Alex Salmond Plots His Next Moves Against the British State

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Ainhoa Aristizabal

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish Nationalists for 20 of the past 24 years, first non-Labour politician to head up his nation’s government, disrupter and scourge of the British establishment, is stepping down. And he looks ready for a break.

Long months of shaking hands with crowds have left him with a painfully strained right arm, now in a brace, and he has to offer his left. It’s awkward. As we settle down for this valedictory interview, Salmond, whose usual persona is one of irrepressible defiance, talks about handing over the leadership of Scotland and of his party to Nicola Sturgeon, his 44-year old long-term deputy, as “a generational shift”, as if he felt much older than his 59 years.

But in the topsy-turvy world of British politics, where each week brings a fresh crisis for the main parties and their embattled leaders, this outgoing champion of Scottish secession could still be the greatest threat to the British state in a landscape littered with electoral and constitutional booby-traps. The new challenger, the UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, is rewriting the script for next year’s general election in England, taking enough votes (and some defecting MPs) from the Conservatives to be blowing David Cameron off course and possibly out of Downing Street. Salmond’s SNP is its mirror image north of the border.

Traditional Labour voters in Scotland have flocked to the Nationalists, leading to fears in Ed Miliband’s party that he cannot hold enough of the party’s crucial Scottish redoubts to form a government – or even claim to represent the whole of the United Kingdom. Whispered threats of a putsch against Miliband are swirling in the same week as the SNP convenes to celebrate its surge in popularity – polls suggest as many as 52% of Scots now intend to vote for the party’s prospective MPs next May.

Salmond’s bravura performance in September’s independence campaign narrowly failed to convince his countrymen and women to break away, but the ‘Yes’ campaign had a chance of winning that was strong enough to terrify London. And the losers are starting to look as if they might have won. Dramatic levels of devolution were promised and now have to be delivered; the SNP are emerging as possible power–brokers in the next Westminster parliament if neither of the main parties can form a government alone; and hanging over it all is Cameron’s promise of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, which Salmond reveals as a possible ‘Plan B’ in his lifelong mission to reverse the 1707 Act of Union.

There’s an opening quip about announcing to Newsweek that he has changed his mind about leaving, a call for reviving tea on this bright, icy morning (“hot please!”), and we’re off on a tour of the political horizon that takes in how a ‘Brexit’ could allow the Scots to stay in the EU but be free of London control; the inadequacies of the rest of Britain’s political leaders; and how Scotland’s separatists can profit from another hung parliament. There is also time for a rummage in the cupboards of Bute House, the Georgian mansion in one of Edinburgh’s grandest New Town squares that has served as the official residence for first ministers since devolution in 1999.

Throughout, Salmond’s unique mix of pugnaciousness and jocularity is on show. But his constant preoccupation with strategy, as he analyses every fresh set of circumstances thrown up by the current political tumult, shows why Salmond is feared by political opponents. They consistently make the mistake of underestimating him – a few days ago, Cameron dismissed his separatist foe as “living in a perpetual episode of Braveheart“.

Far from killing off the hopes of Salmond’s independence dream, as unionist devolution reformers believed, the creation of a Scottish parliament and executive during Tony Blair’s premiership has led, within a relatively short period, to an SNP majority government in Scotland, a worryingly close result in the recent vote on whether to secede from the UK (55% to 45% opted to stay in), and a population north of the border who tell pollsters they would vote to leave if the referendum was held again tomorrow, by 49% to 45% according to YouGov (excluding the don’t knows).

Alex Salmon

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond

 

“Hey, there’s an idea! Have I got time to do that?” Salmond jokes to the aide trying to organise his frantic final days in office. In reality, a fresh referendum, which would now be masterminded by Sturgeon, could only happen in exceptional circumstances. But with a fresh set of elections to the Scottish parliament in 2016, that referendum on EU membership promised before 2017, and the most unpredictable general election in living memory now less than six months away, those exceptional circumstances could be at hand.

So there is another decision meanwhile, and a very real one, pressing in on the party’s outgoing leader: whether to stand in the May 2015 general election for a constituency in or around his home district of Aberdeenshire in the north east of Scotland. 

