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This is an amazing moment.
When I started to make this documentary about Alex Salmond,
I thought it might be his political obituary
because Labour were ahead in the polls, favourites to win this election.
Now he returns to Edinburgh in triumph, the only First Minister
to be re-elected for a second term and the first to have an overall
majority, with a mandate to put to the Scottish people a referendum on independence.
How did he do it?
'It's six o'clock on Tuesday the 5th of April. Good morning.
'This is Today with Justin Webb and Evan Davis.
'The headlines this morning - there is heavy fighting in and around Ivory Coast's biggest city.
'UN helicopters have attacked the presidential compound.
'Government plans to give poorer children a better hope...'
My political career was spent at Westminster.
But because my mother is Scottish, I've often travelled north of the border.
It's evident to me that in Scotland, politics is dominated by one man.
Alex Salmond, to my mind, is the only Scottish politician to have made most of his career
in Scottish politics who is well known in England.
And, I dare say, internationally. I mean, I regard him as the outstanding Scottish politician,
not to have come out of Scotland, but to have remained in Scotland.
Since we sat together in the Westminster Parliament, he's quit
as leader of his party, bounced back and led it to power in Scotland. Remarkable.
As he set off on the election trail this year, I wanted to understand this comeback kid.
There was one place I had to go.
'It's eight o'clock. You're listening to Newsweek Scotland with Derek Bateman. Good morning.
'Coming up in the next hour, we hear how the humble chocolate bar
'plays a role in the civil unrest in Ivory Coast.
'And we say hello to our Scottish election panel.'
My Scottish family is from the east side, from Edinburgh.
So I know Edinburgh much better than Glasgow.
I have been to Glasgow quite a lot.
Now we're in the Glasgow Southside constituency.
I don't know my way around here at all.
Not really the kind of place that looks like a safe Tory seat!
But in this kind of constituency, I can see at first hand how
Alex Salmond has reached out beyond his traditional party heartland.
Hello, how are you?
-Not bad, yourself?
-Very, very well.
As ever, he greets me with a mix of charm and jibe.
-Not bad, not bad.
We'll need to get you incognito here.
You were no pin-up here, were you?
No, not exactly. It's not good Tory territory. So, you're going out campaigning?
-Lovely day for it.
-A month to go, but the campaign's hotting up quite nicely.
-Good, good. So, what are you doing? Knocking on doors, or...
-You know that well enough.
-And you feel confident?
Yes, I am. I mean, there's...
Yeah... Yes, I'm very confident, but nothing for granted.
The usual things you say. Neck and neck and the rest of it.
-Very good. We're going to...
-You know Nicola?
I do, I know Nicola. And I'm very pleased to know Nicola indeed.
-Good to see you. So, this is your patch?
-It is indeed, yes.
So we're going to trail around with you, if that's all right?
Watch your style.
Converting a small faction of protest into a party of government has depended at critical moments on
Alex Salmond's self-belief as a formidable campaigner.
I'm here to see him in action.
They'll probably be quite pleased to see us with our television camera and our boom microphone
because I know from canvassing and campaigning, nothing attracts
attention more than being followed around by a television camera.
-You're familiar with Irn Bru?
-You cannae see, you know?
This is the new me. The healthy option.
-Thank you so much.
-How you doing?
-I'm good, how are you?
Seriously, you've got a chance of winning this time, have you?
We will win. But, you know, we've still got four weeks of the campaign.
It's going to be a close-run thing, but we'll win.
The Alex Salmond I know from the Commons does not lack self-confidence.
But there's more to shaking hands and posing with babies than meets the eye.
People need to like you - maybe even think you genuine.
Politicians who are no good at it make you cringe.
But do it well and it's votes in the ballot box.
Takes after her dad!
Of course, in today's environment of political correctness, it simply isn't done to kiss a baby.
But Alex Salmond's technique,
everything short of kissing the baby, was absolutely superb.
You know, the trouble I'm having is I want to join in.
-You're having such fun.
-Well, that's right.
I feel the hand going out to shake the voters.
It must be so difficult for you. Old habits and all that.
Absolutely. But, I mean, you're a natural at it, aren't you? You love campaigning, don't you?
Ah, great, aye. I've always loved campaigning.
You've always had a reputation for being quite a private man, but you're very outgoing with people.
-That's a slight dichotomy, there?
It's just... I mean, I think in terms of the
private stuff and family, that's really a Scottish tradition, Michael.
We tend not to... That's been the Scottish habit
and I think that's the right thing to do, incidentally, in terms of your family life. You keep that...
But in terms of being out, you know, that's just the way I am.
You can't actually put this on, incidentally.
You either do it or you don't.
A shiver of discomfort at any mention of Alex Salmond's private life.
Even those who are very close to him know not to ask after his brothers,
sisters, his parents and so on.
Because it will simply be closed down as a topic of conversation.
And the remarkable thing about Alex Salmond's sense of privacy
is he operates in a political age in which entirely the opposite is expected of politicians.
Where they're supposed to bare their souls and talk at length about their
wives, children and their innermost thoughts and demons.
