Mr Salmond’s first two enemies have been the Queen and Jessica Ennis. The Jubilee celebrations last year saw the Union flag being waved all over Scotland – used as a symbol of unity and celebration. The SNP introduced the term “Scolympians”, hoping that Scots would cheer only Scottish athletes in the Olympics, but this ended in humiliating failure. Andy Murray wrapped himself in the Union flag after taking gold at Wimbledon. Sir Chris Hoy dismissed as bizarre the idea that he was somehow a “Scolympian” cyclist, given his extensive use of English facilities. From Dundee to Dunstable, it felt pretty good to be British last summer. For young Scots, it still does.
Such issues matter because, until recently, the SNP has been fighting a battle about identity while Unionists have babbled on about the Barnett formula and the economic problems of self-rule. Salmond spoke about poetry, identity, optimism and nationhood while his opponents quibbled about the division of the oil wealth. “We’ve done the sums, and independence doesn’t work,” went the cry, as if this was all about a number spat out of a computer. But last summer reminded everyone of the power of British identity, and how Scots like to cheer for Ennis as much as everyone else. She is not seen as a foreigner.