On the Politics Show, Sunday 30 September 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland
JON SOPEL: Well I spoke earlier to the Leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond, and started by asking him, how closely he was watching the situation in Belgium.
ALEX SALMOND: Well we take a great interest. I mean I've been to Brussels and indeed to Flanders, twice since the Scottish election in May, and these were on duties representing Scotland and commemorating the Battle of Passchendaele But we take a great interest in what's happening in Belgium, as I do of course with what's happening in other European countries.
JON SOPEL: Do you think it could be a model if the two parts were to split, that this could be a model for what could happen to Scotland.
ALEX SALMOND: Well I mean it should be said that taking time to form a Belgium government is not unusual, I mean this is the fourth time in the current constitution, over the last thirty, forty years or so, that it's taken this amount of time to form a government.
But I think that the key point, looking at your film, is that whatever happens to the future of Belgium and that's a matter for the communities of Belgium, whatever happens it will be within the context of the broader European Union. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that the Flemish or the Walloonians or the people in Brussels would ever be outside the context of the European Union. So the key point is the future of Belgium, the future of the communities of Belgium, will be determined by them, as part of the wider Europe.
JON SOPEL: But it's automatic that they'd be allowed to stay in the European Union.
ALEX SALMOND: (laughs) Well actually, nobody I think would, in their right mind would suggest that Brussels, the centre of European institutions, would ever conceivably be in a position to be outside the European Union. Now in terms of the case of Scotland of course, which is of some interest to us, there are certain differences. I mean Scotland is part of a country by an international treaty, the Treaty of 1707.
If that Treaty was dissolved then the two parts, the two succeeding states, would have the same rights with regard to each other and indeed with the rest of Europe. They would inherit the Treaty obligations that the United Kingdom signed in our name. So we'd have to negotiate representation, that would do so from within the context of the European Union.
JON SOPEL: But you heard Jean-Luc Dehaene there, a grand old man of European politics and Belgium himself, issuing a warning shot saying, it's not just going to be that easy. We don't want to encourage nationalist groups to go their own way.
ALEX SALMOND: Yes, and we've heard, the people over the years have looked at this right the Secretary General of the European Commission, Emile Noel, twenty five years who said look, Scotland is part of the European Union, that would be the context. This year Eamonn Gallagher a former Director General of the European Commission, looking at the Scottish case and of course Scotland would be part of Europe, and nobody seriously believes that whatever the future of the communities of Belgium, that they would ever be out with the European Union and so it would be for Scotland. And incidentally, whatever happened, the case of Scotland would be identical to the case of the rest of the UK, so you know, if anybody in the BBC wants to suggest that Scotland would be shoved outside Europe, then I'm afraid, England would be shoved outside as well. Neither of these things are going to happen.
JON SOPEL: Okay, Mr Salmond, I wonder if I could just come back to constitutional arrangements closer to home. Are you ready for a snap election.
ALEX SALMOND: Oh yes, and you know, as the Prime Minister I'm sure is pondering, only the national interest this week - well as he looks at the Labour Party interest I think it might well be in the Scottish interest to have an early election, because we'd do extremely well, that would strengthen the hand of Scotland and of course, strengthen the hand of a very popular Scottish government at the present moment. So yeah, I'd like an early election and I think like all politicians, even Gordon Brown, we tend to look at party interest as well as the national interest.
JON SOPEL: Yeah, but you're not going to make big gains in the same way that you did in the parliamentary elections a few months ago, because Labour have got big, big majorities there.
ALEX SALMOND: Yeah, but we'll make substantial gains on the popular vote and we'd gain in seats and of course, I think the proof of the pudding was this week, while the rest of the Labour Party are baying for an election south of the border, that the Scottish Labour MPs were two to one against an election. They don't want to be turkeys voting for Christmas. So the SNP would do extremely well, because there's a mood of confidence and optimism in Scotland and we don't want London holding us back.
JON SOPEL: Do you think Gordon Brown is happy with the way this is going in terms of such speculation about the date of the election.
ALEX SALMOND: I suspect not. I mean I think this whole election thing started as a bit of a wheeze, you know to discomfort the Conservatives. Of course it succeeded in doing that. But I think it's got a bit out of control. I think he might well be in the position of being hoist on his own petard, because once you start these things running, they're ticklish difficult to stop, and I think the momentum towards an election, could now be virtually unstoppable, so it may be that the Prime Minister ends up his own flagpole.
JON SOPEL: Alex Salmond, thank you very much.
ALEX SALMOND: Great pleasure.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH ALEX SALMOND
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The Politics Show Sunday 30 September 2007 at 13:35 BST on BBC One.
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