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Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Sunday, 25 April 2010 11:17 UK

Alex Salmond - 'we just want a look in'

On Sunday 25 April Andrew Marr interviewed Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party.

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Alex Salmond MSP, leader of the Scottish National Party
Alex Salmond MSP, leader of the Scottish National Party on the Andrew Marr Show

ANDREW MARR:

"Scotland needs champions." So say the SNP who are urging Scottish voters to elect as their MP a local champion, someone they say who will "stand up for Scotland's interests when a remote government at Westminster is deciding where to wield the axe." The SNP Leader, Alex Salmond, joins me now from Edinburgh. Good morning, Mr Salmond.

ALEX SALMOND:

Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW MARR:

Before we turn to the details of your own manifesto, let's talk about the legal challenge that you're mounting against the leaders' debates. First of all, isn't this something you should have been doing some time ago if you're so outraged about it?

ALEX SALMOND:

No, Andrew, the only time you can mount a legal challenge is when you exhaust the internal procedures. And the BBC Trust told us on Thursday night that they were turning down our appeal, and indeed they weren't even going to hear it in person. And, therefore, you can only mount a legal challenge after you've exhausted the other procedures available to you. We've been incredibly reasonable about this, Andrew. We've tried to argue that there should be a further debate in which the SNP and Plaid Cymru should take part. We haven't asked for parity with the other parties, just to be included. But we're in a situation where these debates haven't just dominated the election campaign; they've been the election campaign. And if you're excluded from them, then that's extremely unfair.

ANDREW MARR:

So if the court ruled that the third debate had to be blacked out in Scotland, which is what could happen, I don't understand the practicalities of that because, presumably, people can still watch it on their computers? Scots can't be sort of stopped from watching things on computer and so on. Is it actually practical in this day and age to refuse Scottish viewers the chance to see that third debate if that's what happened?

ALEX SALMOND:

A very pejorative way to put it, Andrew. That's not what we're arguing for. We're arguing for the debate to be screened. We're enthusiastic about the debate. We just want the debate to be fair and balanced. We want to participate. Or alternatively, as we've put forward to the BBC, that a fourth debate is organised including the Plaid Cymru and the SNP. Now what on earth could be wrong with that? Now incidentally, Andrew, you used to be a Scottish political correspondent and you'll remember back in 1995 when the Labour Party took a legal action against the BBC, an interdict about a Panorama programme, and won. And what happened then wasn't that the programme wasn't broadcast. It was the BBC provided further fair and balanced programmes. So when you seek a judicial review, we're trying to get a broadcast which is fair and balanced.

ANDREW MARR:

So …

ALEX SALMOND:

We want the debate to go ahead, Andrew. We just want to get a look-in. We want democracy.

ANDREW MARR:

And in terms of your look-in, would you want five podiums there - one for yourselves and one for Plaid?

ALEX SALMOND:

If there was a fourth debate, certainly. Or alternatively, which we've also argued, there could be a section of the debate where the SNP and Plaid Cymru were allowed to put forward their point of view. I mean, look, Andrew …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Okay.

ALEX SALMOND:

… we're now in a situation where the most likely result of this election is a balanced or hung parliament. Don't you think that viewers across these islands might wish to know what the SNP and Plaid Cymru, who could be very important in that context, would do in that situation? It's important to Scotland and Wales. It's important to everyone in these islands.

ANDREW MARR:

Well let's turn now to the election itself, whether or not it results in a hung parliament. Your own manifesto is full of spending pledges of one kind or another. It says very, very little about cuts. What do you think is Scotland's fair share of the pain, the cuts that follow from the financial crisis in which, after all, two huge Scottish institutions participated so centrally?

ALEX SALMOND:

Well, Andrew, I disagree with you about saying nothing about cuts. We actually itemise and detail a range of cuts that we would wish to make. The £100 billion wasted on useless nuclear weapons over the next generation …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But that's a long way ahead. That's a long way ahead.

ALEX SALMOND:

(over) No, no. No it's not, Andrew. The capital costs of Trident start the year after next. Over the next fifteen years, it would be 50 to 60 billion pounds. Now we say we don't need to spend money on nuclear bombs. That's not something which is useful to anyone. Let's concentrate on things that matter to everyone. Or how about …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But you need to get quick cuts as well.

ALEX SALMOND:

Well I'm coming to that, Andrew, if you let me. The ID cards, the remnants of the ID card system - let's get rid of that. Or the nuclear dump receptacle that's planned. Or let's abolish the House of Lords at £100 million a year. Or the Scotland Office - the remnants of the Raj, which is still ruling Scotland. Let's sweep away the things that don't matter to anyone, so as we can concentrate on the things that matter to everyone.

ANDREW MARR:

Do you have a preferred partner of any kind in a hung parliament? Would you prefer in your waters to be dealing with Gordon Brown or with David Cameron, or with who?

ALEX SALMOND:

Well we wouldn't form a coalition or any other agreement with either the Conservative or Labour parties, and the reason's pretty obvious. A majority Labour government has been a disaster for the economy obviously, but also for things like the illegal war in Iraq. A major Tory government would certainly, in the words of David Cameron, start picking on various places like Northern Ireland, the North East of England. Scotland will be next in terms of public expenditure cuts. So we're not going to ally with either the Labour or Conservative parties.

ANDREW MARR:

But if …

ALEX SALMOND:

But what you can do in a balanced parliament - and, as you know, I've got lots of experience of this over the last three years running a minority government in Scotland - is as each vital vote comes along, you can progress the interest. Not just the interest incidentally of Scotland and Wales, but, in terms of arguing full square against nuclear weapons, the interests of many, many people in England as well.

ANDREW MARR:

What is your absolute number one priority if you're getting into talks with other parties? What do you want most of all? Is it Trident abolition, is it a guaranteed referendum on independence? What's the one thing that would buy the SNP's support for a period down in Westminster?

ALEX SALMOND:

Well the referendum will be progressed through the Scottish Parliament, Andrew …

ANDREW MARR:

Sure.

ALEX SALMOND:

… not Westminster. But Trident would be a major issue because it's one of the big ticket items you can isolate and identify that if a decision is made now to cancel Trident, and indeed to get rid of the current nuclear weapons, then that would free up massive resources which could be devoted to things that are important. But there will also, depending on the vote, be issues which are exact. I mean, for example, in a London bank account just now, believe it or not, there's £200 million of Scottish fossil fuel levy money, which is lying unused, untouched, can only be used in Scotland. It could do an enormous amount of benefit for our great renewable industries. We can't access it because the Treasury says if we access our own money, they'll then deduct it from Scottish spending and health and education. Now there's an example of something where a bit of reasonableness could do a lot of benefit for Scotland and be no disservice to anyone else at all.

ANDREW MARR:

The Conservatives in their manifesto have a version of English votes for English laws at Westminster. It's not an English parliament, but it's moving towards that sort of position bit by bit. Is that something you welcome? Do you look at that and think, aha, the first crack in the façade down south?

ALEX SALMOND:

Well I believe in English parliament, Andrew. I think the people of England should govern themselves. And you know I know a lot of folk say they couldn't manage it, etcetera, they couldn't run the country, but I've got enormous faith in the people of England to make their own decisions. So I'm full square for an English parliament. I think you know English votes for English MPs and let the people of England have self-government. But I also think the people of Scotland should have self-government as well, real self-government, and that means control over the economy and how we represent ourselves in the world as well as the devolved parliament we have at the present moment.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. Alex Salmond, thank you very much indeed.

ALEX SALMOND:

Great pleasure, Andrew.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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