Yet Alex Salmond has succeeded, despite not succumbing to that expectation.
But does his private life offer any clues to the man who would become the politician?
He grew up here, in Linlithgow.
# The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures... #
Alex Salmond's voice was first heard as a talented choirboy soprano.
And he's said that growing up amongst medieval walls inspired a lifelong love of Scottish history.
He said himself, and I think there's some truth in this, that his parents were
typically Scottish, in that they were nationalists with a small n.
And this is despite the fact his mother was, as he described,
a Churchill Conservative, and his father was quite a hard-left Labour supporter.
But they were both fiercely proud of being Scottish and, given
the surrounding Scottish traditions of the Kirk
and the distinct education system, Alex Salmond would inevitably have imbibed that feeling.
I can't resist speculating on how the locality's
forlorn and romantic history might have kindled Scottish patriotism
in Alex Salmond's receptive heart.
As a boy, Alex Salmond would have known the palace at Linlithgow where Mary, Queen of Scots was born,
who many people thought had a better claim to the throne of England than her cousin, Elizabeth.
Nonetheless, Mary was beheaded in an English castle at her cousin's orders.
And that must have been enough to make the young boy seethe.
And maybe this was what set Alex Salmond on his path to Nationalism.
Why don't you say yes to the SNP next time?
It's your future and it's your country, you know. Good night.
Alex Salmond said yes to the SNP
just weeks after arriving at St Andrews University in 1973.
The history and economics undergraduate joined just as the party took off.
In 1974, 11 Nationalist MPs were returned to Westminster.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, and to be young was very heaven.
# It's plain to see you were meant for me
# I'm your boy your 20th century toy... #
And one future star of political journalism was watching throughout this period.
I recall Alex Salmond as a thin, rake-like figure.
Mind you, I was a thin, rake-like figure in those days as well!
Going around in a long coat and what was later described as a Maoist cap.
But it was a little cap, perched upon his hair.
His abiding characteristic then, and now, was a combination of very serious politics and mischief-making.
He cannot resist the temptation to make mischief with a political rival.
While having that sense of mischief about politics and about
life, he also took himself exceptionally seriously.
Everything was planned and calculated.
In those days to do with student politics, now of course to do with the governance of Scotland.
We don't stand out at all, do we?!
I think student politicians are pretty weird.
I mean, seriously, get a life.
But I hoped they could give me some insight into what the young Alex Salmond was like.
Nah, not at all.
I'm a Labour man. Been that all my days.
Oh, that one wasn't so good.
-How's it been today, generally?
It's been quite a good day.
-Just the occasional one you get that's not...
-This is such a traditional Labour...
He was just saying, his father voted Labour, his father's father voted Labour.
It's going to be very hard to change your opinion.
Four this way, four down here.
-Four this way, guys.
-How strong does Nationalism run amongst students?
50-50, I'd say. You're either a very strong Unionist or a very strong Nationalist at the moment, I'd say.
You actually want Scotland to become independent?
Yes, definitely. Fully independent.
I believe by the time I'm 30 years old, I want full Scottish independence.
-We can leave you a leaflet. You can consider it.
-Take it easy.
How does the name of Alex Salmond go down on the doorstep?
Some people really like him, some people don't like him.
The old Marmite thing.
Yeah. Yeah. Whenever people like him, I go, "Well, yeah, he's fantastic, he's a good leader."
When people don't like him, I always try to say, "Well, it's not just about the individual character."
So it doesn't have to be about him.
If you don't like him, fair enough, you can still like the SNP.
The ability to ride two horses at once is a useful talent for a politician.
Does Alex Salmond have it?
His past suggests that he does.
Alex Salmond had a reputation as a young radical, yet his employment was anything but.
The young firebrand Nationalist moonlighted at the heart of the Edinburgh establishment.
For seven years, he worked for the bank as an economist and oil expert.
He must have inhaled the fumes of free-market capitalism.
Yet when the Government saved the bank from two takeover bids, he applauded state intervention.
have haunted Salmond's career.
Can a tormented left-wing activist and a sated capitalist apparatchik
simultaneously inhabit one mind and body?
There has been that curious paradox, I think, since Salmond's period at the Royal Bank of Scotland between
a socially democratic Salmond, a centre-left instinct and the neo-liberal side.
It's fair to say that throughout his career Alex Salmond has been
consistently oleaginous, that is, convinced that oil is the key to Scotland's economy and politics.
The riches of the North Sea, lying in abundance off the Scottish
coast, have kept a flare burning for four decades in Alex Salmond's mind.
To an English politician such as I used to be,
few phrases are as wearisome as "the claim to Scotland's oil".
The Scottish National Party won its seat at Westminster in 1967,
about the time that North Sea oil was first discovered.
And maybe that's not a coincidence, because the existence of those vast natural resources off-shore Scotland
helped many Scots to believe that Scotland could go it alone.
And perhaps it also led to an increase in Scottish resentment,
a feeling that the country would be able to live a life of luxury if it weren't for the beastly English.
The question of whether it's Scotland's oil has long fuelled the SNP's support.
