Civil War is a strong term to describe Alex Salmond's campaign to bring the question of Scotland's independence from the United Kingdom to a vote, but it does describe the pro-independence politician's seriousness in defying London. Salmond, a rotund man with grandfatherly eyebrows and a tendency to wear blue ties, serves as Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP). And lately, he's also the one going nose-to-nose with British Prime Minister David Cameron for intervening in the debate over of a referendum on independence for Scotland that Salmond has proposed be held in fall 2014. "I thought his intervention at the weekend was almost Thatcher-esque in its nature," Salmond told the BBC on Wednesday, qualifying the comparison as "the idea that London knows best and it is operating in our best interests but wanting to set the ground rules for our referendum despite the fact it has got no mandate whatsoever for doing so."
Thatcher reference aside, Salmond is taking a potentially divisive stand on an already divisive issue. The latest polls suggest that the majority of Scots (54 percent) would like to remain part of the United Kingdom while only 27 percent wish to declare independence. Nevertheless, Salmond's being pretty savvy in giving the issue nearly three years to marinate, and British pundits believe that he might just be the Scotsman with just the right political positioning to sway his people. One indication of his smart thinking: choosing fall of 2014 as the timeframe is packed with meaning. Not only does it offer a good slogan -- The Scotsman ran with the headline "1000 days to decide our future" on the front page of Tuesday's paper -- 2014 will also be the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Banuckburg, when Robert Bruce led the Scots to a decisive victory in the First War of Scottish Independence. And while our readers have astutely pointed out that not a single journalist seems capable of writing a piece about this issue without making a Braveheart reference, we must point out that Robert Bruce is the conflicted character with a beard, and the army that Bruce led to victory is the one that William Wallace once commanded.