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Salmond delivers cheeky classic.

IT was a classic, cheeky Alex Salmond speech which marked the end of 10 years in charge of the SNP.

There were lots of jokes, the sense of a man relieved to be stepping down and more than a hint of the arrogance that has marked his decade at the helm.

He quipped about farewell messages from his opponents.

He joked that Donald Dewar wanted half his cabinet to follow his lead.

And there was the one about an offer of 14 pints from the Tory boy.

Smart Alex skipped the thorny issues still to be addressed within the split ranks of the SNP.

He had the distinct look of a man delighted to be turning his back on dealing with the personality feuds tearing his party apart.

But his opening line had conspiracy theorists immediately huddling in the pub of the conference centre.

In referring to his "semi-retirement" the gossips said he would remain in charge as a back seat driver or make a leadership comeback.

But the tales had more to do with the bitter leadership battle.

It suits Alex Neil to portray Swinney as a puppet who would have his strings pulled by Salmond.

Having established the SNP as Scotland's official opposition during his term, Salmond looked smug on his last day.

Opinion polls this week showed the SNP do well when Labour are in trouble, but the SNP's key aim of independence is stuck at less than a quarter of voters.

The next leader faces a massive challenge.

He will have to both inspire voters and convince them they would be better off in an Independent Scotland.

Despite being a highly-respected economist and visionary leader, Salmond failed on both counts. Neither Swinney nor Neil have Salmond's dynamism or charisma.

And their jokes are even worse.
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Author:Scottish, Lorraine Davidson
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 23, 2000
Words:299
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