Even now, in 2011, it's a key part of their argument
that Scotland has the ability to stand on its own two feet.
Looking out at the scale of the industry and the wealth that it has
brought, I can see that it's had a huge effect on Alex Salmond's vision for Scotland.
I wanted to know more about the SNP leader's early years in the party,
so I went to meet one of the independence movement's best-known figures.
Margo MacDonald was a member of the 1979 Group.
That was a left-wing faction within the SNP.
Membership of it got Alex Salmond suspended from the party for a period during the 1980s.
Margo and her husband, Jim Sillars, were close to the SNP leader once upon a time.
The pair of you will have known Alex Salmond since the early 1970s.
From what you knew then, have you been surprised what a dominant figure he became in the party?
Oh, well, I thought he would be a future leader,
because it's not so well known now,
but Alex was one of the ones who were expelled in the early '80s.
And one of the reasons I fought like mad - I didn't get expelled, for some reason - one of the reasons I
fought like mad to get him and Kenny MacAskill back in
was that I saw Alex as a potential leader, even then.
Why did you see him as a potential leader?
He was very bright...
He had a toughness about him.
Well, it wasn't so much that, but he was different
from the people who had led the Scottish National Party before.
He was modern, and I thought that he could relate to modern Scotland far
better than the others did, without being injurious to their reputations.
There had been a group of people
in the SNP who had been working to establish that
the natural position for the SNP in Scotland was left of centre.
Jim's absolutely right, he was left of centre, and he was more clearly
willing to identify himself, as previous leaders of the SNP had been,
who probably were left of centre themselves but not as willing to announce it.
Alex Salmond's suspension would not be a life sentence.
James Mitchell knew him throughout that period.
In truth, the leadership were very worried about this.
They didn't want to cause the trouble that was bound to arise
from the suspension, and they
certainly didn't want to lose people like Alex Salmond, with his talent.
And so an agreement was reached, an accommodation, and so he was able to come back into the party.
And so the prodigal son was transformed into a favoured son.
Well, we're joined now by Alex Salmond in Aberdeen, the new SNP MP for Banff and Buchan.
Now, there's Alex Salmond, Margaret Ewing, Andrew Welsh.
Would you like to be leader of the SNP?
Oh, I think that's a question for the future.
Once in Westminster, the new MP wasn't going to slouch complacently on the green leather benches.
He was keen to make his mark in Westminster and with the voters back home.
Perhaps he was looking to join the ranks of Scotland's great heroes.
I'm rather fond of some of them myself.
And as for Alex Salmond, a graduate in medieval history,
what better inspiration could there be than Scotland's bravest heart?
At the end of the 13th century, William Wallace fought for Scottish freedom,
won a famous victory here at Stirling and marched into England.
During his time as an MP at Westminster, Alex Salmond took the fight to London, where Wallace
had been hung, drawn and quartered, and again fought for independence.
I saw for myself a key Alex Salmond moment on Budget Day, 1988.
It was the period of high Thatcherism, and her chancellor, Nigel Lawson,
announced a breathtaking cut in income tax, eliminating the rates for the highest earners.
Alex Salmond seized the moment, moved for the moral high ground
and launched his attack while the Chancellor spoke.
I propose to abolish all the higher rates of income tax above 40 per cent.
Alex Salmond stood up,
heckled Nigel Lawson
and brought the Budget to a halt.
Deputy Speaker Harold Walker, Chairman of Ways and Means, has had to call for a vote
on whether Mr Alex Salmond should be expelled from the House of Commons.
This is a big moment in the Alex Salmond story.
I was there, and it was a masterly piece of political theatre.
Alex Salmond got named, that is to say he got suspended. It's like a
red card in soccer.
He had to leave the field.
But more than that, we, all of us, had to vote to suspend Alex Salmond.
So the Budget is disrupted for the 15 minutes that it takes to hold a vote, and, I suppose,
by the end of the afternoon, from no-one knowing who Alex Salmond was, everybody knew who he was.
I beg to move that Mr Salmond...
I beg to move that Mr Salmond be suspended from proceedings...
Does this episode explain the knack he has for achieving useful notoriety?
Around that time, Alex Salmond and Michael Russell were becoming close allies.
You go back with Alex Salmond to the mid-1980s.
Did you approve of those sorts of tactics?
I approved enormously of that tactic. I knew he was thinking about it,
and I remember I sent him a message immediately afterwards,
expressing my excitement that he'd done it.
We needed to express the anger that was felt in Scotland, particularly about the poll tax.
We needed to protest, we needed to be heard.
One of the great issues, at that time, was there were a large number of Labour MPs from Scotland -
we used to call them the Feeble 50 at that stage -
who never said or did anything, were never heard protesting about anything.
It was important that the Scottish voice was heard, and Alex was the person to articulate it.
And Alex Salmond's ability to grab the limelight would pay off in 1990.
Margaret Ewing MP, 186.
Alex Salmond MP, 486.
# I'm on my way, I'm making it... #
In the 1990s, Alex Salmond dominated his party.
From the start, he set the SNP in opposition to both the Conservatives and the burgeoning New Labour party.
