Unless the opinion polls are completely wrong, or there is a sudden change of mind by around 300,000 Scottish voters – both of which are very unlikely – the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September will result in a No vote.
Assuming that this happens, Alex Salmond’s concession speech will be likely to determine his political legacy. He will have a choice.
He could blame the Westminster parties for sinking the independence vote by sabotaging his plans for currency union and resign. He could become a Ted McHeath and enjoy a protracted political sulk.
On the other hand, he could write himself a modest victory. Although the impetus for further devolution will then be in the hands of the Westminster parties, Salmond could reasonably take credit for the fact that the UK government is willing to devolve more powers to Scotland, short of independence. He would need to remain in post to see Devo-Max become reality, and to claim his share of the credit. The big question is whether he will have the stomach for this.
Some concession speeches have enhanced reputations. William Hague’s modest and personal statement after the 2001 Conservatives’ election defeat has bolstered his reputation. Michael Portillo was another loser who famously went down with dignity, after losing his seat in the 1997 general election.
At the opposite end of the scale was Labour Party deputy leader, George Brown’s graceless announcement that he would ‘lend’ his constituency of Belper to the Conservatives after his defeat in the 1970 general election.
For the sake of his legacy, Alex Salmond should avoid Belper and claim a partial victory.