Back in the Closet

Mulling a return to the House of Commons, at the head of a stronger contingent of SNP Members of Parliament than ever before, Salmond feels a strong need to put pressure on the other UK parties to make good a commitment formed in the last few weeks of the referendum campaign: to grant Scotland maximum devolution of powers in double-quick time.

“It will only happen if it’s forced to happen,” Salmond warns. “If Westminster got the slightest opportunity to put this back in the closet, back in the closet it will go.”

But even devo-max, as the settlement a few steps short of independence is known, is not the SNP objective: that remains leading Scotland out of the union to become a separate nation state. He has unfinished business, then?

“Correct,” clips Salmond. And he delivers the first of many steely glares that punctuate the jollity. To a visiting English unionist, these are downright disconcerting – Salmond has earned a reputation for resilience in playing the long game but also as a superb, direct communicator. He is often coupled together with Boris Johnson, maverick Tory Mayor of London and the anti-EU Farage by commentators – all three have a convincing rapport with sections of the public at a time when most of Britain’s political leaders appear remote and inauthentic. All three men, of course, also repel where they do not attract.

“The SNP and Ukip are as far apart as two parties can possibly be,” he insists. “But there is one common thread that is of course visceral contempt for the Westminster establishment, which was a strong motivation in the referendum campaign.”

Scathing verdicts are delivered on other opponents: the Prime Minister exposed himself as a ‘schoolboy’ with his accidentally-taped boast about the Queen ‘purring’ at him when he told her the realm would remain united, says Salmond.

He believes Cameron to be disastrous for the country but probably not his own party; Ed Miliband, though, is “just disastrous – for the party and the country”.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, receives the grudging, mistrustful respect of one military commander for another, delivered with a reflective bit of chin–rubbing: “Osborne is clever.” As a tactician? “Yeah . . . You wouldn’t want to go into the jungle with him.”

Salmond’s first spell as a young MP was during the Thatcher premiership, when he gained notoriety, and valuable publicity for the independence cause, with stunts like interrupting the Budget speech, traditionally heard in respectful silence. As a result he was temporarily suspended from the Commons, to his party’s delight and benefit. But in spite of being dubbed an ‘infant Robespierre’ by the then Scottish secretary Malcolm Rifkind, Salmond is no revolutionary. A gradualist, he convinced his party to ride the incoming tide of devolution to achieve its own -secessionist ends, and successfully ignored the wilder, anti-monarchy preoccupations of some in the SNP ranks. Now, though, anyone in his presence will get the feeling he believes the time has come for what he calls “conventional politics”, which is undergoing a crisis of public trust, to give way.

Preoccupied with their own distracting internal conflicts, do either of the potential next prime ministers, Cameron or Miliband, grasp what might be coming?

“I think that in Westminster politics, particularly in a complex three party inter–relationship with two parties in coalition, there is a great tendency to see ‘this is my next move on this particular chessboard’ without realising that somebody might just be getting the chessboard and going ‘whoosh’.” He mimes tossing the board into the air. “They don’t see that the whole world is changing.”

As we talk Salmond is days away from delivering his farewell speech to the SNP party faithful – swollen dramatically in number to more than 80,000 since September’s plebiscite and dwarfing Labour’s 13,000 north of the border. His speech is not yet penned, he says airily, although well into his last few days as leader of Scotland’s government. 

“I always do these things at the last minute.”

He insists he isn’t being coy about whether he will go back to the Commons – “I’m not teasing, I just haven’t made up my mind.”

But the decline of the three main UK parties, in terms of membership and vote share at elections, together with a particularly auspicious moment for any smaller party seen by an angry, disillusioned public to be challenging the status quo, make the next House of Commons a superb arena for the SNP to push Scotland’s priorities. 

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Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Salmond, who sat on the green benches from 1987 to 2010 and headed the SNP’s parliamentary group there during the four years he stood aside as party leader, is clearly tempted – it could be where the deal-making action is next time.

In 2010, he had hoped to “make Westminster dance to a Scottish jig”. But in the end that inconclusive election result left the SNP no stronger at only six seats. The Conservatives, as the largest party, were able to form a UK coalition with the Lib Dems.