# So much larger than life... #
The Labour leadership may win the battle for the yuppie votes
in the south, we're going to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the Scottish people.
With so many early years spent in opposition,
perhaps he's been allowed to enjoy his fame more than most.
And with Paul Merton tonight is a media pundit, TV celebrity and quiz
panellist, except for viewers in Scotland, where apparently he's some sort of politician - Alex Salmond!
But on the whole, his political opponents have learnt to take
Alex Salmond seriously as a television performer.
Donald, Labour have won elections in Scotland over the last 13 years.
At the last election, you had an unprecedented victory, winning 50 seats.
With all that voting power over that period of time, can you
name tonight one single industry that you have saved from closure?
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-No, not pass at all.
-Donald, you answer the question...
-There was a debate at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh in 1992,
at which he did very well, then a head-to-head with George Robertson,
who was then Shadow Scottish Secretary, a few years later, at which he did very well again.
Otherwise, Alex Salmond is not a good debater.
He's a good shouter, and he's very sharp.
That doesn't make him a talented debater.
During this year's campaign, I snuck behind the scenes into
the back of the television studio to watch his style.
So, here we are early in the election campaign, and the four leaders are gathering
in a studio in Glasgow.
..talking about the issues that matter to you.
We're going to see Alex Salmond..
..Annabel Goldie of the Scottish Conservatives, the SNP's Alex Salmond, Iain Gray from
Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats' Tavish Scott.
Thank you all very much indeed for coming in for this special programme.
Let's start with what we all know and we can all presumably agree on, which is that the public are
extremely wary of cuts and what the cuts are going to mean for them. So this is a chance...
We're making progress. This is progress.
ALL TALK OVER EACH OTHER
If you undertake to talk to the Government, which
we will bring forward, and I'm glad we're operating on the assumption...
..then we'll talk to you, as we talk to the other parties...
On that positive note...
We can surely come to an agreement on this.
Alex Salmond has a reputation for being very quick.
A moment there where Iain Gray, the Labour leader in Scotland,
appeared to imply that after the election, there's going to
be an SNP government talking about whether they could do a deal on a particular piece of legislation.
Alex Salmond says straightaway,
"You're working on the assumption that I'm going to get back into power."
You all talk to different voters, don't you?
ALL TALK OVER EACH OTHER
The voters I'm speaking to, Iain, are desperately disappointed with Labour.
Quite clearly, for neither Tavish nor Annabel, what the coalition is doing...
As we come to the end of this debate, Alex Salmond has only really been gored once.
A little blood was drawn on the issue of his promise to
replace the council tax with local income tax and then the accusation
that he went to court in order to stop the true cost of his proposals being revealed to the public.
He looked a bit uncomfortable at that point.
Otherwise, he's been landing blows with his usual gay abandon.
Before she left the building, I sought my former party colleague's view of her opponent.
I think he's been a big beast in Scottish politics,
and it would be, I think, churlish to deny that.
He has a political competence, he has a charisma,
and he certainly has established himself over the years as
a significant figure in the political environment.
I think one of his personal traits can be
at times, overbearing personal demeanour.
He likes to get things his own way, he likes to
be the big beast in the jungle, he likes to try and dominate debate and discussion.
And, I mean, I certainly think it's my duty to stand up to that and to challenge that.
The ability to craft a soundbite
or to beat an opponent at a hustings are important.
But there's more than that to political effectiveness.
The qualities of great leaders like Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, for whom I worked, are of course
that they lead from the front, they have an extraordinary sense of purpose and great courage.
And I wouldn't exactly compare Alex Salmond to Churchill or Thatcher,
but he does have some characteristics which are important in a leader.
He has a sense of destiny and he has flexibility, he changes his mind, because very often a great leader
knows the destination but doesn't go straight to it, but rather tacks along the way.
And that quality of political rubberiness would be needed by Alex Salmond throughout the 1990s.
In 1992, the SNP hoped to gain from the unpopularity in Scotland of the Conservatives.
But Scotland voted Labour,
even as the rest of the UK rejected Neil Kinnock.
Very difficult to cope with the Labour Party argument that
Neil Kinnock had the keys of Number 10 Downing Street in his hands.
If that turns out to be a false prospectus and if Labour lose this election, then I think the Labour
leadership in Scotland are going to have some immediate explaining to do
to the Scottish people, and I think the Scottish people will take their
revenge on the Labour party in the May local election, on 7th May, when Scotland goes to the polls again.
There would be no great breakthrough for the SNP at Westminster elections.
But Salmond's flexibility and leadership skills would come to the fore in 1997.
He was about to help make history.
Scotland's history matters to Alex Salmond and features in his argument for independence.
Here in Edinburgh in the late 1990s, a creaking sound
echoed through the streets - heralding that Scotland's Parliament was rising from its grave.
Welcome to the Witchery Murder and Mystery Tour.
My name is Adam Lyle, deceased.
'Walking these streets, you get a feel for the Scottish capital's long and colourful past.
'Was it a sense of history which prompted Alex Salmond
'to join Labour and the Liberal Democrats to campaign for a Yes vote in the devolution referendum?
