Salmond "could step down by November" if Scotland votes No

Scottish First Minister could make way for his deputy Nicola Sturgeon if independence is rejected. 

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David Cameron insisted again today, as he has all along, that he will not resign as prime minister if Scotland votes in favour of independence tomorrow (although the choice, as Tory MPs point out in private, may not be his). The PM said at an event in Hampshire:

My name is not on the ballot paper. What’s on the ballot paper is ‘does Scotland want to stay in the United Kingdom, or does Scotland want to separate itself from the United Kingdom?’. That’s the only question that will be decided on Thursday night. The question about my future will be decided at the British general election coming soon.

It's a stance he is wise to maintain, not least because any hint otherwise could galvanise support for Yes (the prospect of evicting a Tory prime minister being too good for Scots to resist). But with all of the final polls, to varying degrees, pointing towards a No vote, what of Alex Salmond's fate? The SNP leader has insisted that he will serve out his mandate as First Minister, which expires in May 2016. 

But one SNP source told me today that Salmond "could step down by November", most likely to be replaced by his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, if Scotland rejects independence tomorrow. It is worth noting that when the First Minister declared he would remain in place he did so on the assumption that Scotland would vote Yes. 

He said: "We will continue to serve out the mandate we have been given and that applies to the SNP always. It applies to me – all of us. 

"I don’t think there is any reason to suspect that we will be in that position in two weeks time we will see Scotland make a substantial and decisive movement with Yes."

After an exhausting two-year campaign, and seven years as First Minister, an increasing number of nationalists believe that the 59-year-old Salmond will pass the torch to the 44-year-old Sturgeon sooner, rather than later, if Scotland votes No. 

George Eaton is senior online editor of the New Statesman.

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