Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Sunday, 4 May 2008 14:14 UK

Salmond backs Sir Tom's comments

Sir Tom Farmer
Sir Tom donated 100,000 to the SNP ahead of last year's Holyrood

First Minister Alex Salmond has said he agrees with one of the SNP's biggest donors that independence should not be the "be-all and end-all".

Sir Tom Farmer, the multi-millionaire founder of Kwik-Fit, said Mr Salmond should concentrate on improving the quality of life for people in Scotland.

The tycoon said he did not think it was the time for major discussions about referendums on independence.

The first minister said he agreed that the SNP government had to prove itself.

Quality of life

Sir Tom, who donated 100,000 to the SNP ahead of last year's Holyrood election, was writing in the Sunday Times Scotland on the anniversary of the party's victory.

He said: "I don't think we should be talking about referendums at this time.

"For me, quite simply, the question of more power coming to Scotland is almost inevitable.

"But change should happen at a pace that we can cope with."

He called on Mr Salmond to prove himself by improving the quality of life for Scottish people.

The tycoon also rejected "separatism" and called for a "higher degree of independence" but with a close relationship with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I am delighted he is highlighting a concept that I have been trying to put forward about independence
Alex Salmond

Mr Salmond told BBC Scotland's Politics Show: "I agree it [independence] is not the be-all and end-all.

"I have always argued that we have to demonstrate our competence and authority in government before the referendum question.

"In that so far, I agree with Tom."

He added: "One of the most exciting phrases in Sir Tom's article was this concept of United Kingdoms, as opposed to United Kingdom - why he didn't want separation, he wanted a continued relationship.

"I am delighted he is highlighting a concept that I have been trying to put forward about independence, that particularly with the same Queen as head of state, it cannot be defined as separation.

"It is a new equal relationship between the partner countries of these islands."

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