'They walked together towards the historic election of 1999,
'which would bring the parliament back to life.
'But the goodwill forged during the long referendum campaign would not last.'
Thank you all very much and good night. Thank you.
'In an often bad-tempered campaign,
'Alex Salmond, as a potential First Minister,
'was put under more intense scrutiny than ever before.
'His poll ratings slid, and his Penny for Scotland policy,
'a promise to use the income tax raising power of the new parliament,
'didn't go down well with voters or some in his own party.'
What went wrong?
I don't know that anything went wrong. I think they got what they deserved.
Well, you were pretty critical at the time.
No, no. I offered helpful comments,
which were always interpreted as just being straight criticism.
Can you remind us of the helpful comments?
Och, I can't remember what I said now.
-But it would all be true, I'm sure.
-What about A Penny for Scotland?
Och, that was nonsense. That was absolute...
-That was absolute nonsense, and I said so.
-That's a helpful comment?
Ah, well, they dropped it.
They dropped the Penny for Scotland thing, because I was right.
I don't want to dwell on anything like that.
Some of the SNP may want to, but I think most of them don't.
I think most of them want to forget that embarrassment.
It would be a hard lesson.
You don't see today's Alex Salmond giving such hostages to fortune.
I think the problem with Penny for Scotland
was the party talked a great deal about how it raised the money, not how it spent it.
I think that's something that sometimes happens when you talk about taxation.
I think we needed a much greater focus in 1999 about what that money would buy.
So I think that's a collective issue.
And indeed I was deeply involved in the Penny for Scotland issue.
I think, recognising now what happened, I think that's probably a critique I would make.
And then there were Alex Salmond's comments on the NATO bombing of Serbia.
It is an action of dubious legality, but above all one of unpardonable folly.
'One of the SNP candidates for that parliament was Duncan Hamilton,
'a rising star who was close to the leader.'
I suspect for Alex the criticism that he got over Kosovo
might be a low point.
And I say that not because he thinks for a minute
that he was wrong about that, but because it unleashed,
in the middle of an election campaign,
something that was able to be twisted and turned against the SNP.
And turned it, in the middle of the campaign, into a real problem.
And I think it may be well be that he looks back on that and thinks
that whilst he may have been right in saying it at that time,
it may or may not have been the wisest move. But that's my guess.
'Alex Salmond's outburst may have been politically costly.
'Had this man, often criticised for over-calculating his positions,
'simply exposed a powerful inner conviction whose authenticity has since proved attractive?'
Kosovo, you've got to remember Alex believes and feels things very passionately.
He believed utterly that this was wrong, it was adventurism.
He spoke, I would think, for the whole SNP in that.
And I would much, much, much rather be in a party
with a leader that does that than a leader who is mealy-mouthed when it comes to issues of real principle.
'But in that first election to the Scottish Parliament
'the SNP came a poor second with 35 MSPs, 21 fewer than Labour.
'Alex Salmond, as leader, carried the responsibility.'
The election of 1999 was a disappointing result.
-Would you accept that?
-I think it was less than we had hoped for,
but more than we might have anticipated even two or three years earlier.
I think expectations were perhaps very unrealistic.
We had a lot still to do in 1999, although we had done a lot.
After nearly 300 years, Scotland once more had a parliament.
Yet, even as one of its champions, Alex Salmond was evidently burdened with disappointment.
Having played a key role in the successful campaign for a Yes vote on devolution,
Alex Salmond was elected to the first Scottish Parliament of modern times
that sat here in the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland.
But, surprisingly, he didn't shine in the new role.
And within a year he was under fierce attack from hostile media.
He probably struggled to adapt from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament, initially.
Much was written at the time about him failing to score points at First Minister's Questions in opposition.
I don't think that's particularly fair
because I think the Scottish Parliament is not really set up for opposition parties.
But Alex is a Westminster politician.
He loves the clash and clamour, he loves the cut and thrust across the debating chamber.
And to be brought into an environment which is all about consensus, cuddly politics,
I think, for him, was not necessarily a natural transition.
Just one year into the new parliament,
Alex Salmond brought his decade-long leadership of the party to an abrupt end.
I have invested a great deal of time, particularly over the last year, in developing the position the SNP
as a strong team of people who are capable of taking Scotland forward.
And I think, after ten years, it's time to allow someone in that team of people,
that strong team that we've seen developing in the Scots Parliament, the chance to show what they can do.
11 years later, and here's the same man
attempting to win an unprecedented second term as First Minister.
How can such success and self-confidence
have returned to a man who a decade ago was dubbed by some a quitter?
While he was on the campaign trail I asked him why he threw in the towel back in 2000.
I'd done ten years.
It's quite interesting.
I came to believe that...
Because I couldn't understand why we were getting such bad press.
We were ahead in the polls, we were doing all right,
and yet were getting absolute lumps knocked out of us.
And I couldn't recognise what was actually happening in the parliament with the description of it.
I got it into my head that the problem had become me.
The press, because I'd had ten years, basically a charmed existence, nobody had laid a finger on me.
And I began to believe that basically they'd got fed up of having me there.
