Holyrood Week

ALEX Salmond this week became Scotland's longest-serving First Minister.

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That's a remarkable turnaround from the time when he said he did not want the leadership of the SNP for a second time.

Congratulations sir, but let's remember he is only the fourth to have held the office and the second to have been initially elected to the job by the public.

Without demeaning the achievement, and certainly not faulting his commitment, it is a bit like Gary Barlow telling a wannabe warbler "that was the best performance in the entire history of X Factor".

Donald Dewar, the inaugural holder, died in office and I have had Biros that lasted longer than his successor, Henry McLeish.

The other holder of the office, Jack McConnell, lasted 5½ years until being defeated by the SNP in the 2007 election.

A more remarkable achievement of the current First Minister is that he is the first to win two consecutive elections.

So far the list of First Ministers reads like the poem for the wives of Henry VIII: Died, resigned, defeated, survived.

But to completely survive, Mr Salmond needs to still be in office after his second term ends in 2016, which is a wholly different challenge altogether.

Few leaders survive all the terms they were elected to and leave when they decide it is time.

This week Mr Salmond side-stepped the suggestion he would either become Scotland's first independent First Minister or resign after a referendum defeat.

He said if that was the choice he would concentrate on winning the referendum.

All current leaders will tell you they are only thinking about up to the referendum and are concentrating on winning that.

Don't believe a word of it.

Labour, while focusing on the referendum, is working on its campaign strategy for the 2015 UK election and 2016 Scottish election in anticipation of a No vote.

And you can be sure senior SNP politicians are thinking about life after Salmond, either in an independent or devolved Scotland.

Following the referendum in late 2014, Mr Salmond will be approaching his 60th birthday.

If it is Yes to the referendum, you can be sure he will contest the first independent Scottish elections to really go down in history as the first elected leader of an independent Scotland.

If it is a No, does he say I did my best and hand over to a new generation or look for a historic third term?

Either way, don't believe what they say until it actually happens.

Remember his words before returning as leader in 2004: "If nominated I'll decline. If drafted I'll defer. And if elected I'll resign".

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