I'm not going to comment on this article from the Washington Post, but it does make for very interesting reading after Tartan Week:
Scotland's Huey Long
By Tom Gallagher
April 7, 2008
After nearly a decade of self-government within the United Kingdom, Scotland has found a political leader determined to bypass the Westminster Parliament and promote its interests on the world stage.
Alex Salmond has led the Scottish government since last May and he has just completed a visit to the United States with the aim of familiarizing business and political leaders about separation from the rest of Great Britain to which his Scottish National Party is committed.
Last Monday, at Harvard, he insisted that under him Scotland was capable of turning into a new powerhouse capable of emulating Ireland"s economic renaissance and he repeated the message on visiting Capitol Hill later in the week.
Mr. Salmond is an articulate glad-handing populist who counts among his admirers Donald Trump but also the Iranian regime that recently declared through its ambassador in London that their joint hostility to "British imperialism" provided the basis for a solid partnership between Edinburgh and Tehran. Instead of disassociating his government from Iran"s abominable human-rights record, Mr. Salmond chose to condemn Britain"s continued role in Iraq and Afghanistan and promise to close down Britain"s large nuclear base in Scotland.
In his duel with the Labor Party for control of Scotland, Mr. Salmond is mobilizing different campaigning groups and minorities and promising them multicultural rights designed to sharpen an ethno-religious rather than a civic identity. He has courted radicals in the Muslim community which enjoys growing influence in Scotland"s largest city, Glasgow, a place hitherto numb to the independence message.
A young firebrand who has enthusiastically defended the idea of a global Islamic state and in February spoke on the same platform as the British leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir which rejects the democratic process and also calls for "an Islamic caliphate" is a close adviser to Mr. Salmond and stands a real chance of arriving in Westminster at the next election.
Mr. Salmond is fishing in the wilder waters of Muslim politics despite the potential damage to community relations in Glasgow, which narrowly averted disaster last June 30 when two Islamists tried to blow up the city"s airport. He rejects calls to treat Muslims as individual citizens rather than as an ill-defined religious community.
Polls show most Scots are troubled by the rise of radical Islam, but Mr. Salmond and his party are benefiting from the deep unpopularity of the Labor government. Despite being outnumbered by its opponents, the SNP is likely to see out its four-year term. It is busy picking strategic quarrels with London not only over British foreign and defense policy but also over the level of subsidy given to the state-dominated Scottish economy.
The Nationalists hope English voters, demoralized by troubling levels of social change which have led to rising crime and urban decay, will mount a backlash against Scottish demands and press for the end of the 300-year-old Union. Mr. Salmond knows a majority of Scots are far from convinced about the merits of independence, so are unlikely to back separation.
Scotland is not Ireland with a young, well-educated population and Europe"s lowest taxes. In many ways, its heavily subsidized economy and crumbling social fabric bears more comparison to the old East Germany.
But if the Labor Party, under the deeply unpopular Gordon Brown, collapses across Britain at the next election, the SNP could draw significantly closer to its objective.
Mr. Salmond is a brilliant electoral manager reminiscent of the late Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago in his taste for skullduggery and Louisiana's historic Huey Long in his repertoire of populist skills.
Mr. Salmond party is light on ideas and does not offer a coherent model for Scottish society in which the rights and duties of citizenship are clearly spelled out. There is no desire to reclaim and update the values of the 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment where a political contract was pioneered for governing society based on freedom of religious affiliation, neutrality of the public space, and the insistence of the superiority of civil laws over religiously-based ones.
The folksy Mr. Salmond may have charmed plenty of Americans who imagine Scotland to still be a great improving force in the world. But, under this slippery operator, the break-up of the United Kingdom would likely be a bleak moment for the West and a boon for the Iranian mullahs who cheer him on from Tehran.
Tom Gallagher is a Reagan-Fascell scholar at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington.