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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 May 2006, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Jon Sopel interview
The Politics Show commissioned an ICM poll on whether Scottish MPs should serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the future.

Question: Now that Scotland has its own Parliament, dealing with internal Scottish affairs, in future do you think it is right or wrong that a Scottish MP can become Prime Minister of the whole UK?

  • Right 45%
  • Wrong 52%
  • Don't know 3%

ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,013 adults aged 18+ by telephone between 10th and 11th May 2006.

Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Interviews on Sunday 14 May

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

On Politics Show, Sunday 14 May 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed:

Sir Menzies Campbell MP
Sir Menzies Campbell MP

Jon Sopel interviewed Sir Menzies Campbell MP

JON SOPEL: And I'm joined now by Sir Menzies Campbell, Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Sir Menzies Campbell, are you surprised by our poll finding that a majority believe it would be wrong to have an MP from Scotland as Prime Minister?

MENZIES CAMPBELL: I think that poll reflects the sense that perhaps we saw to some extent in the film. People in England, particularly are now feeling that they don't have the same kind of political levers which are available here in Scotland. I recognize that.

I think there's there is an important point to be made about the relationship between Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff, and that's why I've been arguing for a Constitutional Convention so we can give 21st Britain a constitution which reflects the 21st Century and not the 19th.

JON SOPEL: With an English parliament?

MENZIES CAMPBELL: I don't believe there is any enthusiasm for an English parliament, separate and distinct, another layer of government. I can see some of the people we heard in the film complaining very strongly about that but I think we can accommodate it within Westminster to ensure that the nature of the relationship between the capitals of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland doesn't have a disproportionate effect on the decisions made at Westminster.

JON SOPEL: But do you find it acceptable for example to have, you know, I don't know, Scottish Labour MPs pushing through legislation that is not going to effect their constituencies: foundation hospitals, top-up fees, whatever?

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well, it's part of the present constitutional arrangement. That's why I want to change the present constitutional settlement, better to reflect the sort of anomalies that you described and can I just make the point which I think is important, people sometimes say well, we could begin by forbidding Scottish MPs to vote on English matters in the House of Commons. Constitutions are a bit like brick wall. If you start taking one brick out, if you're not careful the whole wall will come down. That's why you have to do it on a comprehensive basis.

JON SOPEL: Menzies Campbell, I'm sure you've been aware of the, maybe uncomfortably aware of the comments made by your contender for the leadership, Simon Hughes this weekend, criticizing, well seeming to criticize your leadership. Are you finding being leader more difficult than you thought it would be?

MENZIES CAMBPELL: Well let it be clear. Leadership is a challenge and it's a variety of challenges, including Prime Minister's questions but if you'll forgive my immodestly, I didn't become an Olympic athlete or a practicing QC, or win a seat from fourth place that hadn't been Liberal for fifty years, without being able to meet challenges and I'm perfectly confident in my ability to meet all of the challenges of leadership. And on the question of time limits or anything of that kind, I have set no time limits for myself, so far as leadership is concerned and no one else should do so either.

JON SOPEL: But would you accept, I mean is it right for example, that you apologized to your ...


JON SOPEL: You didn't?

MENZIES CAMPBELL: No, you mustn't - you, if I may say so, someone like you should not believe everything you read in the newspapers.

JON SOPEL: I didn't, I heard, I heard one of your front bench spokesmen saying that he'd come and said you know, that - to the parliamentary party meeting that he did apologize for ...

MENZIES CAMPBELL: We have, we had a discussion, I raised the topic myself. We had a well manner, good tempered discussion about how the issue was to be handled and at the end of it I got the traditional House of Commons round of applause, with people thumping on their desk, by way of approval.

JON SOPEL: But do you accept though that you do have to do something to sort of, ratchet up the performance? If you look at the local Council elections, your share of the vote was down from 29% to 27%.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: No, but wait a minute, but wait a minute, listen. If we'd been having this meeting and this discussion in January and I'd said to you, in the middle of all the turbulence, we'll get 27% of the popular vote, we'll hold pretty well all our councils and pretty well all our councillors, you'd have looked to me with some scepticism.

