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Breakfast with Frost
John Swinney, Leader, Scottish Nationalist Party
The people will decide whether Scotland becomes independent


APRIL 27, 2003

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

DAVID FROST: Let's go to Dundee right now and talk to John Swinney, leader of the Scottish National Party. The SNP were the second biggest party in the last Scottish Parliament. In this election John Swinney has toned down his ambitions to create an independent country, instead his campaign has focussed on cutting class sizes in primary schools and recruiting more nurses. He joins me now, John good morning.

JOHN SWINNEY: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: Everybody is observing, and indeed you yourself said yesterday that you weren't going to creep up behind people to force independence on Scotland if elected to lead the next Scottish executive. We will follow the model of the 1997 referendum whereby people were asked in principle did they want Scotland to have a devolved parliament. So, so they don't have to fear that ... you're trying to reassure people they don't have to fear independence by stealth?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well what I'm saying is that the people of Scotland will be the ones that will decide whether Scotland becomes an independent country or not. An SNP administration elected on Thursday will be elected to do a number of things. It will be elected to reduce class sizes, to improve the waiting times, reduce the waiting times in Scottish hospitals, make sure we have safer streets, but also to ask the people over the next four years whether they want the Scottish Parliament to take on the full powers of a normal independent country and by that mechanism allow us to create a more prosperous Scotland that can improve our economic performance and tackle poverty in Scotland.

DAVID FROST: Scotland on Sunday says today, in its editorial, for all the smoothness with which John Swinney promotes himself as a straightforward social democrat reformer he remains committed to independence for Scotland. Only when the SNP breaks with this article of faith can it be considered a plausible potential governing party.

JOHN SWINNEY: Well I'm not at all surprised that Scotland on Sunday would say that because they, they regularly criticise the political views of my party. But I reckon in this election people are looking for politicians to set out what they actually believe and I am a social democrat, I believe that the public services need investment, I believe we require a prosperous economy, but to achieve that I also believe that Scotland needs to be an independent country, able to take the type of decisions that any other country would take for granted. I want to be able to make sure the interests of Scotland are vigorously defended on the European and international stage. We've had a dreadful deal for the fishing community in Scotland inflicted on us by poor negotiation by London and Brussels last December. I want to make sure we renegotiate that, that we fight for Scottish interests in the European Union and that we deliver the type of economic opportunities that will get people in Scotland out of poverty and into prosperity. So I think in this election people won't expect anything other from the SNP ... principle

DAVID FROST: (OVERLAPS) Yes ... but just a minute ... let me just ... let me just come in for a minute there John, let me just come in for a minute there, let me just come in for a minute there ... you used the phrase social democrat there and that speech there that you gave could have been delivered by Tony Blair. What's different? Why do we need an SNP if that's the sum total of your policies?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well why we need the Scottish National Party is to make sure that when we invest in our public services we do it for the public interest and not for private profit, which is what Tony Blair presides over through the private finance initiative. We need the SNP to make sure the Scottish Parliament has full economic control over the Scottish economy because under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown the Scottish economy is flat-lining, we hardly have any economic growth in Scotland. I want us to deliver dynamic economic growth that can get people out of poverty and into prosperity. And we need to have the SNP so that Scotland has a parliament that can argue for the Scottish interests in the international community, and particularly in the European Union where so many decisions are taken that affect the lives of people in Scotland. So we need that real powerhouse in the Scottish Parliament that only the SNP can deliver.

DAVID FROST: Kirsty Milne, writing in the New Statesman, compared your position you probably saw this - to Neil Kinnock in '92. He hoped to be prime minister after the election, or first minister, but if he failed he knew he was out and that the stakes, she says, are that high for you too.

JOHN SWINNEY: Well the difference between Neil Kinnock and myself is that in 1992 Neil Kinnock had been leading the party for a considerable number of years, probably nine years I think. I've led the SNP for two and half years. I've built the SNP a very strong cohesive policy base. I've established a clear route to win Scottish independence and I've forced the debate onto how we make Scotland a more successful country. My political opponents have delivered policy and economic failure for Scotland over the last 30 years. I want to reverse that trend, I want to make sure Scotland is a successful country. We can only do that with independence and we start on that route by electing an SNP government on Thursday and that's what I'm absolutely focused on delivering.

DAVID FROST: And basically you do say that you are now a social democratic party, it differentiates, differentiate itself from the Scottish Socialist Party. You are not, you are not a socialist?

JOHN SWINNEY: Well the SNP is a democratic left of centre political party. My own personal position is that I support the principles of social democracy. The importance of creating strong public services anchored under a strong and well performing economy, that's my policy position. And the SNP argues that Scotland requires to have strong investment in their public services but we need to create in the Scottish Parliament the powers that will allow us to perform and to compete economically with other countries and other communities, so that we're successful in delivering that prosperity for people within Scotland. The SNP is the only party offering a very unique approach to making Scotland a successful country and I look forward to taking an important step in that direction on Thursday.

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


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