the Scottish independence referendum, Salmond quit as both leader of the SNP and as Scotland’s First Minister, he had no intention of retiring to his armchair and slippers far from the turmoil of political battle. Oh no, he has not finished yet, not by a long chalk.

If you believed, as David Cameron apparently did, that the substantial “yes” vote defeat in that referendum meant an end to any more secessionist campaigning for a generation, then you are wrong.

Bizarrely, the result seemed to strengthen the campaign for independence, with thousands of Labour supporters defecting to the SNP, threatening many currently Labour-held seats in Scotland - something which could have a disastrous effect on Labour’s numbers at Westminster after the election.

Salmond will be fighting the Gordon seat in Scotland, currently held by a Liberal Democrat who is retiring in May.

And if Salmond wins it, as he most likely will, then he will no doubt approach Ed Miliband in the event of another hung Parliament, offering support for a Labour-SNP coalition.

But that would come with a price, namely another independence referendum in Scotland, and sooner rather than later.

In politics, they don’t come much tougher than Salmond, and Miliband will be in a dilemma whether to accept such a demand or, possibly, capitulate and hand over the reins again to the Tories.

Some of this may be hypothetical, but you can bet your bottom dollar that both Miliband and Cameron are experiencing sleepless nights over the outcome of what threatens to be the most unpredictable general election for decades.

Salmond is determined not to rest until he achieves his goal of a breakaway Scotland.

And he is a very hard nut to crack.