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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 May 2007, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Scotland's First Minister
On Sunday 20 May Andrew Marr interviewed Alex Salmond MSP, First Minister of Scotland

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

Alex Salmond MSP
Alex Salmond MSP, First Minister of Scotland

ANDREW MARR: Welcome. Thank you, thank you for coming on the show Alex Salmond.

ALEX SALMOND: Andrew, this is Lazarus speaking from sunny Aberdeenshire.

ANDREW MARR: You're looking, you're looking in fine form Lazarus if I may say so. Can I ask first of all about the story in the papers today.

Would, are you going to as it were apply for a Scottish, a separate Scottish Olympics team?

ALEX SALMOND: Well we haven't discussed it yet as a, as a Cabinet, as a government. We've been talking about health, education, the Scottish economy will be among our first announcements.

But it's certainly a good idea. I listened to Fraser Nelson a few seconds ago on your programme and despite his wonderful talents as a writer the two things I do know about Fraser is that A, he knows absolutely nothing about sport and secondly he suffers from something called the Scottish cringe.

And you know his assumption that Scotland can't achieve success as a sporting country. Well if he'd cast his mind back just a year ago a separate Scottish team to the Commonwealth Games swept all before them, not just in sports we're traditionally good at but particularly in the swimming pool. So I don't think we should allow Fraser Nelson's pessimism to blight the prospects of an entire nation.

ANDREW MARR: Very good. Looking ahead you've got, you're a minority government and you've said that you want to form different alliances depending on what you're doing. But you're not going to get a vote across the chamber it seems to most observers for your policy for a referendum on independence. So how do you get from where you've got to to independence? What's the strategy?

ALEX SALMOND: Well of course that, that vote, if it does take place, a programme look forward to having in two thousand and ten. So that's a, a few years away yet. And therefore I think in the intervening period what the government will have to do is take its case to the country, that's we'll publish a white paper explaining the concept of independence within an inter dependent world. And we're look and canvas support from, from civic Scotland. The Parliamentary Chamber doesn't look all that promising as far as voting for a Referendum on independence is concerned.

But the Scottish public as a whole looks extremely promising. Because whatever people's views on independence, for or against, there was a, a massive majority in favour of putting the issue to the people, allowing the people of Scotland to decide on such issues. So we'll, we'll take our case to the country and we'll get on with running the show.

ANDREW MARR: Scotland does of course have a unionist majority over all. In the SNP there's always been an argument about whether devolution was bad for the independence case or good for the independence case. Do you see Scottish Parliament as taking Scotland as it were step by step by step towards independence, almost inevitably?

ALEX SALMOND: Well yes and I always did. Of course I suppose I'm sitting here as living proof that, that the coming of the Scottish Parliament has given the Scottish National Party opportunities which it wouldn't previously have had. But I think much, much more important than what is good or bad for the SNP is what's good or bad for Scotland. And I, I think the resumption of Scottish Parliament after three hundred years of adjournment had been a fundamentally good thing for the, for the Scottish nation.

And now we've got the opportunity with perhaps a more ambitious style of government, however limited by not having a, being able to command the majority in the chamber. But nonetheless an ambitious style of government across the whole range of issues. We've now got an opportunity to move Scotland forward again and, and that's exactly what, what I intend to do.

ANDREW MARR: You have the power to, to vary income tax up and down a bit. It's never been used by the Scottish Parliament. Would you like to use it?

ALEX SALMOND: I won't be using it in the coming four years. Basically I think we've got other priorities in terms of taxation, principally attempting to remove, that's abolish the iniquities and unfair council tax which oppresses so many people in Scotland, is not related to ability to pay which all taxation should be, and trying to find an income based alternative, a local income tax and trying to get a majority support for that across the Scottish Parliament chamber.

So I think that, in terms of personal taxation will be our priority. There's other taxations which need addressed in Scotland and radical plans to reduce business rates to give small business in Scotland a, a competitive advantage I think will be very well received by many sections of Scottish business.

And will also be a signpost for what we'd like to do with corporation tax when we have the powers. And that is to say, to establish a competitive advantage in Scotland to increase economic growth, increase jobs, increase prosperity and actually increase government revenue as well, very much based on the hugely successful model in the Irish Republic.

ANDREW MARR: It doesn't sound any more, the SNP, like a party of the left or the centre left.

ALEX SALMOND: Well the SNP's a, a social democratic party Andrew, that is to say we have radical social ambitions for Scotland. But we need and recognise and acknowledge that we need a, a competitive economy in order to generate the wealth, in order to fulfil these social ambitions.

That's the classic social democratic mix. And I think Scottish social democracy is a, a very exciting concept. I think we've needed it for some time and as far as possible in a minority government situation I want to put as much as possible into practice. Clearly obviously the more powers you have the more you can do.

ANDREW MARR: You're going over to Northern Ireland to meet Ian Paisley shortly. Do you think that the Scottish Parliament, Stormont, Welsh Assembly, are going to be working together to get more out of Westminster as it were than you get singly?

ALEX SALMOND: Well yes I do. I mean I've spoken to both Doctor Paisley and indeed to Martin McGuinness this week. Both of them were kind enough to, to phone to congratulate me on, on becoming the Scottish First Minister.

I'm still waiting for a call from the prime minister. I know he's been busy in the White House and in Iraq and other places. But no doubt he'll get round to it sooner rather later.

ANDREW MARR: What about the prime minister in waiting?

ALEX SALMOND: Both Doctor Paisley and ..

ANDREW MARR: Sorry, I was going to ask about the prime minister in waiting.

ALEX SALMOND: Well not yet. But he's, he's been busy. Well I'll come back to Gordon Brown in a second. But firstly to answer your question about the Northern Ireland executive and Northern Irish Parliament. I think it is important that the devolved parliaments and executives do work together because we have a, a number of issues in common.

And one of these issues is to establish a, a more coherent form of joint representation, both to the Westminster government where we have many issues in common and both in terms of how we relate to, for example, the Irish Republic and, and other bodies. So I think there's a lot of interest to talk about and both with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness the conversation was very convivial. As far as Gordon Brown's concerned he hasn't phoned me either. But then Gordon isn't prime minister yet so he doesn't have any obligation to, to do that as yet.

And I'm sure when he becomes prime minister, and incidentally let me congratulate him on his success and becoming leader of the Labour Party and almost certainly prime minister, that I'm sure that whatever was said in the election campaign in the, in the heat and dust of battle then both of us will want to have as our first priority of working in the, the interests of the, the Scottish people. And I'm sure I'll do that certainly and I'll do it in a cooperative way. And I'm sure Gordon will want to do that as well.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Well we will watch, I will let you get back to the birdsong and the sunlight behind you. But thank you very much indeed for joining us.


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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