Did I want more? Of course, well all leaders always want more. But what we did was we consolidated, based too upon our tremendous result in the Dunfermline & West Fife by-election. We got a platform from which we can go forward with confidence and in my view with success too.

JON SOPEL: But don't you accept that there is a problem that at a time when the government seem to be in total disarray, that all the additional votes went from Labour to the Conservatives? They didn't stop at the Liberal Democrats as has been traditional.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well, if I may say so you're discounting the difficulties we were going through earlier in the year. I think frankly, in all the circumstances, it was a perfectly reasonable result. Would I have wanted better - of course I would have wanted better. And let me just give you some illustrations from that.

JON SOPEL: Just very briefly.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well I was going to say, 18 seats off Labour in Brent. Eighteen seats off the Conservatives in Richmond. We can take seats from Conservative and Labour, all throughout the country.

JON SOPEL: I just want to ask you a quick question, leading our news about Tony Blair having signed this petition supporting medical research on animal testing. Do you welcome that?

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well it's, I mean I think Mr Blair is torn now between the uncertainty of when he's going and a determination of trying to make his mark. That's why I think it's time this uncertainty was brought to an end and we were told precisely what the date is, not least in the interests of the Cabinet Ministers, sitting round the Cabinet table who don't know now if they're going to be legislating for Blair or legislating for Brown.

JON SOPEL: Well do you - hang on just ... answer to the question. I mean it was a good political answer.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well if I may say so, you're not surprised by that either.

JON SOPEL: Well no, okay but I think viewers would like an answer. Do you support him signing a petition supporting testing for medical purposes on animals?

MENZIES CAMPBELL: I support properly regulated testing of animals for medical purposes, so long as every effort is made to minimize cruelty and so long as these are fully regulated by the, rather over worked Home Office.

JON SOPEL: And a very quick final question. You said you'd want Tony Blair to name the day - how are your talks going with Gordon Brown?

MENZIES CAMPBELL: I haven't met him on the shuttle for a while but when we do we talk about football, we talk about Scotland, we talk about families. Gordon Brown and I have been friends, as have pretty well most people in the Scottish political village, we get on very well together.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Sir Menzies Campbell, for the moment, thank you very much. We'll be coming back to you.

On future of nuclear power in Scotland:

JON SOPEL: Menzies Campbell, are there any circumstances in which the Liberal Democrats would support the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations?

SIR MENZIES CAMPBELL: I can't envisage them. Fifty six billion pounds in order to clean up the results of the existing regime of nuclear power stations. A lot of uncertainty about how you deal with the waste, as I think Jack McConnell fairly reflected in his answer to you a moment or two ago. And of course the other point about this - there seems to be a suggestion that somehow a new generation of power stations will solve all the problems of CO2 emissions.

The difficulty is it may be years perhaps before a new generation came on stream at all. Meanwhile the problems of Co2 emission, climate change, are much more acute and the fundamental point too is this that if you do determine to put all that money in to a new generation of nuclear power stations, then investment in wave and wind and tidal will undoubtedly be affected. You are cutting off your opportunity to find an alternative sources of energy.

JON SOPEL: Okay, so you're not keeping the option open, but do you think it is right that the Scottish parliament should be able to block the settled will of the sovereign UK government?

SIR MENZIES CAMPBELL: Because the Scottish parliament has planning powers as Jack McConnell again quite rightly pointed out and these planning powers require Ministers, no doubt after a public enquiry to take account of issues like amenity, waste disposal, the long term consequences. And these were the powers which were given to the Scottish Parliament by the Constitutional Settlement we talked about before. There's nothing illegitimate about them acting in that way

JON SOPEL: Okay, Sir Menzies Campbell and Jack McConnell, both of you, thank you very much for being with us here on the Politics Show.

End of interview

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

Jack McConnell MSP
Jack McConnell MSP

Jon Sopel interviewed Jack McConnell MSP

JON SOPEL: I'm also joined here in Edinburgh by Jack McConnell, first minister of Scotland. Welcome to the politics show.

