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Which way for Salmond if there is a No vote?

SOME things keep on keepin' on.

Ikea is one. Twenty-five years they've been selling us plain, unpainted (and thereby distinctly un-Scandinavian), unspeakable furnishings, accompanied by drawings of unspeaking wee men with screwdrivers.

Celtic is another one: 125 years they've provided a focus of pride, not just for Scots of Irish extraction but for others, too, who find the clubs's culture and story inspiring. It was passion, not passing, that beat Barcelona the other night.

And then, happily nutmegging the sublime and crossing a high ball to the ridiculous, there's Dad's Army. Next year, it celebrates its 45th anniversary, and it's as popular as ever.

I try to think why this is so, for I love it too. It's the character ensemble. Far from the existentialist torment of one lonely individual, this is about disparate bods forming a body. A comedy set against the threat of the greatest evil of the 20th century.

Faced with unspeakable horror on the continent, it opens up a new front line, between Timothy White's and the Novelty Rock Emporium. It pokes fun at the pompous and exalts the bumbling.

None more bumbling than Corporal Jones. And yet his life-giver bumbles no more. Clive Dunn, who played the word-butchering lance-corporal, died this week at the age of 92. He was a key character, the link between the men and the officers, between colonial wars against the "fuzzie-wuzzies" and world conflagration fomented by the Nazi-wazzies.

In among all this, Jonesie always found time to set aside half a pound of sausages for Captain Mainwaring which provides a tenuous link, as it were, to another milestone reached this week.

Scotland's answer to swaggering Mainwaring has served over 2000 days as First Eck of All Scotia. I mean Alex Salmond no disrespect. Mainwaring is a hero. Seen by some as pompous, he nevertheless has a heightened sense of responsibility and steps into the breach.

Above all, Mainwaring is a decent man, trying to do his best for his country. For which, of course, he is ridiculed. You could say the same for Mr Salmond, who has in his time seen off umpteen reincarnations of air warden Hodges. He has put all their lights out.

And yet he said this week he has no plans to "go on and on". What will we do then? An elderly friend, wondering how to vote in the referendum, asked me: "But what will happen after Alex Salmond dies?" Rarely have a nation's hopes rested so much on one man.

Without him, are we, in the words of Dad's Army's stock jock Private Fraser, "a' doomed"? Perhaps there's something of Jones in Ecksworth too. After all, he got London to allow us a referendum ("Permission to vote, sir?"), confronts conundrums of EU membership ("Don't panic!") and faces attention-seeking tantrums from the south-loving Northern Isles ("They don't like it up there").

But, as the map shows Mr Salmond's arrowed Saltires menacing Hadrian's Wall, and the signature tune vows a surprise if you think Auld Scotia's done, what if there is no victory in 2014?

I've given this thought, and fear I would be disinclined to vote again. What would be the point? All my life I've voted and got little. Cross after cross against Margaret Thatcher. Then, when finally she went, more of the same under Tony Blair.

I suppose, filling my glass slightly, the devolution vote went well and, we got the SNP in to run north Britain efficiently. But it isn't just about the SNP. If my conscience told me to carry on voting, it might be Green or, if I'm feeling sexually adventurous, Socialist.

Why would the SNP, never mind Mr Salmond, go "on and on" after being told independence is off? They could tell the Scots to shove it and place their self-limiting hopes on Labour with their nukes and London cannon-fodder.

Perhaps politics becomes an end in itself. Perhaps Mr Salmond, in existentialist torment, will change his mind and echo the Beckett character: "I can't go on. I'll go on." Or perhaps he'll take his lead from Private Godfrey — and ask to be excused.

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