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BBC Onepolitics show


Last Updated: Sunday, 29 April 2007, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Salmond: I could work with Brown
Alex Salmond
There's a whole range of issues where co-operation would be the best way forward
Alex Salmond
Speaking on BBC One's Politics Show, the leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond said he was confident he could work with Gordon Brown if and when he became Prime Minister.

He said: "...if Gordon becomes the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and I become the First Minister of Scotland, if that's what the people judge in Scotland, then I'll be anxious to co-operate where we can because I think there's a whole range of issues where co-operation would be the best way forward. Where we can establish good things for the people of Scotland."

On the same programme, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Nicol Stephen, left the door ajar to talks with the Scottish Nationalists.

Asked if Lib Dem opposition to a referendum on independence was likely to be a deal-breaker, he said: "Well, let's see what the result is on the 03 May."

Nicol Stephen
If the SNP insist on pushing ahead with their plans for independence, their plans for a referendum, the Liberal Democrats will say 'no'
Nicol Stephen

Nicol Stephen went on to say: "The Liberal Democrats are opposed to independence.

"We want to see more powers for the Scottish parliament, but we've never been a party that supports independence and we wouldn't support a referendum on independence.

"I can't think of any political party, any government that has ever supported a referendum on an issue it doesn't believe in.

"But if the SNP insist on pushing ahead with their plans for independence, their plans for a referendum, the Liberal Democrats will say 'no'."

In his interview Alex Salmond picked up this remark as indicating there was scope for agreement:

Salmond said: "What I've also said, in attempt to be flexible, is if another issue comes forward┐ comes forward for substantive change or improvement in the government of Scotland and if that is properly articulated and also spelt out to people, then conceivably that could be on the ballot paper as well, in a multi option referendum.

"So while my preference is to have a straight question, I approve or I disapprove, it's also possible and it's been done elsewhere in the world, actually by the British government once, it's also possible to have three options in the ballot paper."

Sir Menzies Campbell: Brown is unable to go to the country

Sir Menzies Campbell
If he's [Gordon Brown] trying to suggest he's got something different to offer, then we set out five tests that he would have to satisfy before he would satisfy us that he had changed
Sir Menzies Campbell

Speaking on the same programme, the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, predicted that Gordon Brown will face calls to hold a snap election if he takes over from Tony Blair.

But he told the Politics Show that Labour was not in a good position to fight an election.

He said: "I think there will be a question about mandates. I don't think Mr Brown is in a position to go to the country.

"First of all, Labour has no money, and secondly the opinion polls are very damaging to him."

Interview transcripts...

Alex Salmond MP, Leader, Scottish National Party (SNP)

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now by Alex Salmond. Welcome to the Politics Show. Is a vote on Thursday for the SNP a vote for independence?

ALEX SALMOND: Well a vote for the SNP on Thursday and an increasing number of Scots are, are choosing to go in that direction, is a vote for a new government in Scotland, a vote to improve health, education, the economy in particular, over the next four years. And it's also a vote to, to empower people in Scotland to have the opportunity to vote for independence in a referendum, with a target date of 2010 and that issue of empowerment, about people deciding to vote for their own future, taking their own future in to their own hands, is hugely popular and it's one of the golden threads running through the, the campaign in Scotland.

JON SOPEL: You see, because when you think of the SNP you think of independence for Scotland and yet on the ballot paper, when presumably you could have said vote SNP for an independent Scotland, you say, vote SNP, Alex Salmond for First Minister.

ALEX SALMOND: Well that's only the first vote in the ballot paper. I won't go, I wouldn't explain the full extent of the system in Scotland but you have two vote in one ballot paper, and then you have a second ballot paper for the Council Elections. And it's very important to get the message across that that first vote is going to determine effectively, called the List Vote, who becomes the, the next First Minister of Scotland and the second vote on the same ballot paper is about your constituency representative. So to have a clearly articulated message about who's going to become First Minister, is something of an asset for us in the campaign. It was up to the other parties to do that if they chose to, they didn't, we did.

JON SOPEL: It makes some people suggest though, that maybe this is just about a change of face for who's running the Holyrood Parliament.

ALEX SALMOND: I think who becomes either First Minister of Scotland or for that matter, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is a matter of considerable importance when people vote in an election campaign. It's not the only thing that matters, of course, it's not.