Probably the press, as opposed to the people.
And basically, the party would do better if someone had a fresh start and a decent run at it.
Over the next few years, he steered his career in a different direction and regained his fighting spirit.
He left the Scottish Parliament and led his party at Westminster.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq aroused his passionate opposition.
He was prominent on the UK national stage, making an increasingly popular case.
A month ago he said the only circumstances he would go to war without a second resolution
were if the inspectors concluded there was no more progress, which they haven't.
If there was a majority in the Security Council, which there's not.
And there was an unreasonable veto from one country.
There are three countries, permanent members, opposed to the Prime Minister's policy.
When did he change his position and why?
'Apparently, the aggression of Westminster suited Alex Salmond
'better than the rainbow politics of Edinburgh.
'Or perhaps it had simply revived him.
'When John Swinney stepped down as leader, the heavens seemed to send Alex Salmond a sign.
'The SNP leader likes Indian food - a lot.
'This restaurant is said to be his favourite haunt.
'And one of those who whetted his appetite for a return to Edinburgh
'says that curry was part of the mix.'
In 2004, when Alex Salmond has been out of the leadership for four years,
you, amongst others, encourage him to come back, I think with a series of curry dinners.
Why did you think he should return?
The choice of what was next was quite a difficult one.
They had three very, very strong candidates.
But there was no really emerging new leadership figure
or agenda at the time.
And so it just struck a few of us
that there was an opportunity here not to be missed.
That, you know, Alex would be able to galvanise
what was clearly emerging as a big opportunity to replace Labour in government.
I was spending a lot of time in London myself.
Angus Robertson, who's now the SNP's Westminster leader,
spent a lot of time in one of Alex's favourite Pimlico curry houses,
basically ruminating on the problem and what could be done about it.
And I can't quite remember the full detail,
but I do recall that by the end of it he had determined
this could be put together and a case for returning could be made. So he was up for it.
'Was it vanity that prompted his comeback, a belief that he was indispensable?
'Or did he feel the call of duty, believing that if he did not step up,
'the party would take a wrong turn?'
In a sense, he had to be persuaded to come back, but it was more a sense
of obligation and duty, if truth be told, than it was anything to do with ego.
I often laugh when people say
he couldn't bear to be out the limelight and desperately pushed people aside to come back.
It's not how it was. It simply wasn't how it was.
And that's to misunderstand both the moment and the man.
So your voice was one of those that was whispering, "Return!"
Well, I mean, I'm a fan of his in the sense of I think he adds something to the party
that the party doesn't otherwise have, and I think at that time,
given where the party could have gone,
it was important that he did come back. So I think there was a danger.
I mean, I don't remember being somebody who was so utterly convinced that he must come back at all costs.
'In order to come back, Alex Salmond had to muster all the flexibility -
'or perhaps rubberiness - that good political leaders possess.'
If nominated. I'll decline. If drafted, I'll defer.
And if elected, I'll resign.
So it is then with a degree of surprise and humility but with a renewed determination
that I must tell you that I am a candidate for the leadership of the Scottish National Party.
And the man who had once ascended from party exile to party leader
pulled off another remarkable resurrection.
'Alex Salmond MP,'
or 75.76% of the vote.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Nicola and I intend to win the 2007 elections in Scotland,
and we'll do that by offering a vision to the people where currently there's just a vacuum,
and we intend to lead a government of purpose and direction, so that we can offer the people of this nation
the opportunity to move forward to independence, democracy and equality.
Whether Salmond possesses courage or merely chutzpah,
I believe the key is the thrill that he derives from risk.
-How are you?
-How are you doing, Michael? Good to see you.
-Nice to see you.
-Good to see a proper Tory.
There's a horse running on Thursday I'm quite interested in.
-Alex Salmond. What odds?
He's a certainty. He's 4/6.
He'll win the election. I'll be voting for him.
Alex Salmond is famously something of a betting man,
a punter who knows the form and generally keeps his nose ahead.
So, the horse that attracts me in the 3:15, for obvious reasons, is Blue Bunting.
However, it says here, "Bare form, nothing to write home about, and she looks vulnerable to speedier sorts."
Sounds like she's got about the same chance as the blues in this election.
Have a Mario Lanza on it.
Go on, two quid at 150/1, Wing And A Prayer.
Wing And A Prayer for the Tories! Cos that's what they're on.
-Great. I'll be back to collect later.
Right. See, if that wins, I'll polish your shoes.
Come on, Wing And A Prayer.
Come on, Wing And A Prayer!
Come on, Wing And A Prayer!
It came last.
Alex Salmond promised his party that he would win
20 first-past-the-post seats, way more than they'd ever managed before.
He said he would defeat Labour and become First Minister.
And to make things a little more interesting, he upped the stakes.
For the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary elections, that seasoned tipster Alex Salmond decided to have a punt.
He put his name forward for the constituency of Gordon.
It was long odds, because the Liberal Democrats had a majority there of more than 4,000 votes.
But Salmond decided that that was where he would place his bet.
Well, he's a natural gambler, he assesses these things well.
