I must admit that until I caught up with last night's Question Time, I had given very little credence to the speculation that Alex Salmond might return to Westminster next year. But now, I'm almost inclined to go to the other extreme and wonder if what we're seeing is the acting out of choreography that was devised weeks ago, meaning there is a careful plan in place for Salmond's post-resignation role, which may be bigger than we previously thought. If he is indeed about to embark on a Commons comeback, I suppose the big question is whether it will be on the same basis as the last time, ie. as SNP group leader. We should certainly hope so, because he is the greatest political talent of his generation (probably across the whole of these islands), and given that he's only 59 years old, it would be a terrible waste if the SNP couldn't continue to make use of his skills in some kind of formal leadership role. It worked between 2001 and 2004 - Salmond's leadership in the Westminster group didn't prevent John Swinney establishing himself as the party leader (of course in some ways Swinney wasn't a very successful leader, but that can hardly be put down to his being overshadowed by his predecessor).
I know it might seem a bit harsh on Angus Robertson, but if the SNP do make big gains next year, being the deputy leader of a much-expanded group wouldn't be such a bad consolation prize! I suppose it could be argued that it doesn't really matter whether Salmond is officially the group leader or not, because the London media will go to him anyway. But in a sense that's a circular point - if you're going to be treated as the group leader, why not actually be the group leader?
Either way, presumably the thinking is that Salmond will be a powerful voice in London for maximum devolution, and will not be so easily ignored as others. If we get lucky and the SNP hold the balance of power next May, he would undoubtedly be a key player in the negotiations.
Just as important is what this means for the election campaign next spring. If Salmond is going to be a candidate, there is good reason to think that he will be much more prominent on our TV screens than previously seemed likely - and that can only be a good thing. Theoretically, you could even make the case for him being the SNP's representative in whatever debates the party is graciously permitted to participate in, although I would guess they'd be more likely to want Sturgeon there to establish her as the new leader.
If nothing else, a Salmond candidacy will automatically increase the national vote for the SNP and/or Devo Max Alliance by 0.1% or so - because he'll take a hefty personal vote with him, regardless of which constituency he stands in.
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SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
Thankfully, Labour overtaking the SNP in the Populus subsample a few days ago turned out to be a blip. All of the subsamples since, including the latest one from Populus, have had the SNP well ahead. The new update of the Poll of Polls is based on the Scottish subsamples from seven GB-wide polls - four from YouGov, two from Populus and one from Ashcroft. Apart from seeing the SNP back above the psychological 40% threshold, it's also notable for being the first time that the Greens have overtaken UKIP in the Poll of Polls.
Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :
SNP 42.0% (+3.2)
Labour 26.1% (+0.3)
Conservatives 16.0% (-3.4)
Liberal Democrats 6.0% (-1.8)
Greens 4.7% (+1.8)
UKIP 3.7% (-1.7)
(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)