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Transcript Alex Salmond interview

PLEASE NOTE "THE ANDREW MARR SHOW" MUST BE CREDITED IF ANY PART OF THIS TRANSCRIPT IS USED

THE ANDREW MARR SHOW

INTERVIEW:

ALEX SALMOND, MSP

FIRST MINISTER FOR SCOTLAND

OCTOBER 23rd 2011

ANDREW MARR:

The Scottish National Party has an overall majority in the Edinburgh Parliament after elections this spring, which resulted in the leaders of all the other main parties - Tory, Labour, Lib Dem - resigning, which left just Alex Salmond, now the undisputed big man of Scottish politics, as First Minister, with an agenda centred on giving the Scots a referendum on independence. But it seems that he wants to offer them the option of what's been called Independence Lite. So what is all that about? Is he going soft in his old age? And what does he say to his critics who want to know more about an independent Scottish military and what currency the Scots might use? Mr Salmond joins me now from the party conference at Inverness. Good morning.

ALEX SALMOND:

Well I'm very relieved, Andrew. I thought you were going to call me the undisputed King of Scotland, but thankfully you just called me the big man of Scottish politics. I'm very relieved.

ANDREW MARR:

And I was not referring to anything other than your political position, I hasten to add. Salmond laughs) But you are in a dominant position. You are in … I can remember you when you were slim. You are in a dominant position in Scottish politics at the moment.

ALEX SALMOND:

(over) Andrew, Andrew, you're digging yourself into a hole.

ANDREW MARR:

Ah well.

ALEX SALMOND:

On you go. Sorry.

ANDREW MARR:

You have offered … It seems the idea is to offer a referendum which gives people full independence as one option; the status quo as another option; but this Independence Lite or Devolution Max option in between. Can you just explain to people who don't understand it what that option would mean?

ALEX SALMOND:

Okay, well firstly can I just say what would be in the ballot paper is a straight yes/no question to independence. That's what we've said we'd do in the election campaign. Incidentally, on the timescale we laid out in the election campaign in the second half of this parliamentary term, I know this is an unusual concept in the politics of Westminster just now, but we thought we'd stick to what we said in the election. The people showed faith and trust in us. We thought we'd return that faith in the people. The proposal is to have a second question - in the same way as we had, incidentally, in 1997 - in which we'd offer a fiscal autonomy option. Now the point I've made, it's for those who proposed that - for example one of my predecessors as First Minister, Henry McLeish, the Labour First Minister - to come forward with their view and what that is. It's for the SNP to come forward with an independence view. But you know I'm not for limiting the choices of the Scottish people. I leave that to Westminster politicians.

ANDREW MARR:

As you know, your critics both on the Nationalist side and the Unionist side, suggest that this third option - a sort of soft option - is there because you're not sure; you're not really convinced that you can win an independence vote.

ALEX SALMOND:

Andrew, you shouldn't get misled by Scotland on Sunday. I know that's the only Scottish paper you have there. But I mean they're unique …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) It's a very good newspaper.

ALEX SALMOND:

… how shall I put it, in their … Well you used to work for them, Andrew. But they're unique in their interpretation of the SNP conference. This is an extraordinarily united party. It's doubled in size. We had five over-spilled halls yesterday to try and accommodate our conference. We're the only political party in these islands who are popular, the only political party who've got a majority government, and the only political party who are keeping faith with the people. So I think we know where we're going, Andrew …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Well that's the over-spilled halls, but what about the substantive point?

ALEX SALMOND:

(over) … and we're following what we said in the election campaign.

ANDREW MARR:

What about the substantive point though?

ALEX SALMOND:

The substantive point is that I'm confident that we'll win the referendum on Scottish independence, and we'll offer that yes/no question on independence in the timescale we said we would in the election campaign. That seems to me pretty clear, Andrew.

ANDREW MARR:

What currency would an independent Scotland have?