JACK McCONNELL: Well, welcome to Edinburgh.

JON SOPEL: Oh well it's very nice to be here. I just wondered whether you've been holding any talks with Gordon Brown.

JACK McCONNELL: Yeah, I've talked to Gordon Brown, talked to other cabinet ministers on a regular basis. I think that one of the great strengths of devolution has been the partnership between Edinburgh and London and the fact that we've managed to share objections and I think have a liaison that has contradicted some of the predictions in advance, that we wouldn't work well together.

JON SOPEL: Do you think Gordon Brown will be Prime Minister by next year's elections for the Scottish Parliament?

JACK McCONNELL: I think that's unpredictable if I may say so. But I think that what's important is that we in Scotland stand in that election on our record and also what we're offering people in Scotland for the four years that follow; so, we will continue to have a good relationship with colleagues in Whitehall, both Gordon Brown and Tony Blair and the other cabinet members too. But we will also, I think have an absolute duty to put in front of people in Scotland, our record and our offer for the future, in a way that makes this election about the Scottish parliament and not necessarily about events elsewhere.

JON SOPEL: Okay, there is a lot - of course that is unpredictable. Do you think, this is a straight question, is Tony Blair still an electoral asset?

JACK McCONNELL: Well I don't think anybody can describe someone who's won three General Elections and been more successful than any Labour leader in history, as anything other than an electoral asset. He's an electoral asset but so is Gordon Brown, particularly here in Scotland and so is John Reid and so are other cabinet members. So they will all be involved I'm sure, very supportive of us.

JON SOPEL: Your deputy was on the Politics Show up here in Scotland last week and was pressed four times to say whether she thought that Tony Blair was an electoral asset and wouldn't say so.

JACK McCONNELL: I think she was putting forward a very clear message last Sunday. Particularly in the light of everything that was going on elsewhere that we want the Scottish Election next year to be about the fact that since devolution, unemployment in Scotland has come down, employment has gone up, crime has come down, the clear up rate for crime has gone up.

The educational standards and results are improving and the Health waiting times are coming down. That's about the impact of devolution and debates that take place about personalities elsewhere will have an impact on that but they shouldn't dominate the Scottish election.

JON SOPEL: Well we know that Tony Blair is going to go at some point. Just on this, will you be campaigning for Gordon Brown as the next Prime Minister to take over the Leadership of the Labour Party.

JACK McCONNELL: Let's leave that until it happens. If Gordon Brown becomes the next Prime Minister, he will be an outstanding Prime Minister. He's been an outstanding Chancellor, and I've got no doubt that he would be one of the great holders of that office, if he succeeds Tony Blair.

JON SOPEL: That is not quite the question that I asked. I asked would you be campaigning for him to take over the Leadership.

JACK McCONNELL: Well let's look at that when it happens. My point is that if he does take over from Tony Blair, he will be an outstanding Prime Minister.

JON SOPEL: Tony Blair has given an interview to Progress Magazine and he's said, ' we've got to re-build our New Labour Support, we've got to make sure we don't lose the people who have come to us as New Labour and I think that's particularly true on issues such as law and order and public service reform. It doesn't sound like Tony Blair wants to sort of slacken off the pace on the accelerator.

JACK McCONNELL: It certainly doesn't and we wouldn't expect it to, would we. He's you know, he's been a leader who has transformed the party, transformed the country, he's clearly got lots of energy left and you know, we have a good working relationship with him and he gives us a lot of support when he's using up that energy.

But he also recognizes that here in Scotland, devolution was about making decisions in Scotland on Scottish affairs, and that those decisions made in Scotland have made a huge difference to the lives of people in Scotland. You're sitting here, you know in one of the most successful prosperous cities in Europe at the moment and that I think has been partly because of the release of energy and the policies that have been followed through devolution and you know, I think Tony Blair supports us in achieving that and I'm sure that he will support us in the elections next year, whether or not he's still Prime Minister, he will still be out there batting for us.

