AT the very least, Alex Salmond has given us an extra good reason to go out and cast our votes on May 6, rather than sit at home thinking how little difference a single ballot paper can make to an inevitable victory for Nicola Sturgeon. The prospective margin of the victory is the only interesting thing, and now that must be up in the air too.

Well, I’ve decided to vote for the Alba Party. I have otherwise voted SNP, at national and local level, in every election since 2005, which makes me by today’s standards a reasonably loyal supporter. Indeed this time, at the constituency level, I’ll vote SNP once again. But regular readers will know I am really not very loyal at all, and always examine the issues from a point of view that might make it more logical for me to choose a different party.

Yet I have managed to stay with independence as the ultimate political goal by constantly reminding myself that no economic policy short of one guided by the imperatives of the real world is likely to be the right one for Scotland. UK economic policy just conforms to the condition of England, because that is all the policy-makers in Whitehall know about. Unless you assume Scottish economic conditions and English economic conditions to be identical, having identical policies cannot be right. Migration is a convincing example.

Easy enough, then, to tell what policies we should not have, but how about what policies we should have? The actual stance of the present Scottish Government is not of much help, because it is guided by fantasies. The only worse economic policies are those of the rival parties, because their fantasies are worse. The sole rational position is for me to cast my vote on grounds other than economic ones. So that’s what I’ll do. And this time it’s Alba for me.

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I made the decision as I watched the broadcast address in which Alex announced Alba to the world. As ever, a speech of his could bear various interpretations. He has over the years perfected the art of saying less than he needs to, leaving him the latitude to pull rabbits out of hats. In contrast, Nicola often says more than she needs to, for example, in the cascades of ridiculous promises she makes every year in her address to the party conference.

Last Friday, Alex again stuck to basics, setting out Alba’s aim of working towards a “successful, socially just, environmentally responsible, independent country”. Who could disagree with such virtuous aims? While on the surface he was not saying a great deal, in fact he was waving a friendly flag to potential supporters as opposed to threatening to bash them with his flagpole. So it’s something for the Wallace Monument rather than George Square. Key to this was the word “successful”.

Salmond has never made a habit of referring to his own capitalist past in the Royal Bank of Scotland, in his day a smallish but successful enterprise in a financial world where the sharks were growing big and hungry. He got away from it all to go into politics, with its even bigger and hungrier sharks. Probably finance was less to his taste because it is kinder to failure, softening setbacks with golden goodbyes, whereas oblivion is the more usual fate of failure in politics. “He is a gambler at heart,” said Nicola of Alex in an interview at the weekend. No doubt over the years she has come to understand well this central fact about him, if without being in the least inspired to imitation.

Instead, Nicola thinks we should deal with the real world not by taking a gamble against it, but by extending our control of it, in politics, in policies and in personnel. That is how she set out as the successor to Alex, and with enough zeal as to bring him into conflict with her. He goes around saying that in truth she has much more ambition to run an efficient health service than an independent country.

Here is a typical statement from her about the present situation: “Difficult though all of this is, we must guard against a reckless relaxation of lockdown measures … If we ease measures too quickly and allow the virus to run out of control again, that would be economically counterproductive but would also cost many more lives.”

I agree she is much worthier of public trust than the burbling, bumbling Boris Johnston who, with all the protection he was afforded, still caught the coronavirus and, some say, might have died of it.  Yet Nicola’s actual record in saving people from the virus is little better than Boris’s, while neither Scotland nor England have come close to matching the best preventive programmes among our European neighbours.  How can this be?  At the beginning Boris seemed unable to take the whole business seriously enough, while Nicola has if anything been too cautious.  A policy of moving faster through the crisis might have let us get over it quicker.  There is such a thing as pondering an option too long.

It’s the same with getting us out of lockdown. Nicola’s actual policy has been to keep us all in lockdown through periods that can be lengthened at her will, and have in fact been lengthened in this way. It is in line with certain other conditions of deceleration, for instance, the instinct for keeping things complicated. Only opportunism, rather than caution, could have dictated that the emergence from coronavirus should also serve the Scottish Government’s purpose of promoting equality.

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A policy statement makes this explicit, stressing how the Government “must seek to advance equality and protect human rights in everything it does … options for action must be assessed to see whether they promote equality, and … in rebuilding Scotland’s economy, we must seek to overcome inequality and advance human wellbeing.”

In fact, the quest for equality is likely to delay the emergence from coronavirus. One way out of a continuing crisis will come from the revival of Scottish capitalism, in which individual entrepreneurs, responding to the essentially unpredictable background, still push successful initiatives that earn them a fortune. The beneficial effects spread and after a few years we see we have a new economy yet again, and one going like the clappers. How else have all the historical economic crises been put to rights?

Equality is impossible in such conditions because economics doesn’t work like that. Some entrepreneurs position themselves better than others. Some are at the front of the race and some lag behind. Some have more stamina than others. Some have more luck than others. Every race has winners and losers. What you cannot demand of them all is equality. If you seek equality then the whole field will merely be average and mediocre, proceeding at a slower pace than it otherwise could have done, and so keeping Scotland behind.

I’d say Alex Salmond understands this and Nicola Sturgeon does not. He could make Scotland flourish again, but she never will because she hates capitalism. And till we have a greater hope of prosperity from that system, I don’t think the country is going to choose independence.

* Update: An earlier version of this article claimed that Scotland had a higher death rate than England. This was not true and we apologise for the error.