ALEX SALMOND:

Well we'd keep with sterling until it was to Scotland's economic advantage to join the Euro, and that would be a decision of the Scottish people. That's not a position unlike that which has been held by various political parties in the United Kingdom parliament over recent years.

ANDREW MARR:

And would you have an independent Scottish army, navy and air force?

ALEX SALMOND:

Well yes we would under the independence option because well there's two big advantages of having that, Andrew. One is that you'd be able to decide not to take part in illegal wars such as Iraq, or to take part in United Nations sanctioned actions like, for example, protecting the people of Libya. And the other big reason of course is it's the only option that would allow the removal of weapons of mass destruction, the obscenity of spending £100,000 million on a new generation of Trident missiles and putting them on the Scottish coastline. So these are two fairly overwhelming reasons for having independent Scottish armed forces. But of course these armed forces would cooperate with our Western allies in a range of engagements.

ANDREW MARR:

Right. Now we know that there's major new investment going into North Sea and Atlantic oil, so you would expect more revenues from that. But on the other side, would an independent Scotland accept its share of the UK national debt, which I think would at current levels be about 77 billion quids worth?

ALEX SALMOND:

Yes and the only thing that makes it pale into insignificance, of course, is the size of the United Kingdom debt pushing towards one trillion pounds. You know £77 million is a big number, Andrew. I think it's only dwarfed by the trillion pound asset that the remaining North Sea oil and gas revenues would have, so luckily we'd be in that position with an enormous asset. We'd have our own enormous bazooka, if you like; whereas the United Kingdom unfortunately has debts, which is extraordinary, and the assets don't tend to match up to it. So you know we're very happy to be reasonable, to accept our obligations as well as, of course, claiming ownership of our own resources. But can I just point out to you …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Yes, just …

ALEX SALMOND:

(over) … recent weeks and months, Andrew, it's not just investment in the North Sea that we've seen in Scotland. We've seen major international companies such as Mitsubishi, Dusan, Avelock, Amazon …

ANDREW MARR:

Yes, okay.

ALEX SALMOND:

… all choosing Scotland as the base for their international operations.

ANDREW MARR:

Given that, in your waters do you think Scotland will be independent of the United Kingdom by the end of the next parliament at Edinburgh?

ALEX SALMOND:

Oh in my waters, in my heart, in my head, I think Scotland will become an independent country within the European Community …

ANDREW MARR:

Right.

ALEX SALMOND:

… with a friendly, cooperative relationship, with a partnership in these islands.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) It will happen, okay. Just before we finish …

ALEX SALMOND:

(over) I think independence in Scotland will happen.

ANDREW MARR:

… I'd like to ask you about Libya because the final fall of the Gaddafi regime does give the opportunity for reopening some of the questions about what really happened over Lockerbie and all of that. Can I ask you whether you welcome that and what steps are going to be taken from Edinburgh to start to reopen that story and get the truth?

ALEX SALMOND:

Well I do welcome that and of course I welcome the fact that the new government, the ………… government have said to our Crown Office that they'll cooperate fully with Scottish police and Scottish prosecutors in supplying any information that comes forward. They've made it clear that if substantial … That's the Scottish Crown Office have made it clear if substantial information comes forward, then this is an open case and it could lead to further proceedings. So I welcome that progress. But could I just add the line again that …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) You won't bring …

ALEX SALMOND:

(over) … our approach to these things - as it has always been, as it has always been, Andrew …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Sure. You wouldn't try to have al-Megrahi requisitioned or brought back in any way?

ALEX SALMOND:

Well I don't see the intent of purpose in bringing Mr Megrahi back from Libya to Scotland. He was released under Scots law. As long as he conforms to that licence of release, then there's no reason to do that. In terms of the Crown Office already being involved with the Scottish police in asking further questions - and I welcome the cooperation that's been offered by the new Libyan Government to make further progress - this still remains an open investigation because no-one suggested that Mr al-Megrahi acted alone. The argument was he acted in a matter of state sponsored terrorism. That leaves the investigation open and hopefully we can make progress.

ANDREW MARR:

Alex Salmond, thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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