JON SOPEL: In the film that we just had a few moments ago from Max Cotton, we heard there about the additional funding that comes to Scotland from the UK tax payers. Is that any longer justifiable.

JACK McCONNELL: Well I think there are lots of good reasons for that historically; partly Scotland's geography, partly elements of need within the Scottish population. I think the real thing about the Barnett Formula, has been that's it's provided stability - it provided stability for example through the Thatcher years when the tension between Scotland and the rest of the UK was significant.

JON SOPEL: You said historically but today, today is it justified.

JACK McCONNELL: Yeah, well I think it's important to retain a formula for the moment, until someone comes up with something better and there have been no suggestions that there is a better formula available. That formula allows for stability inside the UK but it also puts a duty and a responsibility on us in Scotland to spend the money wisely and to make the difference and I think that's what we've done through devolution and through the actions we've taken in the parliament.

JON SOPEL: And just on our poll. Does it surprise you that with a Scottish parliament, do you understand the frustration of English voters that things like top up fees, foundation hospitals get voted through by Labour MPs often against the will of English MPs.

JACK McCONNELL: Well most of the decisions made at Westminster have some impact on Scotland and I think it would be wrong to create different classes of .. (overlaps)

JON SOPEL: Top up fees, foundation hospitals.

JACK McCONNELL: I think well they even have financial implications. I think the, it would be wrong to create two classes of MP at Westminster. I think there will continue to be a debate about this at Westminster. The thing that surprised me about your poll was the fact that the Don't Knowers were only 3%. Clearly people have got an opinion about this. That's maybe healthy for political debate and political interest, although when it comes to a General Election people will vote on the policies that the individuals stand for, rather than nationality.

JON SOPEL: Okay Jack McConnell stay with us because we'll be coming back to you shortly.

On future of nuclear energy in Scotland:

JON SOPEL: Jack McConnell, first of all, providing you can get the suitable assurances¿ of waste and all the rest of it, would you support the building of a new generation of generation of nuclear power stations here in Scotland.

JACK McCONNELL: Well can I correct two things, first of all from the introduction, first is that we don't just have planning powers in Scotland, any new generating station in Scotland, nuclear or otherwise, has to get the permission of Scottish Ministers, in our devolved government before it can go ahead. So we have regulatory powers as well as well as planning powers.

And secondly, our devolved government is not bitterly divided. I think there is clearly a ... (interjection) ... different position in the Liberal Democrat conference, but I think in the devolved government in Scotland, we've had a very consistent position. Which is that we will not consider new nuclear power stations in Scotland until the issues of the management and the storage of nuclear waste are resolved, and that has been I think a, a principled position, one that is absolutely measured and justified and we will stick with it.

JON SOPEL: Isn't that just a way of kicking it in to the long grass because I mean, you know, the questions of disposal of nuclear waste, are pretty well ventilated. It's pretty clear what needs to happen to it.

JACK McCONNELL: Well it's not really because the government's committee that we were involved in establishing with the UK government and the other devolved administrations is still putting together its final report on the management of nuclear waste, and until we have seen that, debated that properly, considered the options, it would be wrong of us, in my view, not just in the view of some backbench MSPs but in my view it would be wrong for us to agree to a new nuclear power station, and I stand very firmly by that position.

JON SOPEL: So it's not ruled out then.

JACK McCONNELL: Well I don't think, I don't think we should rule it out in the long term because nuclear currently in Scotland, for example generates just over a third of Scotland's energy resource and therefore we need to ensure that we take a balanced approach to this, and I think that is a better approach than a dogmatic one, that rules it out entirely, but we will not go ahead with new nuclear power stations until we're satisfied that the waste can be managed safely.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Jack McConnell, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

Alex Salmond MP
Alex Salmond MP

Interview with Alex Salmond MP

JON SOPEL: And I'm joined now from Aberdeen by the SNP Leader, Alex Salmond.

Alex Salmond, a very warm welcome to the Politics Show.