Now opinion polls show the SNP on course to be the largest bloc of Scottish MPs in the Commons, with Labour reduced to a rump in single figures. Miliband is facing a rout even in his party’s Caledonian heartlands, many of which voted ‘Yes’ in the referendum: it could be the decisive factor in keeping him out of power.

“You’ve got the two main parties effectively throwing the election at each other, the one with a fracturing on the right, the other with a highly deficient leader. Any sensible group of people facing these circumstances, and by and large the English electorate is pretty sensible, is unlikely to give any of these two an absolute majority. I find it difficult to believe that either the Conservatives or Labour are fit to win an election.”

Pitch to the English

So far, so much in line with the consensus of most commentators and opinion pollsters with only six months to go until this strange and unpredictable general election. But then an intriguing note creeps in, with Salmond appearing to make a pitch to the English about the SNP’s fitness to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

Pitching himself forward into a sitting sumo pose, hands clasped and feet apart, the First Minister argues he could use SNP votes at Westminster to support policies that help not only Scotland but northern England, where people also say a remote political establishment in the comparatively prosperous southeast has not dealt with them fairly.

“It’s likely there is a potential route of progress through Westminster, which has not been the usual circumstance before. Who knows, there might be one or two things we can knock off for the good citizens of Liverpool and Newcastle, because they badly need a champion of some sort.”

This game, imagining a post-election world in which he might exercise such influence, clearly amuses him greatly. The dark eyes are twinkling.

“Listen, is England going to be safer in my hands or in the hands of this coalition government or of Nigel Farage? Much safer in my hands. I’ll do my best.”

But how could he achieve these deals and how provide this service he seems, only half in jest, to be offering the whole of the UK? A coalition? Certainly not with the Tories.

“Every single political organisation that has ever gone into an alliance, agreement or cohabitation with the Conservative party has ended up destroyed. The Liberal Democrats will be exactly the same and I’m about to demonstrate this from history.”

Ever the enthusiastic historian, the First Minister calls for a tray from among the ceremonial silver, explaining that Bute House, leased to the Scottish administration by the National Trust for Scotland, has been difficult to maintain during austere times, but a fantastic site for digging up hidden treasures: “I came across some wonderful things in cupboards when I moved into this house.”

The splendid artefact is brought out – an elaborately engraved rendition in silver of the Forth bridge, presented by Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1958 to the then Secretary of state for Scotland, John Scott Maclay.

“He was a Liberal. A National Liberal,” explains the First Minister – the National Liberals split from the main Liberal Party for a brief period between the 1920s and 1960s, and eventually got absorbed into the Conservative party. “Harold Macmillan appointed him I think out of a sense of mischief. And he was the last of his kind, the last National Liberal in Scotland.”

Stage business over, he delivers the lesson: those who “give succour” to the Tories have all been “swallowed by the whale”.

“And you can be absolutely certain that my colleagues, whether or not aided and abetted by my presence, will not be being swallowed by that particular whale.”

Given the SNP’s long-term decision to opt out of most House of Commons votes on matters that affect England and Wales, their “self-denying ordinance” that could equate to the English votes for English laws’ being demanded by some backbenchers, what about a looser arrangement to prop up a minority government?

“A confidence and supply agreement is a possibility,” Salmond muses – he has clearly thought through all the possible permutations and was on the receiving end of other parties attempts to disrupt his own minority administration at Holyrood between 2007 and 2011. He has studied all the tricks.

“Devils,” he snorts. “I took careful notes . . . There is plenty of scope to find things which are really important to you but are really not that important to the government.

“It wouldn’t be the greatest tragedy in the world, for example, for Westminster to accept the reality that the Scottish parliament should run its own elections, its own referendum.”

I look aghast at the idea: an SNP administration in Scotland having control of the question, timing and rules around another referendum. That would mean the existential threat to the UK multiplied, surely?

“Not of immediate pressing concern compared to the enormity, for example, of Ed Miliband’s survival as Prime Minister, which I am sure he would in that situation believe to be of the ultimate importance to the future of everything.”

Now the game we are playing has got serious: hung parliament hardball, with a wily Salmond facing a Prime Minister at bay.

Rebel With a Cause

On November 5th this year, the night when bonfires and firework parties celebrate the discovery and thwarting of Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, an effigy of Alex Salmond was burnt at the biggest of the traditional celebrations, in Lewes on the south coast of England.

