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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Scottish independence
SNP Leader, John Swinney
SNP Leader, John Swinney

BBC Breakfast With Frost interview with SNP Leader John Swinney, 20 May 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

DAVID FROST: Now to matters closer to home, the general election, it wasn't just Labour and the Liberal Democrats who launched their party manifestos last week, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, UK IP and the Scottish Nationalist Party all lined up to tell potential voters what they'd get if they put their X in their box. So what would you get if you voted SNP, well their leader John Swinney joins me now. Good morning John.

JOHN SWINNEY: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: Are you a Socialist party?

JOHN SWINNEY: We're a party that identifies itself as a democratic left of centre party in the mainstream of the European tradition and what we mean by that is that we attach the highest importance to investing in our public services and the Health Service and our education services and the battle against crime to provide a sound foundation for our society. But we've also got to provide the imaginative ideas about how we build the Scottish economy and make our country competitive.

DAVID FROST: There's lots of people say that you're a socialist when you're talking in the, in the cities and you're Lib-Dem when you're talking in the countryside?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well we've got one message that we talk to across the whole of Scotland, whether it's in urban Glasgow or in rural Perthshire, we put forward the one message which is the SNP is the most effective party in standing for the Scottish interest at Westminster, we will, our MPs will go to Westminster, they will argue for the interests of Scotland at all times, they'll argue to complete the powers of the Scottish Parliament and at a policy level whether it's about increasing the number of police officers on our streets or reducing the class sizes of our primary school pupils, that's the message we take to every corner of Scotland.

DAVID FROST: But of course if there's another 179 majority the SNP would have less power than in the situation of a hung Parliament?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well what I think you see from political history in Scotland, David, is that over the last 30 years when SNP support has been rising the London government has taken much more account of what has been happening within Scotland. When SNP support dips London tends to ignore what's happening north of the border, so that illustrates that if people want to get a strong voice in Westminster they have to vote for the Scottish National Party because our people have no divided loyalties, they argue the Scottish interest and they, they pursue that at Westminster. I'll give you one example, the fuel tax for example, SNP MPs have always voted against increases in fuel tax because it's bad for the Scottish economy, Labour MPs for Scotland, they voted for it four times since the last election.

DAVID FROST: What about in terms of policies and so on, the, Labour has said very strongly that the oil, and a lot, a lot of economists too, that the oil fund would not produce as much money as you've said and therefore that your plans together with things that were uncosted that in fact Labour says is going to cost two or three billion rather than two hundred and sixty million and so on and so forth. What do you say to that, that the, that the oil fund is not going to produce as much as you're hoping and that therefore your plans are way out?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well the first thing I'll say is that at the very start of my leadership I made it very clear that I would only offer policies to the public that we could afford and that's exactly what we've done in the manifesto that we published on Friday. In terms of the oil fund, what we want to do is to take the, the windfall that Scotland has had and so far we've had 160 billion of oil revenues for which we've got nothing to show for. I want to take that windfall, like any family would do, and secure that so that we can have a safe, reliable, dependable income from that oil fund over the years and to invest that in our public services on crime and health and education. And, and the figures that we've used to under-pin that are the figures upon which the government bases its projections for the future of oil revenues and that's a very safe projection and we want to lock that away and get an income from it.

DAVID FROST: Right now are you in terms, everyone says you're a gradualist rather than a fundie or fundamentalist and that, that means you're a gradualist in making the journey towards an independent Scotland, is however the 100 per cent policy still to reach a totally independent Scotland sooner or later, is that, is that it?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well as a 15-year-old boy I joined the SNP committed to Scottish independence, I want all the decisions about Scotland's future to be taken by people who live in Scotland and elect their politicians within Scotland. But the key thing about the SNPs position is that we accept that Scottish independence will only come about when the people that live in Scotland vote for it and that's what, the message that I'm putting out is all about, it's about giving people in Scotland the opportunity to support the SNP, to vote for Scottish independence and most importantly to ensure that we have strong voices at Westminster for so long as Westminster retains control over a number of very important powers that exist within Scotland such as the economy or social security or Europe.

DAVID FROST: Because it's going to cost, isn't it, independence whenever it happens, on the road there the Barnett formula with the 15 per cent sort of over-ride for Scotland and so on, the Barnett formula, that sort of subsidy is obviously going to go so independence will need to replace those subsidies from the UK or in fact in this case from England?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well we're in a situation where Scotland's share of public spending fell under the Conservatives, it's continuing to fall under New Labour, there's news reports this morning that John Prescott's going to be giving a big Cabinet enforcing position after the election and that will give him the ability to argue for what he said he will argue for after this election and that is to reduce further Scotland's share of public spending. So we need strong SNP voices at Westminster to protect us from that. But on the wider issue of the finances of Scotland, Scotland pays more to the United Kingdom today than we receive back in return and what we want to do is make the wealth of Scotland work for the people of Scotland by having the power to do it.

DAVID FROST: And who would you like to be Prime Minister in the UK?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well the election in the United Kingdom is a matter for the voters here, I'm fighting a hotly contested election in Scotland where there's a real contest the Conservatives are out of the race south of the border but in Scotland there's a two-horse race between the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party and we're determined to win it.

DAVID FROST: Right and so you're, but you have a preference here presumably?

JOHN SWINNEY: I don't have a, I'll be voting SNP in this forthcoming election and I'll be wanting to make sure that we have the maximum number of SNP MPs elected within Scotland where there's a real intense contest between the Scottish National Party and the Labour Party and that's the contest that matters.

DAVID FROST: Right

JOHN SWINNEY: For people north of border.

DAVID FROST: And, and what about, you were more clear about higher taxes than almost any other party, even the Liberal Democrats with their 1p on education and we've got 5p over 100,000 proposed, we've got 10p off the gallon of fuel, but in general would you say you're a high tax party?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well what we're, what we're, what we're about is about being fair on taxation, about recognising that people should pay taxation based on their ability to pay. I take the strongest exception to the type of hidden stealth taxes we've had since the last election, Labour promised to keep taxes down, we've had 32 tax rises which have meant that the poorest proportion of people in our society are paying the largest share of their income in taxation, that is unsustainable, it's damaging to the health of our society and we want to deliver fairness on taxation based on the ability to pay.

DAVID FROST: John thank you very much for being with us this morning.

JOHN SWINNEY: Thank you.

DAVID FROST: John Swinney there of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

END

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