Roman emperors famously used to have a slave to ride behind them in their chariots during victory parades to remind them, by whispering in their ear, that they were only mortal.
Alex Salmond must have experienced something of the same down-to-earth experience yesterday evening when he was booed by a crowd in Glasgow that had come to celebrate Britain’s Olympic success.
The First Minister can’t have liked it very much. It can’t be a pleasant experience for anybody to get booed by a crowd but for Mr Salmond, it must have been galling.
This was a Scottish crowd in Scotland’s biggest city, a country Mr Salmond regards as his fiefdom, where he commands a handsome majority and where he believes – until yesterday that is – that is really very popular.
To say it would have pricked the bubble of his pomposity, just for a bit, would be an understatement.
But the First Minister shouldn’t have been too surprised by his reception in Glasgow. After all, this was a crowd that had come together to celebrate British success.
Men, women and children in the 10,000-strong crowd were waving Union Flags, the scene was awash with red, white and blue. This was a group of people who had come together to celebrate British sporting success – yes, with Scottish athletes – but it was largely a British-supporting crowd.
They would not have forgotten how churlish and grumpy the SNP Government had been to the Olympics right from the moment London was awarded the Games.
Many of them would know that it took only one minute for the first snippy SNP press release warning that Scotland might not get its “fair share” from the Games to be sent off to journalists after the announcement was made awarding the Games to London back in 2005.
Since then, SNP ministers have been models of gripe and grievance, complaining of a lack of contracts going to Scottish companies, of Scotland missing out on lottery funding and of too much being spent on London and the South East.
Indeed, according to one source close to the organising committee, the Scottish Government has shown little more than disinterest all the way through the process of getting the Games up and running.
It has been clear to anyone close to Scottish politics that the Scottish Government’s whole approach to the Olympics has smacked of meanness and ill-will.
So, for Alex Salmond to try to ride in and try to bask in the success of Scottish athletes at those Games – well, it was no wonder he was booed.
It will have made the First Minister uncomfortable, that’s for sure. It would almost certainly, though, made him angry too – I wouldn’t have liked to be one of his aides after he came off that podium last night as he has developed quite a reputation for having fearsome temper when riled.
But it would have also reminded him that, even in Scotland, he can’t and won’t get everything his own way.
Yes, it was Glasgow, still the most Labour and, as such the most anti-SNP, city in Scotland but it was a reminder that there is still a long way to go before the referendum and the First Minister does not command universal popularity in Scotland – far from it, in fact.
It will have also delighted Mr Salmond’s opponents who would have been chortling long into the night at his discomfort. And that may not be a bad thing: they have had precious little to smile about for quite some time.
UPDATE: The below picture, from George Square in Glasgow, is the a vision from Salmond’s nightmares. Instead of ‘Scolympians’ being greeted by Saltires, British Olympians are welcomed by Scots with Union flags.
Tags: Alex Salmond, Scotland, Scottish independence, SNP, UK politics