Salmond brushed off the insult – meant in the spirit, the organisers claimed, of the event’s long tradition of political satire. But it is difficult not to conclude, sitting with him as he ponders his party’s next move that, however exhausted by the recent campaigning, this particular rebel has far from given up the fight to rupture the UK: he is just viewing it from a different angle. 

After receiving a few of these trademark Salmond stares whenever England or the English are mentioned, even the genteel surroundings of a Georgian drawing room in staunchly pro-union Edinburgh can feel like a dangerous place. 

Gordon Wilson, a former leader of the SNP, while critical of Salmond’s failure to win the economic arguments during the independence campaign, writes in a recent book that while the ‘No’ side won September’s battle, the Nationalists “arguably won the war” because “the referendum ignited a long constitutional fuse which could blow Westminster apart”.

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Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond speaks at a ‘Yes’ campaign rally in Perth, Scotland September 17, 2014.Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Labour and the Tories were bickering internally and with each other about the consequences of the ‘No’ vote within hours of the result. Dramatic devolution of powers to Scotland is now being negotiated in double-quick time by a cross-party commission. But the ensuing row about powers for the English regions could push even more votes in the direction of Nigel Farage’s Ukip next May; far from being the end of something, the plebiscite has already prompted calls for powers in Wales and England’s northern cities, with more disruption to come. 

Scotland’s vote has certainly been “a catalyst for wider change” admits Salmond, but for him it’s a sideshow. “I didn’t really come into politics to be the man who changed England, though there are many people who think that England needs changing.”

If something close to home rule is delivered, the discontent currently buoying up the SNP in the opinion polls may not last. But Salmond and Sturgeon will enjoy characterising any setbacks as a plot against the Scots, and the extraordinary spectacle of mass participation during the referendum, culminating in an astonishing near 85% turnout on the day, demands the ‘Yes’ campaign still be heard.

“This is the most engaged, the most energised electorate in Western Europe now, and any Westminster politician who thinks they can be left to go meekly back to their box for the convenience of the Westminster establishment – well, they probably already realise that’s not what’s happening.”

What they may not realise, or not fully, is the extent to which Salmond may be preparing to work from the Commons in concert with Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood to exploit Cameron’s promise of a referendum on EU membership. In this ‘Plan B’ any boost to the self-government of Scotland will help. “Nicola is preparing the ground for a blocking position. If we are in this quasi-federal position then each of the constituent parts [of the UK] has to decide to jump out together. Not one part saying ‘right, I’m jumping out, you lot, you’re just coming wi’us. And you know, if Westminster doesn’t like that, there’s an obvious solution.”

This last threat ends with the hardest, longest and fiercest glare yet – an EU referendum in which England voted for ‘out’ but Scotland voted for ‘in’ could provoke a crisis that achieves independence by the back door. 

Sturgeon, who Salmond terms his “apprentice”, pops in,  impeccably turned out, tiny, and, like many successful leaders, without the automatic ingratiating smile that plagues many women’s careers. We all stand but Salmond sits down again then banters with her from his armchair. An anthropologist would have a field day with the status markers in this primate group. The deputy first minister withdraws, leaving her mentor to his peroration.

Cameron’s predicament over the EU is folly on the Prime Minister’s part, the pro-EU Salmond believes. “It’s one thing having a referendum because you want to achieve something, quite something else having a referendum on something you don’t want to achieve: that’s almost ridiculous!”

But the EU itself, he claims, has “lost its way” by prioritising the internal market (“In a sense, Thatcher won, didn’t she?”) An earlier agenda that emphasised social protections – workers’ rights for example – might have made it more emotionally appealing to ordinary European citizens. “Instead of being the punchbag of every piece of negativity across the continent, Europe should be saying these are the themes we think are important.”

There is little evidence to support the idea that this sales pitch for the EU would be more likely to appeal to the average English voter in a referendum. But it might work in Scotland, where the political spectrum is centred further to the left – any split in the vote, England out, Scotland and Wales in, could be the SNP’s next big opportunity.

Salmond is famous for his love of gambling, and this is an audacious punt. But in the febrile world of British politics, where all the usual bets are off, longterm outsiders like the SNP, and insurgents like Ukip are spotting the chance to force their own agenda.

