Why Alex Salmond will be happy with a ‘no’

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Will Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, survive if voters reject the idea of Scottish independence in the forthcoming referendum?

Salmond himself admits that those supporting independence remain the underdogs, as if to prepare for the worst.

But this may simply be a typical politician’s ploy to encourage “yes” voters to turn out on polling day.

If he does lose, there will be a call for his head, but he’s a wily politician, and I suspect he’ll actually survive what many would regard as a fatal political setback.

Because there is a point of view that Salmond is not so much bothered about total independence for Scotland as getting the maximum amount of devolution North of the Border, just a hair’s breadth short of independence. And that is inevitably what would happen if the “no” voters win.

This would give Scotland greater powers to run its own affairs without having to worry about such tiresome things as a form of currency or relations with the European Union. In short, it would give him the best of both worlds.

Salmond’s failure to deal adequately – in some people’s view – with the currency issue in the earlier TV debate with Alistair Darling, of the Better Together campaign, suggested to some that it is not an issue he has gone into too deeply because, short of full independence, it may not be necessary. So the signs are, the United Kingdom may remain in one piece, after all.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, seems to revel in controversy and criticism.

He is recommending an Australian bureaucrat called Celia Mills, currently Department of Parliamentary Services secretary, is to succeed the outgoing Sir Robert Rogers to the key post of Clerk to the House of Commons. It is a job which involves advising the Speaker on often complicated Parliamentary procedure and a host of other technical issues. Even Ms Mills’s boss, Rosemary Laing, said she viewed the possible appointment with “disbelief and dismay” saying Ms Mills lacked the constitutional knowledge required.

And Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd, a former Speaker, plainly aghast at the suggestion, has said Ms Mills would be out of her depth.

In a rare criticism of Bercow, as a successor Speaker, she also said he should remember he was not master of the House of Commons, but its servant.

Downing Street has done its best to avoid getting caught up in the row, with a spokesman saying the process being adopted here was the same one that was adopted in selecting Sir Robert.

But it isn’t. Then, the post was suggested to a very limited number of people with deep experience in this small field and not offered to people who had no experience.

There is a growing view that the Speaker, deeply unpopular with Tory MPs in particular, will get his way. But don’t be too sure. The feeling about this is running very high, and Bercow might be compelled to dismount from his high horse.

Watch this space.