|First Minister Alex Salmond - credibility intact.|
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Funny how things turn out. Even an apparently ploddingly predictable script can have some surprising plot twists. Events appear to be heading inexorably in one direction, but end up in a different place altogether.
Seems like little more than a week ago we were being assured by the braying donkeys of the unionist media that the SNP's position on post-independence European Union membership lay in tatters while First Minister Alex Salmond was fatally wounded, his political survival on a precariously shoogly peg, and the referendum on Scotland's independence surely lost to the forces of British nationalism.
Instead, what do we see?
The arguments for the two successor state scenario, favoured by the SNP and Yes Scotland among others, look stronger than ever having received the unequivocal backing of a number of authoritative individuals, including Dr James Ker-Lindsay and Graham Avery. The bare-faced hypocrisy of the anti-independence campaign has been exposed with the revelation that London has refused Freedom of Information (FoI) requests for its legal advice on exactly the same grounds for which the Scottish government has been so viciously castigated. And after squawking loud and long about how crucial the views of the EU are to the debate, the UK government petulantly declines an offer from the European Commission (EC) to give its view if this is requested by a member state. With some of the more perverse commentators somehow managing to blame Alex Salmond for the UK government's immature and cowardly intransigence!
And what of the supposedly bowed and bloodied Salmond? Did he slink off to some corner to lick his wounds and die as per the gleeful predictions of the more excitable pundits? Far from it! The man seems thoroughly invigorated by the ineffectual assaults of his enemies. The British parties at Holyrood tried to waylay him by staging a "debate" intended to give all the unionist "big hitters" an opportunity to rehearse their extensive repertoire of smears and calumnies against the man they live to hate. But it all turned into a decidedly soggy squib as Salmond went serenely on about his First Ministerly duties leaving his eminently capable deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, the task of repelling what turned out to be a far from fearful onslaught.
Even with the target right in front of them at First Minister's Questions on Thursday the combined forces of the Tory/Labour/LibDem alliance couldn't create so much as a crease in Salmond's calm composure. By this time they were mostly backing-off from specific and explicit accusations of dishonesty on Salmond's part, resorting instead to vague and generalised allegations of "untrustworthiness" in the fervent but ultimately forlorn hope that they could get some of that malicious mud to stick. They gave it their best shot - and they failed to make any impact at all. More damage was done to the Better Together cabal than to the independence campaign with bitter recriminations and squabbling over who was most to blame for the fact that the proverbial coo's erse remained blithely un-banjoed.
Attention has now turned to a different prey. Having belatedly and rather foolishly demanded an inquiry into the First Minister's conduct regarding "legal advice" and FoI requests, the unionists now realise that any impartial examination of the facts is likely to expose the vacuous maliciousness of the allegations. In a desperate effort to minimise the anticipated embarrassment they have set about yet another smear campaign, this time with the aim of undermining the credibility of the inquiry and impugning the integrity of Sir David Bell, the academic administrator appointed to lead the independent investigation.
In this disreputable venture the anti-independence mob are, as would be expected, enthusiastically aided and abetted by their friends in the media. But here too, bitter disappointment over the total failure to damage Salmond's credibility and standing with the Scottish people is palpable - with slavering, growling attack-dogs like Tom Peterkin reduced to cowering, yapping pups.
All very different from the way things were supposed to play out. So different, in fact, that one might be forgiven for thinking that, whatever tall tales his opponents may tell, Alex Salmond has the ability to write his own alternative endings.