“What happens,” Salmond asks, “when 85% of people speak and of that 85% many of them roared and of the ones that didn’t roar, many of them think, hmm, maybe we should have?”

The Scots, their hopes now raised, will not, he warns, “disappear back into the shadows”. And nor, clearly, will Alex Salmond, whether he’s the man in charge or, from now on, a strategic mastermind behind the curtain. London, you have been warned.

 

 

NATO Meeting in Brussels Heightens Danger of War with Russia

 

In-depth Report:

11039-400x287NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels today to consolidate the military alliance against Russia, increasing the risk of a direct military confrontation between nuclear-armed powers.

NATO sources have revealed plans to establish a long-term presence in Eastern Europe, according to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS). So-called NATO “Force Integration Units” will be established in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. There are also plans to deploy such a unit in Hungary at a later time.

The units will consist of 40 soldiers each. They will be tasked with preparing exercises for a new NATO rapid response force and coordinating military activities in emergencies. Germany, which is spearheading the operation this year, intends to deploy a total of 25 soldiers within the units.

The ground troops of the rapid response force are to consist of a brigade of some 5,000 soldiers. The goal is for their most flexible units to have the capability to move to a new location within 48 hours. The entire brigade will be trained and equipped to be able to move to a new location within a week. The leadership of the operation will rotate yearly between NATO member countries.

According to the FAS, NATO defense ministers have already decided on the equipment to be provided during the “test phase,” which is to last until the beginning of next year. Starting in April, a company of German paratroopers will supplement American units that have been stationed in the Baltic States and Poland since last year.

Two weeks ago, the FAS revealed that NATO defense ministers will convene the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) at the beginning of today’s meeting to discuss “the nuclear threat scenario from Russia in the past few months.”

Unlike previous years, according to the FAS, this will not merely be a routine meeting. An analysis of threat scenarios worked out at NATO headquarters will be presented to the defense ministers. Afterwards, the ministers “will for the first time discuss the consequences for the nuclear strategy of the alliance.” A separate consultation session is planned with France, which is not a member of the NPG.

NATO’s nuclear simulations underscore the fact that the imperialist powers are ready to risk nuclear war in order to force Russia to its knees. In the past week, a number of prominent figures, including former Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev, have warned of the danger of a Third World War if NATO, led by the United States, continues to take aggressive measures against Russia.

Under conditions of escalating fighting between troops of the Western-backed Kiev regime and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Gorbachev warned of a “hot war” that “could well inevitably turn into an atomic war.”

On Sunday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung quoted the Russian military expert Yevgeny Buchinsky, who warned that, in response to an offensive against the Donbass by Kiev,

“Russia will have to intervene, and then, bluntly speaking, to take Kiev. Then NATO would be in a difficult situation. Then you would have to start World War III, which no one wants.”

In spite of such warnings, the imperialist powers and their proxies in Kiev are escalating the conflict. On Monday, the New York Times revealed that the Obama administration is considering sending advanced weapons to Kiev. The newspaper listed high-ranking current and former administration officials and military officers who are pushing for such a move.

The Times report triggered opposition among sections of the European elite. The Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that a decision by Washington to arm the Kiev regime with offensive weapons would be taken by Russia as the equivalent of a declaration of war. Russian officials and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke against any such move during a visit to Hungary.

Washington intends to use today’s NATO meeting to bring the member states into line behind its provocative and reckless course. At the beginning of the week, Alexander Vershbow, a former US ambassador to Russia and currently the deputy secretary general of NATO, referred to “Russian aggression” in Ukraine as a “game changer in European security.”

He emphasized the necessity of deploying rapid response troops in Eastern Europe, extending NATO’s reach in the east, and arming the Ukrainian military. Referring to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, all former Soviet republics, he said,

“The more stable they are, the more secure we are. So helping Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova—to strengthen their military forces, reform their institutions and modernize their economies—is not an act of generosity, it is in our fundamental strategic interest.”

He added,

“NATO is doing its part. To help Ukraine to modernize and reform its armed forces, we have launched five trust funds to assist in areas like command and control, logistics, cyber defense and military medicine. We are sending more advisors to Kiev and will be carrying out exercises with Ukraine’s armed forces. And we are helping Moldova and Georgia to strengthen their defense capacity in similar ways, and, in Georgia’s case, to help it prepare for future membership in the Alliance.”

