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by GK Strategy 19th September, 2014

Salmond’s Resignation Raises New Questions Over Scotland’s Future

As if the reverberations of the independence referendum were not enough, Alex Salmond’s decision today to vacate his positions as First Minister and leader of the SNP creates an extra layer of uncertainty in what is already shaping up to be the most significant UK-wide constitutional event in living memory.

The talisman of the Scottish nationalists will leave an enormous power vacuum. Whatever you think of his politics, his undoubted skills were demonstrated beyond all doubt as the Yes campaign gained momentum in the last weeks of the referendum campaign. Yet alongside his ability to galvanise came a harder edge: an attempt to hand in a graceful resignation at a press conference where some journalists were barred from entry perhaps sums up the man’s contradictions.

The runners and riders to replace Salmond will now be considering their next move. Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister and for ten years Salmond’s Deputy Leader, will surely be installed as the favourite. She may expect some loyalty from Salmond after his u-turn in 2004 stymied her own leadership bid – but it remains to be seen whether he will back any of the candidates.

If not Sturgeon, then who? John Swinney would appear to be the most obvious alternative. A safe pair of hands and a former SNP leader himself, the Finance Minister has been highly visible during the referendum campaign. But he has previously ruled out a return to the top job “unreservedly”. Other candidates might include Roseanna Cunningham, the experienced Environment Minister, and Humza Yousaf, the charismatic External Affairs Minister – but they are likely to lack the public profile needed to negotiate a new settlement.

Whatever happens, Salmond has just ensured that the spotlight will remain on Holyrood, even if David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage have attempted to wrest it back to SW1 over the course of the day.

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