ALEX SALMOND: Thank you very much Jon.

JON SOPEL: You said recently that it was time for the SNP to appeal to the head as well as the heart. Does that mean sort of Brave Heart romanticism has had its time.

ALEX SALMOND: Well can I firstly just up-date you. We've had our by-election in Scotland two weeks ago, where the SNP turned out a sensational result in Murray, which if repeated across Scotland, would see us easily winning the election, as the largest party.

Now I accept the Scottish elections are not now this week, but next year, but none the less that's the current situation in Scotland, rather than the dated one which you gave. In terms of head and heart, yes I've always believed that we should combine an improved economic performance in Scotland and appeal to the Scottish head with the belief of course, the fundamental belief that Scotland is a nation, an equal nation and should be an independent and equal nation.

JON SOPEL: Do you believe that it's, I mean you've talked about getting away from your status high spending past. Tax cuts, rigorous public accounting, all those things you've said are on the menu. It sounds very New Labour.

ALEX SALMOND: Well what it is very competitive and the economic policy let Scotland flourish, that we've published, is really real economic policy for Scotland and we get the Scottish growth rate from where it's been languishing under New Labour, of under 2% up to a more satisfactory European performance of 4% or above.

I mean off our West Coast and off our East Coast, there are independent countries and Ireland and Norway which have hugely and substantially better economic records in Scotland and we want to emulate them.

And incidentally Jon, I mean I know this idea that England subsidized Scotland is bred in to BBC London journalists with your mother's milk, but it ain't true. I mean this year, there's a subsidy of £3bn, if you include both spending and resources like oil, from North to South, to Scotland to England.

Now I don't want England to subsidize Scotland or Scotland to subsidize England, I want both countries to run economies and run their politics as equal partners within a wider Europe. Now what could be fairer than that.

JON SOPEL: Well hang on, but just on the spending formula. Do you know accept that Scotland gets a lot more than England.

ALEX SALMOND: No what I, what I - if you take the balance of both revenue and spending, that includes Scottish resources, and Scottish resources are rather important. I mean the whole UK Exchequer is being underpinned by massive and record levels of oil revenues this year.

If you take the balance of revenue and expenditure and there's a surplus this year of three billion pounds, in Scotland at the present moment, compared to a deficit of forty billion pounds in Gordon Brown's accounts at Westminster. In other words, this year the subsidy, if you want to talk about it in these terms, is running from north to south, from Scotland to London.

JON SOPEL: You're appealing to be a modern go-ahead party, but you're in a grouping which takes in the Scottish Socialists, the Scottish Green Party. I mean does that help you reach out to a wider electorate.

ALEX SALMOND: Well we're in a coalition. I mean there are a number of parties who believe in Scottish independence. More importantly the latest poll shows that a majority of the Scottish population would vote for independence and incidentally, our success at the present moment is not just to do with Tony Blair's unpopularity.

I mean this poll with only 37% want him as Prime Minister, there's only 28% of people in Scotland want Mr McConnell as First Minister. He even got booed at the Scottish Cup Final, presenting the cup yesterday, which is some achievement. So perhaps Mr Blair should be distancing himself from Mr McConnell, not vice versa.

JON SOPEL: You're giving up your Westminster career to concentrate on Scottish politics and leading the SNP there. What's the best game plan for you, is it to become sort of Deputy to the Liberal Democrats, .. Steven, in the Scottish Parliament.

ALEX SALMOND: Well the SNP are fair more powerful party than the Liberals in Scotland and on current trends, we'd become the largest party of Scotland. I'm not taking anything for granted. But the best thing to do of course is to win the elections. I mean the Liberals have this incredible habit of coalition building, when they should be trying to win votes.

I mean in all the votes cast in Scotland over the last year, it's the SNP who are ahead of the Labour Party. We're looking for government, we're aiming for government. But we're not going to take the electorate for granted and we won't be building coalitions until we win the election.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Alex Salmond, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

End of interview

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

Let us know what you think.

The next Politics Show will be on Sunday 14 May 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.

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