The issues are hugely important and this idea of empowerment, of the people of Scotland deciding for ourselves, our own future, is important as well. But it is one of the issues that people consider when they come to vote on a ballot paper, especially when the, the regional list vote gives them exactly that opportunity to make that choice.

JON SOPEL: Let's assume you become the largest party after the elections and the polls are very good for you. What would be the question that you would eventually pose in that 2010 referendum. Is it simply, Scotland independent, yes or no, or would it be a multiple choice, Scotland independent, Scotland with more devolved powers, Scotland staying as it is.

ALEX SALMOND: Well my preference, my strong preference, is to do what we set out in our paper, raising the standard. Where we publish a White Paper, which explains the importance of being independent within an interdependent world, within a European context and great detail, and ask people whether they approve or disapprove of that concept. That's after all, roughly what we did in the devolution referendum, which was highly successful in 1997.

What I've also said, in attempt to be flexible is if another issue comes forward, if the - the sort of Henry McLeish position that we heard articulated a few minutes ago, comes forward for substantive change or improvement in the government of Scotland and if that is properly articulated and also spelt out to people, then conceivably that could be on the ballot paper as well, in a multi option referendum. So while my preference is to have a straight question, I approve or I disapprove, it's also possible and it's been done elsewhere in the world, actually by the British government once, er it's also possible to have three options in the ballot paper.

JON SOPEL: Do you think you'll get Liberal Democrat agreement to that if you become the biggest party and you need a coalition partner.

ALEX SALMOND: Well a couple of weeks ago, the former Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jim Wallace, actually seemed to suggest that in a newspaper article and I was very interested in that suggestion. But I think Nicol Stephen answer was interesting... in the programme when he was asked is that a deal breaker, and they said, well let's see what the results are.

And I think that's actually sensible advice because the conversation that politicians should have at the present moment is with the people, a conversation with the people to persuade people that the arguments you're putting forward, not just on the constitution, but on health and education, public services like the fire service, are really important to progress the position of Scotland and let's have that conversation with the people and what politicians should do of course is not just pay attention to the result but accept the result after the votes are counted from the ballot boxes.

JON SOPEL: Well in a few weeks time, probably without much conversation with the people, it would seem that Gordon Brown is certain to become Prime Minister. Do you believe that there is an issue in having a Scottish Prime Minister representing a Scottish constituency, where his constituents by and large won't be affect by the Queen's Speech that he'll be introducing.

ALEX SALMOND: Not under the current constitutional arrangements. I don't think that's an issue. What I think is an issue is the ranks of Labour MPs from Scotland being dragooned in to forcing through unpopular legislation - top up fees for students or on foundation hospitals or more recently on the English probation service.

I don't understand why the Labour party insists on not allowing people in England to govern themselves in their own domestic affairs, I mean I'm a strong supporter of English self government and I believe people in England are perfectly competent and able to, to judge these things for themselves; so it's not an issue whether Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister but I think the Labour Party are making a huge mistake in enforcing down unpopular policies against what seems to be the expressed will of the English people.

JON SOPEL: Just a quick final thought on Gordon Brown. I saw a senior aide of yours quoted in the papers last week saying that Alex has no time for Tony Blair and regards him as a fake. But he has a mutual regard and respect for Gordon Brown. Although they disagree on some issues, such as Iraq and Trident, Alex is keen to work with him.

ALEX SALMOND: Well, I'd certainly agree with the second part of that. I mean I think famously the Prime Minister and I are not over-fond of each other and that's not incidentally because of personalities, it's because I don't believe that Prime Ministers should lie about the reasons for fighting a war. I think that's totally unacceptable, beyond the pale in politics and I think Mr Blair will be haunted by that decision for not just the rest of his political life, but to his dying day.

Gordon Brown, it could be argued of course, he financed the war, he's done many other things, particularly his pursuit of new nuclear weapons, dumped in Scotland which I strongly disagree with, but if Gordon becomes the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and I become the First Minister of Scotland, if that's what the people judge in Scotland, then I'll be anxious to co-operate where we can because I think there's a whole range of issues where co-operation would be the best way forward. Where we can establish good things for the people of Scotland.

JON SOPEL: Alex Salmond, thank you very much indeed for being with us.


