Uncharacteristically, it seemed that Mr Salmond had disappeared from view for much of the year. For a while, too, it looked like he and his justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, would be engulfed in the fall-out from the discovery by Abdelbasat al-Megrahi that the privations of the Libyan desert nevertheless appear more conducive to life than a west of Scotland prison cell.
Yet it was to be this very issue and the clumsy posturing of American senators following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that handed Mr Salmond the opportunity to rediscover his political mojo. The first minister imperiously rebutted the senators' claims that the Scottish government had concluded a deal with BP by permitting the early release of al-Megrahi. In a series of coruscating and judiciously leaked letters, he exposed the Americans' ignorance of the issue. Having been soundly thrashed by George Galloway a few years ago, they ought to have hesitated before deciding to engage with another truculent and articulate Scottish bauchle.
Mr Salmond may not yet have reached the status of international statesman, but at times such as this he certainly looks the part. Thus the opposition were reminded that he remains our most formidable political belligerent heading into an election year.
[From an article by Kevin McKenna in today's edition of The Observer.]