But yes, of course it was a gamble. But given his ability, given his ability to campaign,
given his reputation, I think it was one that was going to pay off.
I thought that from the very beginning. And it did pay off.
He's got a favourite saying, which is from the Marquis of Montrose.
"He either fears his fate too much
"or his desserts are small,
"who will not put it to the touch to win or lose it all."
He quotes that from time to time.
He also lives his political life like that, and it tends to work out well for him.
Is this love of the high-wire act critical to his enjoyment of politics?
So he's a bit like, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair.
I recognise this in myself to some extent, one of these people
who is exhilarated by the thought that they'd go to the chamber
and they don't know that day whether they're going to survive or perish.
The difference between triumph and disaster thrills them.
Absolutely, but you know, if you show me any serious politician who is not fuelled by adrenaline,
and that means thirsting after success, desperately wanting it
and desperately trying to avoid disaster but really enjoying walking along the precipice,
and it makes victory all the sweeter.
'Securing the winning ticket is a very sweet moment,
'as Alex Salmond found in 2007.
'As the final results trickled in, the First Minister in waiting seized the moment.'
In the day, the hours following the Scottish Parliament election,
it's not yet clear who's come first, but it is appearing to be going in the SNP's direction.
Now, the SNP had pre-booked Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh.
It's set amidst beautiful, beautiful grounds, it was a very sunny day in May 2007,
and they've hired a helicopter
to get Alex Salmond from his constituency down to Edinburgh on the Friday afternoon.
So that touches down, you know, with the press gathered.
It all looks extremely presidential.
He loves the big event and he loves being the centre of attention, as most politicians do.
It was very, very touch and go as to which party would actually be the largest party.
The speech that I drafted as he was coming down
specifically left an area to say that we don't quite know how this is going to pan out, but by the time you land,
hopefully we'll be in a position to say that we are the largest party.
Salmond then emerges, and after a break he walks up to this podium
emblazoned with the SNP logo,
with, again, journalists and cameramen gathered round
and delivers a very nice, very moving speech.
Alasdair Gray once wrote,
"Work as though you lived in the early days of a better nation".
Our commitment to Scotland is this - we will work,
and these ARE the days of a better nation.
Thank you very much.
And he gives the appearance of a winner.
In terms of establishing that momentum, it was very effective.
Jack McConnell, the leader of the Labour party, meanwhile,
is on a back street in Glasgow looking very much like a loser.
He is an adrenaline junkie in that way,
and that's why he loves campaigns - he loves the attention.
You know, not in a particularly egotistical way,
just because if you're someone who thinks you've got a message,
the idea of having the eyes of the world upon you to deliver that message
is as good as it gets in politics.
So of course he's a showman, but rather that than dreary, dull and utterly uninspiring.
Now, if the SNP had emerged as not winning the election and Labour had,
it all of course would have looked tremendously silly and presumptuous,
but it didn't. That was the crucial thing.
It looked presidential, it looked as if Salmond was going to win the election, and he did.
The gamble had paid off.
Alex Salmond was elected for the first time to the parliament sitting at Holyrood as the MSP for Gordon.
Within a few days he was elected First Minister of Scotland,
the one and only position in government that he's ever held.
'Having made the long journey to First Minister,
'what style and qualities did he bring to government?'
I think he's restored people's faith in the Scottish Parliament.
Things were getting to a bit of a low ebb after two coalition administrations.
I think that what we've done is shown that competent government in Scotland
can take place and can be good for Scotland, and I think Alex has been very much a figurehead of that.
I think he's also made Scottish politics more interesting.
'A view not shared by his political rivals.'
If you look at the catastrophe of the Scottish banks,
that wasn't made in London, that was made in Edinburgh.
And, you know, this is the man who actually said
that he personally approved the RBS takeover of the Dutch bank ABN.
Well, if he did, then that says something about his judgment.
His energy policy, you know, it is just pie in the sky.
And, you know, he is very rarely questioned about these things,
and the result is that he's got away with bringing about a situation
where even to question him is to be accused of negativity.
I would classify the SNP government and the members of the leadership
after the 2007 election as falling into the trap of managerialism.
Now, I understood that they had to prove themselves credible, and they certainly did.
They were far better than the previous Labour people.
But then the managerialism became all.
-They never campaigned outside that chamber at all.
For anything, as a matter of fact.
'There's an interesting question there.'
'Have the ease and status of high office subdued Alex Salmond's passion to set Scotland free?'
You look very comfortable as First Minister.
Well, I should hope so. Do you want me to be uncomfortable?
-No, but I think you just look a bit too comfortable.
-Oh, I see, I see.
The last thing they like in London is a Scot who looks comfortable.
You should look at... Actually, it's not Scots who look comfortable you want to watch out for.
What is it PG Wodehouse said?
"It's not difficult to tell the difference between a ray of sunshine and a Scot with a grievance."
I've talked to you while campaigning. Have you been campaigning for independence?
All my life I've campaigned for independence.
It's not featured much in this campaign.
Well, because we took the decision in 2004, when I came back as leader,
that we'd pursue independence in terms of a referendum policy.