Interview with: Sir Menzies Campbell, MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

JON SOPEL: I wanted to pick up on some of the things that Alex Salmond was saying there. Are you really going to block the people having a say on whether they want a referendum or not.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well let's be clear, it's presumptuous of politicians to anticipate the results of elections and of course the issues which affect the lives of people in Scotland are Health and Education and the Environment but Nicol Stephen has made it perfectly clear... we do not believe in independence, we would not support a referendum on independence and we don't believe that it's in the interests of Scotland to spend the next three or four years, engaged in constitutional disruption, because one thing is certain, that if Alex Salmond were to be the First Minister, all that talk of sweetness and light with Gordon Brown, everything he would try to do would be designed to advance the cause of independence, against the referendum he was going to hold.

JON SOPEL: So if the SNP come out as the biggest party, do you rule out a deal, I mean would a referendum be the deal breaking issue.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well let's be clear about this. We have not only institutional devolution in party but political devolution and it will be for Nicol Stephen and the other Liberal Democrat MSPs to decide what arrangement, if any they think is the right to enter in to. You can be certain that they will approach that on the basis of what is best for the interests of the people of Scotland.

JON SOPEL: But you're the party that believes in democracy and letting people have a say and here you are, sitting here with me saying, well we're not going to let them have a referendum.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: They can have, well if they can get legislation through the parliament, they're going to have a referendum but if they can't they're not, they can't look to us to give them support in order to embark upon a course of action, which we oppose.

I have - there some interesting parallels here, for example, Quebec has been stymied for twenty years because of this obsession with a referendum and with independence. Just think what those three and a half or four years would be like.

JON SOPEL: Very briefly, just on the prospect of Labour losing, ceasing to be the biggest single party in Scotland, do you rule out doing any kind of deal to prop them up as an administration.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well Nicol Stephen made it clear again this week, that it may well be that if Labour fails to hold its position as the largest party, that it would not be possible for the Liberal Democrats to enter in to some agreement with them, and as a consequence, he opened up a possibility that we would simply sit in opposition.

But the important thing to remember is that you and I can talk about all of this today, it's the people who vote on Thursday, who will determine the circumstances in which these questions are answered.

JON SOPEL: And we'll be returning to that very shortly about the rest of the United Kingdom and prospects for the Liberal Democrats.



JON SOPEL: Sir Menzies Campbell is still with me here in Edinburgh. Menzies Campbell, how do we judge success for the Liberal Democrats in these elections on Thursday.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: We judge success by ensuring that we put our policies forward, that we ensure that principle and not fashion is what directs politics in this country, and if that's an implied way of asking me for a prediction, you know very well from the previous occasions we've discussed these matters, I never make predictions.

These are tough elections as Don Foster has just indicated. But more to the point is the fact that we are the only party fighting nationally. In the North, where the Conservatives have disappeared, then we're taking on Labour and in the South, where Labour is non-existent, we're taking on the Conservatives.

JON SOPEL: I'm not going to ask you for precise numbers of seats gained or whatever, but presumably you have to be moving in that direction. There have to be gains for a political party to be able to say at the end of that election, yeah, we've made good progress. MENZIES CAMPBELL: These are tough elections for us. (interjection) ┐ these are tough elections. I don't deny that for a moment. But of course, there are elections in Wales and elections in Scotland as well.

And I'm perfectly clear in my mind that what we should now be focusing upon after Thursday, is the next General Election and that's what I've been about in my time as Leader, making sure that we are writing of Manifesto, that we are adopting our candidates and that these arrangements for the next General Election campaign are in place.

JON SOPEL: You're down-playing expectation I think it's fair to say though, by saying keep - you've kept stressing how difficult these elections... (interjection)

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well, but, but I never over-play it either. I mean if I would say so, I'm quite consistent on this. I never make extravagant claims one way or another.

JON SOPEL: Are you feeling the squeeze from David Cameron's Conservative Party, in places like Bath and in other areas of the South West, where you have been dominant.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: No, I think the old division between left and right in this country is less applicable than it has ever been and what we now have is a division between authoritarian and liberal, and the truth is, we are the real Liberals.

Take the issue of the environment for example, the candidate gave it away, he said we've made some progress on environmental issues, and then he said, but we haven't had any specifics. So what would the Conservatives do about aviation, what would they do about vehicle excise duty. None of that is part of what Mr Cameron is offering.

