Alex Salmond on the first week of the SNP leadership campaign

The first week of the SNP leadership campaign has been like the Titanic heading for the icebergs and at full speed.

The biggest problem is not of the fault of the First Ministerial hopefuls. Scotland right now is in the grip of three crisis - health service, cost of living and constitutional. That is what the public minds are focussed upon.

It is thus an extraordinary time for Nicola Sturgeon to plunge the SNP into an internal election. And it shows.

Kate Forbes had a torrid campaign launch. Seldom has a candidate come in for so much abuse so quickly. Her missteps on the interface between religion and politics were pounced upon by the press and then amplified to absurdity online.

Luckily for Kate, the general public, and perhaps the SNP membership, will want to give this bright, honest and likeable young woman a fair chance.

Humza Yousaf is the self-proclaimed continuity candidate. If you think all is well in the nationalist garden then Humza is your man. He carries the formidable support of the SNP HQ machine and is now the heavy odds-on favourite.

And then there is the outsider. Ash Regan is the surprise packet of this campaign. Her manifesto is clear on independence, clear on gender recognition and clear on reuniting the national movement. She has also demonstrated courage in being the one Minister prepared to stand up to Nicola Sturgeon on the complete horlicks of the Gender Bill and it does take guts to govern.

So that’s the field and here is some free advice from the ALBA Party to each campaign. Call off the attack dogs in your camps, accent the positive, ignore the negative because if you do inherit the crown then you want to make sure that it does not turn out to be a hollow one.

Above all get onto an agenda which will galvanise the attention of the nation - for example, the fuel poverty crisis blanketing this land of energy plenty.

Try and fight an election which passes this “duffle coat test”. A couple of weeks back I was campaigning in a local election in Aberdeen. A woman came to the door in her coat. I assumed she was going out but no she was just in the house with her coat on.

So in the energy capital of Europe we have people sitting in their houses on a Saturday afternoon, frightened to turn on the heating.

If that lady in the duffle coat had a vote in the SNP election she would not really want to hear about gender recognition or which candidate would have voted which way on Equal Marriage back in 2014 and still less about each candidate’s religion.

She would want to know which incoming First Minister had a strategy for control of Scotland's resources and allowing the people like her to benefit from the wealth of their own country.

If the candidates pass that test Scotland will be well on the way to winning freedom. Flunk it and the SNP ship will be holed below the waterline.

First published in the Sunday Mail on Sunday 26th February

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