-That's the right way to do it.
-Did you hold a referendum?
Well, Michael, I got beaten three times in votes in the Scottish Parliament,
and it would have been very foolish for me to give my political opponents
the satisfaction of stomping all over my referendum bill when I knew what they were going to do.
There will be a time when they won't be stomping over too much.
I've witnessed a small sample of Alex Salmond's campaigning energy.
He's been on the stump since he was a teenager,
and despite some spectacular setbacks and years of frustration,
he's sat right back and started all over again.
As one who's had his ups and downs in politics,
I wondered whether it was the bear pit of Scottish politics that had given him that resilience.
I think there's a tendency in the Scottish National Party to recognise how great the odds are against you
and therefore always to be prepared to come back no matter what happens.
You've got to remember, Alex is of a generation in the SNP, as I am,
where, with the exception of the 1970s,
it was a pretty miserable time in the early '60s, '70s, early '80s, certainly through the '80s.
So in those circumstances you've got to, if you're going to stay in politics, be resilient.
But he's resilient as a human being, without a doubt.
'During the course of making this film, I watched an amazing shift in public support.
'Going into the election, Labour led in the polls.
'But the campaign produced perhaps the biggest turnaround in any modern British election.'
Politicians pretend to ignore opinion polls.
Yeah, right(!) Good polls fire your adrenaline, and bad polls make you want to hide away.
The prediction was that Alex Salmond could achieve something close to an overall majority.
I'm told that those close to him were sceptical that things could be that good.
In fact, they turned out better.
-'..the Scottish National Party, SNP, 140,749 votes.'
Torrance, David. Scottish National Party, 12,579 votes.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
'I declare David Torrance elected to serve in the Scottish Parliament'
as a member for the Kirkcaldy constituency.
'After the SNP landslide, this is a changed Scotland.
'The party asked, keep Alex Salmond as First Minister.
'And the voters duly did.
'Scotland said yes not to independence but to Alex Salmond,
'for his competence, charisma, gambles and showmanship.
'They've handed him an overall majority.
'Now nothing can stop him bringing forward a referendum on Scotland's future.
'How close is he now to delivering independence?'
If the SNP were to change its tactic and its narrative, I think it would find itself so close to independence
it would probably frighten it, because although people are not interested per se
in independence or devolution or any other constitutional question,
they are interested in how they live their life
and what future their children are likely to have
and in how services are delivered in present-day Scotland.
And if it is proved to them,
if they come to believe that these would be better delivered by a sovereign Scottish parliament,
then people would vote for that.
Can we unionists be confident that he won't win a referendum on independence?
Nobody going into a referendum can be confident that they're going to win on either side.
This has to be fought for.
I think a lot of the people who voted for the nationalists
at the Scottish election weren't voting for independence.
The big question as to whether or not we remain part of the United Kingdom
and how that affects each and every one of us and our children and generations to come,
that's one that has got to be fought in detail, which is why there has to be the political space,
whether Alex Salmond likes it nor not,
to be critical of what he is saying, because some of it, frankly, doesn't stand up.
Let me summarise now the strength of Alex Salmond's position to you.
When there comes to be a referendum on independence, the Yes campaign will be led by Alex Salmond.
The No campaign will be led by who?
Well, that depends when the referendum is.
But my guess is it will be led by people from right across the spectrum.
But, you know, the people in Scotland are, you know, very aware of what's at stake here.
This isn't going to be a beauty contest.
You know, this is something that would happen, and if it happened, it would happen forever.
Perhaps so, but what sort of autonomy might be offered to the Scots in a referendum?
I think the SNP'S been on a journey these last few years.
In the past, when power was a distant prospect, independence was simply a slogan.
As they've gained power, they're having to think about it, they're having to mature.
And the notion of independence, I think, is in transition.
I think we're going to move to an ever-looser union.
That's what the SNP will understand. There will always be a United Kingdom in some shape or form.
The SNP isn't yet ready to say that, but that's where they're heading,
I suspect, a more confederal-type relationship.
Maybe, maybe this election result will give the SNP leadership
the courage to say what I believe they actually think.
This is Kirkcaldy, where my mother grew up.
They've elected Labour politicians here since the 1930s.
Last week, the Holyrood seat was won by the SNP.
It was the 65th seat to return a Scottish Nationalist,
the constituency that guaranteed Alex Salmond's absolute majority.
Understandably, it made him happy.
Well, ladies and gentlemen,
Kirkcaldy's my kind of town. LAUGHTER
It's my kind, too.
Believe it or not, I used to sunbathe on the beach here during childhood holidays.
'After weeks of following this historic campaign,
'I think I understand the Alex Salmond phenomenon.
'But the election result has thrown up a bigger question concerning the future of the United Kingdom.'
People in Scotland tell me there's little support for independence.
But as the recent referendum in the UK on the alternative vote shows, opinion shifts fast.
And the First Minister's recent landslide re-election shows that he's persuasive.
Soon, there will be a referendum on a whole new relationship between England and Scotland.
Have a flutter on it if you like.
But you don't often make money betting against Alex Salmond.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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