Mr Salmond, just one more thing......

Peter Falk, playing TV detective Columbo Image copyright other
Image caption Peter Falk played the TV detective Columbo who used the phrase: "And just one more thing...."

One of the enduring joys of this rough trade of journalism is the opportunity to chat and gossip with politicians, from the aspiring to the senior. Only surpassed by the chance to be cheeky, on air or in print.

In that regard, I may be said to resemble Columbo, the TV detective. There is always one last question to ask - and I am always touchingly grateful for the opportunity. (Who said my dress sense is similar too? Take that person's name.)

Most such conversations vanish into the ether. Hugely important at the time, impossible to recall a week or two later.

But several little chats have stuck with me. For some reason, I recall one particular exchange with a senior Opposition politician at Holyrood who said: "If I have to endure another 'historic day', I will scream."

This was around the time when the details for the referendum were slowly and steadily being disclosed. The question, the franchise, the date.

I could, to some extent, understand my interlocutor's exasperation. The process had been nobly milked by the governing party, led by Alex Salmond.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Alex Salmond chaired his last Scottish Cabinet meeting ahead of his resignation speech
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon is expected to be elected First Minister of Scotland

However, I demurred. (Not something I am wont to do. Usually, I listen attentively, muttering encouragement as information is disclosed. See comparison above.)

On this occasion, I pointed out that the details of the referendum were historic - and, indeed, were seen as such by the bulk of the Scottish population.

Historic days

Further, I noted that directing the political agenda was a function of government. The SNP had won two successive elections - the latter with an overall majority. They were perfectly entitled to advance their plans for a referendum, "historic days" and all.

An inconsequential tale, I know. But it came back to me because we are presently in the midst of another series of historic days. No doubt my confidant is fuming, gently.

Today, for example, Alex Salmond resigns as First Minister, having already demitted office as SNP leader.

Tomorrow, Nicola Sturgeon, his successor, will be elected as Holyrood's nominee for the top governmental job. (The actual appointment is made by Her Majesty the Queen.)

In addition, Ms Sturgeon will be the first woman to hold the post of First Minister. History all around us.


TV documentary - Alex Salmond: A Rebel's Journey

Image copyright EPA

Naturally, these events will be covered compendiously by BBC Scotland: on the telly, on the wireless, online. However, it struck us that that such historic developments merited additional consideration. Consequently, we have prepared an hour-long documentary to be broadcast on Wednesday evening: the day of the governmental handover.

But what to feature? Should we simply rerun the battles of the referendum, the core issues which arguably determined the outcome? On balance, no. Those topics will still be germane in the wider political debate ahead. They will not be neglected.

Do we, then, assemble supporters and detractors to exchange insults over Alex Salmond. "He's a political giant!" "He's an egotist!" Again, on balance, no. Such has been the stuff of daily discourse for years. Such, no doubt, will continue, fading slowly.

Tales from the inside

Instead, we opted to construct the narrative as contemporary history. What was it like to witness the Salmond years from the inside: as colleagues, as political opponents? What is the true measure of the man?

So close colleagues of the departed First Minister - and Alex Salmond himself - tell tales from the inside. His early years in politics. His election as leader - and first resignation. His unexpected return. His ascent to Holyrood power. His conduct of the referendum. His ultimate defeat in that. His resignation, take two.

Opponents and analysts who observed these events at close quarters give their alternative take. Our only requirement was that the contributors must have played a real part in the narrative. They had to be there.

Enjoy the programme, if you get a chance. And, to my former interlocutor, apologies. There's bound to be something on the other side. Inferior, but something.

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