There's an old American expression with which I'm sure you're familiar, where is the beef. You can have warm words about the environment but unless you're willing to take the kind of tough choices which are necessary, then you will not be able to affect climate change.

JON SOPEL: Well I guess, if David Cameron was sitting here to answer the question, where's the beef, he'd say well, look at this latest analysis we've had from Newsnight, Local Election Polls, which show the Conservatives up on 38%, enough to get a majority in parliament. The Lib Dems on 29, Labour on 24. His message, whether you like it or not seems to be getting through.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well the other message of that of course is that we would be ahead in the popular vote against this Labour government. Look, we know that local elections are often fought on entirely local issues.

The Spar for example, in Bath, is obviously one of those issues, although it's interesting that it's now extremely successful and it's put Bath, if it needed it, back on the map internationally. A lot of local results depend upon local issues. What I'm determined to ensure is that we make sure that our principles outweigh the fashionable nature of politics, which other parties want to adopt.

JON SOPEL: Yes, what is this principle, not fashion message.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well, if you take Mr Cameron for example, he's reinventing his party and what do we know... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: But isn't that a good, it's that the work of a good politician.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Yes, but I mean by abandoning all those things which they apparently stood for in the past, to the extent that a third of his own membership is discontented with the way in which he's behaving and so far as Labour is concerned, after a first term in office, in which generally speaking, they did quite well, more recently, they have behaved in a way which has been deeply damaging to Britain's interests.

Like for example, there's a Select Committee Report coming out which says the decision to discontinue the investigation in to the allegations of corruption involving BAE be deeply damaging to Britain's reputation. We've had the worse month, we've had the worse month in Iraq since the end of the military action. That's all down to Labour.

JON SOPEL: Okay, you talk about the policies that David Cameron has binned. I mean you've binned your policy on the 50p tax rate for those earning over a hundred thousand. Presumably because it wasn't very fashionable. Your plans for a local income tax would seem to be suspended. Presumably because they weren't very fashionable.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: No. Our policy on local income tax remains, both north and south of the border. And on taxation, if you remember, we've produced a detailed set of proposals, the purpose of which was to take taxation away from income and to put it on to pollution. Why, because the issue of climate change is the single most urgent political issue of our time.

JON SOPEL: You talked about your main objective was to focus on the next General Election. You made a speech a little while back where you talked about the five challenges for a Gordon Brown administration. Everyone interpreted that as being, this is what we would want, if we were to go and form a coalition with you.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: No, what I was saying was, if Gordon Brown is coming in to offer an alternative agenda to the agenda that Mr Blair has followed, and of course, of which he's been part because this has been a Blair Brown government, no Chancellor of the Exchequer has ever had the kind of influence over domestic policy that Gordon Brown has.

If he's trying to suggest he's got something different to offer, then we set out five tests that he would have to satisfy before he would satisfy us that he had changed.

JON SOPEL: But don't you think that it is perfectly possible that we may have a hung parliament after the next election and that you may have to deal with Gordon Brown.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well I make it clear, clear - we're in favour of maximum votes, maximum seats and maximum influence. We're an independent party and I'm not going to allow my party to be distracted by talk of coalition. We don't have... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: It's a real question.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: We don't have a proportional system at Westminster, we do have here in Scotland and that's why the kind of Conservation that we've had already in this programme is perfectly legitimate, but I'm going out to make sure that after the next General Election, we have the maximum presence in Westminster.

JON SOPEL: Could you therefore support a Gordon Brown administration, just on the simple point that if Labour have lost their majority, won't they be seen to have lost the election.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: What I am not going to do, either with you or with anyone else to get embroiled in discussions on the basis of what if. I want my party to concentrate on its values. I want it to concentrate on substance and not symbolism, because I think the public is fed up with spin. It's had a belly full of spin under this government. You've got Mr Cameron who as it were, wants to emulate Mr Blair at a time when Blairism is going very substantially out of fashion.

JON SOPEL: And do you believe that the handover - we'll see a smooth transition and the British people will accept this swift transition, very briefly.

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well, I think there will be a question about mandates. I don't think Mr Brown's in a position to go to the country. First of all, Labour has no money and second, the opinion polls are very damaging to them.

JON SOPEL: Sir Menzies Campbell, thank you very much.


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.

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Sir Menzies Campbell - Politics Show interview


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