At the end of his speech, Vershbow warned:

“This time around, having chosen our course, we must stick to it. We must stay united, stay firm and increase the costs to Russia of its aggression.”

Meanwhile, voices in favor of arming Ukraine are growing louder. Michael Gahler (Germany’s Christian Democratic Union—CDU), who is the spokesman on security policy for the European People’s Party in the European Union parliament, spoke in favor of sending weapons to Ukraine in an interview on Deutschlandfunk radio.

Wolfgang Ischinger, leader of the Munich Security Conference, which takes place this weekend, has adopted the same line. On ZDF Television he spoke in favor of the “announcement of possible weapons shipments” to Ukraine. “Sometimes one needs to use pressure to enforce peace,” he declared. While he cautioned that Germany should not send weapons, he said he could “imagine that other members of the alliance would want to do this.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, whose regime was brought to power nearly a year ago by a fascist-led putsch backed by the US and Germany, and has since waged a brutal war against the population of eastern Ukraine, made an appearance yesterday in Kharkiv, which is near the border with Russia and the contested areas. He said that “we will need lethal weapons, and I am sure that foreign weapons will be sent to Ukraine.” He continued: “I don’t have any doubt that the US and other partners will provide help with lethal weapons so that Ukraine will be able to defend itself.”

Poroshenko will take part in the Munich Security Conference along with 20 other heads of state and 60 foreign and defense ministers. He is meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Kiev today.

Politics British Politicians To Face Criminal Investigation Over Scottish Referendum

In a television interview with the BBC just four days before the referendum John McTernan, a former adviser to Tony Blair said, "It's important to remember that about a fifth of the electorate, that will be about a quarter of the total turn-out, have voted already. They have voted by postal vote. Those postal votes are running very strongly towards 'no'. There is a whole bank of votes in."

In a television interview with the BBC just four days before the referendum John McTernan, a former adviser to Tony Blair said, “It’s important to remember that about a fifth of the electorate, that will be about a quarter of the total turn-out, have voted already. They have voted by postal vote. Those postal votes are running very strongly towards ‘no’. There is a whole bank of votes in.”

 

EDINBURGH, October 04 (RIA Novosti), Mark HirstPolice in Scotland will formally investigate allegations that anti-Scottish independence campaigners breached electoral law during the referendum held on September 18.

“We can confirm that Crown counsel has instructed Police Scotland to commence an investigation into alleged breaches of Schedule 7, Paragraph 7, of the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013,” a statement issued on Saturday by the Crown Office, Scotland’s prosecution service reads.

The allegations relate to comments made by Ruth Davidson, a Member of the Scottish Parliament and leader of the Scottish Conservatives, in which she appeared to know the general results of postal votes arising from “sample opening” of ballot boxes.

Postal vote opening sessions are permitted before the formal poll is conducted to verify signatures and dates of birth against records held by the local Returning Officer. Agents for the two campaigns were allowed to monitor these sessions, but it is a criminal offense, punishable with up to a year’s imprisonment if found guilty, to communicate any information witnessed during the sample opening sessions.

In a television interview with the BBC shortly after the formal poll closed Davidson said “we’ve been incredibly encouraged by the results [of the postal vote],” implying the Scottish Conservative leader knew the outcome of the postal votes before the first formal results had been announced.

In another BBC interview just four days before the referendum John McTernan, a former adviser to Tony Blair said, “It’s important to remember that about a fifth of the electorate, that will be about a quarter of the total turn-out, have voted already. They have voted by postal vote. Those postal votes are running very strongly towards ‘no’. There is a whole bank of votes in.”

McTernan told RIA Novosti he had not been contacted by Police adding, “No reason to believe free speech is a crime.”

According to The Herald newspaper, Davidson has been contacted by Police with the paper quoting a Conservative Party source who said there was, “no suggestion she was accused of doing anything wrong at this stage.”

The independence referendum, which took place on September 18, saw a turnout of 84.59 percent. Scotland has chosen to stay in the United Kingdom with 44.7 percent of Scots having voted in support of independence and 55.3 percent having voted against.