Alex Salmond is fast developing a reputation as a political colossus. North of the border he's single-handedly masterminded the defeat of the Labour Party and rubbed their noses into the dirt. The Scottish Labour Party is in turmoil. They have a leader whose popularity (if that's the right word) is 75 points behind Alex Salmond, and after nearly a year in power, the SNP is becoming more popular by the month. Yesterday's MRUK Cello poll for the Scottish Sunday Times showed the SNP with a healthy 8 point lead over Labour and six points up on the previous poll. If the Scottish elections were re-run now the SNP would be on 57 seats and Labour on 44.
The SNP has now extracted from the YouGov poll in the Sunday Times (the one showing the Tories 16 points ahead) data which shows that for a Westminster election the SNP is 7 points ahead of Labour and 19 points up on the 2005 General Election. This would give them 27 seats and give Labour a heart attack. It would also mean that the SNP become key players in a hung Parliament, giving the Conservatives a second option for coalition partners.
This would have been unthinkable even a year ago, yet in Scotland there is a growing respect between the SNP and the Conservatives, and this is being reflected in Westminster too. There is growing friendly banter between leading Tories and the SNP's small but perfectly formed band of Westminster MPs.
The SNP no longer regards the Tories as the devil incarnate, but any formal coalition is currently still an impossibility under the SNP constitution, I believe. Certain elements of the SNP believe this to be outdated, but a formal move to amend the constitution would be highly unlikely.
So what short term implications does all this have? Firstly, Labour will make no headway north of the border unless the hapless Wendy Alexander is ditched. Secondly, Gordon Brown's refusal to 'do business' with Alex Salmond is playing right into the SNP's hands. They have become the voice of sweet reason, while Brown looks bitter and twisted. No change there then.
If there were shares in Alex Salmond you'd be buying them now. As a Labour MP said to me today: "There's only one way to stop Alec Salmond in his tracks and that's assassination". He was joking. I think.