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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 November 2006, 11:57 GMT
Scottish politics
On Sunday 05 November, Andrew Marr interviewed Alex Salmond MP, Scottish Nationalist Party

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Alex Salmond MP
Alex Salmond MP, Scottish Nationalist Party

ANDREW MARR: And now over to Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party in Aberdeen.

ALEX SALMOND: Good morning Andrew.

ANDREW MARR: Good morning.

Your reaction first of all [to Saddam Hussein news], you took some fairly controversial positions on the war.

How do you react to this moment?

ALEX SALMOND: Well I think it's a very understandable verdict, given the terms of the court.

I would think it's probably, certainly in my judgement would be a bad idea to execute Saddam Hussein because your dead martyrs are more important than live criminals.

But, you know, that would be my view. But whether that's what actually happens or not we'll just have to wait and see.

ANDREW MARR: It's been a very, very bloody few months in Iraq. Do you think it's got any implications for British presence there?

ALEX SALMOND: Well, I mean, I think we're in a blood-soaked quagmire in Iraq. I don't think the government, as we saw the debate this week, has the slightest idea how to get us out of it.

It may be that the change will come across the Atlantic and in the mid-term elections this week. And as we need a change, so if the change has to come blowing from America then so be it.

ANDREW MARR: I guess a lot of people on the government side will be saying this can bring some kind of closure however, this is a very good moment for Iraq?

ALEX SALMOND: Oh I think it's a good moment that criminals are brought to justice. There's no doubt about that. I think you'd have to be a, you'd have to be hopelessly optimistic to believe this is going to be an end or even the beginning of an end of the blood-letting in Iraq.

And fortunately, when you occupy a country over a period of years, you have not the slightest idea what to do with it incidentally, and then you become the source and the butt and antagonism from the local population. I mean, that is the, that I'm afraid is a lesson of history, it's just unfortunate that neither Mr. Bush or Mr. Blair were prepared to learn it.

ANDREW MARR: Right, well let's turn back to Scottish politics then. Way back when the Scottish Parliament was introduced, everybody said this will scupper the SNP, this will hammer the Nats' devolution will finish them off.

You're now well placed and optimistic about the next election, 51% of Scots say they would like Scotland to become independent. So what went wrong? Or from your point of view, right?

ALEX SALMOND: Well, my old friend Lord George Robertson of NATO said they would kill the SNP stone-dead. Well the SNP are alive and kicking as you see, Andrew. I think they miscalculated because obviously initially people wanted to try the devolved parliament, they wanted to suck it and see as it were.

But you know we're now virtually eight years in, the elections will be fought eight years in. And many, many people in Scotland take the view that they've tried devolution, and it's been found to be inadequate, and if we're going to have a parliament then we might as well have a real parliament that can do real things for the people of Scotland.

And I think that's leading to the unprecedented surge and SNP support. And also in terms of the support for independence which is even more significant. I mean, the Prime Minister's been vigorously attacking Scottish independence and every time he opens his mouth the support for the Independence goes up so I just hope he keeps on doing it.

ANDREW MARR: Now, the Scottish National Party's got, I think, 25 MSPs behind Labour with 50. But, some of the polls suggest that you could be the largest party after next year's elections. How confident are you of that, and how will you handle the inevitable negotiations if you are in that position?

ALEX SALMOND: Well, very confident and well, I mean, our PR system, no party is likely to command an absolute majority and then, you know, basically what you do before the election is try to get as many seats as you possibly can and you know I think we're well on course to do that just now, become the leading party in terms of having more seats than anybody else.

And then of course you probably have to look for allies to get your programme through, and you know, we've done a bit of that already. We've been speaking to the Green Party of Scotland who have parliamentary representation, and seeing if we can come to terms, in terms of an agreed programme, perhaps not with them in government.

But, you know, that will be done. But, you know a wise politician, Andrew, even in a PR system, you concentrate on winning the votes and winning the seats first and then you do negotiations after the election. If you're going to make rabbit stew you better catch the rabbit first.

ANDREW MARR: Right, and finally, you want to see a referendum on independence within a few years, if you form the new Scottish Administration. If that referendum happens and goes your way, how quickly would you then think Scotland will be independent of the rest of the UK?

ALEX SALMOND: Our policy is to have a referendum within the term of office, the four year term. I think if there is a democratic verdict at that stage by the Scottish people wanting to move forward to independence, then just as we saw on devolution a few years ago I think a lot of the opposition will die away because people respect the legitimate democratic verdict of the Scottish people.

I mean, I know some people, perhaps Gordon Brown for one, you know, who has a personal interest apart from a political interest in stopping Scottish independence. And in many ways I'm finding just now that I'm actually running against Gordon Brown. I mean, the first minister Mr. McConnell, seems to be a mere cipher and the campaign in Scotland is actually being run by Gordon Brown.

But, you know, I think looking beyond Gordon Brown's own interests in Scotland not being independent, the Scottish interest is in having a position of equality with all the other nations of the world. So I hope that process can be democratic, it can be agreed and I think it'll be a good thing for Scotland.


ALEX SALMOND: I actually think it will be a good thing for England as well Andrew.

ANDREW MARR: Well, we will see. Alex Salmond, not the only man to feel that he's running against Gordon Brown. Thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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