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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 January 2008, 15:32 GMT
Alex Salmond transcript
Alex Salmond
If this is systemic, as it looks, then they cannot, in terms of the credibility of the Electoral Commission, continue to allow the Labour Party to get away with this sort of thing
Alex Salmond

On the Politics Show, Sunday 13 January 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond


JON SOPEL: And I am joined now from Banff by Scotland's First Minister the Scottish National Party's Alex Salmond, Alex Salmond welcome to, thanks for joining us on the Politics Shows.

ALEX SALMOND: I'm happy to be here with you Jon.

JON SOPEL: Yes. Is it part of the master plan, you get the English so hacked off and jealous by all that Scotland has that the English eventually say, 'oh let them have their independence'?

ALEX SALMOND: No, the master plans quite simple, the master plan is to show that the SNP can govern not just competently but extremely well in Scotland, that's what we're doing at the present moment to increase support and confidence for the Scottish Parliament and the ability of Scotland to run things and that's going to lead to an increase in support for Scottish independence, now the early indications are that's exactly what happens so the master plan's quite simple, we're going to do what we do just now very well indeed and that way people want us to do more and be even better.

JON SOPEL: So lets go to a bit of detail that we heard in the film, we heard Karen Casey there talking about how in Scotland 20% less is spent on policing than in other parts of the United Kingdom, why aren't you spending more?

ALEX SALMOND: Well, actually that figure's wrong, there are more people for example working in the police and related services in Scotland per head than there are now in England and Wales.

JON SOPEL: This is the figure from the Scottish Police Federation?

ALEX SALMOND: Well, ? actually that came from a piece of work from Dr. Midwinter who's a Labour party adviser at the present moment and he got his figures wrong, it's very difficult to sustain that position when there's more people working in the police and related services in Scotland and elsewhere, how on earth can we have expenditure of which apparently is lower but of course we do want more police in Scotland which is exactly why we're increasing the number of people coming into the police service and also through redeployment and greater efficiencies and retention of experienced officers, we intend to have more police on Scottish streets and that will be an extremely popular policy with Karen and everyone else in Scotland.

JON SOPEL: You promised an extra thousand new recruits, now you're saying it may be five hundred.

ALEX SALMOND: Well what we're saying is that we're going to have a thousand more officers on Scotland's streets and we're going to do that by a combination of increased recruitment, that's you know, five hundred more officers than there would have been if the last lot had stayed in power but also by retention because we've got many officers in their 40s, experienced officers, who are approaching retirement and we want to keep them in the service and of course paying the police what they're entitled to, what the review body said they should get instead of docking their wages as they're doing south of the border, will help in that retention, but we also recognize that there are important efficiencies that have to be made so that people are less caught up in bureaucracy and have more time to be in the front line; that's entirely sensible and defensible policy which will result in more police on Scottish streets.

JON SOPEL: So let's be clear about the choice that is being made though. What you're saying is that it's more important that police are paid more than it is to have more police.

ALEX SALMOND: Oh, I think police have to get what they're entitled to, what their independent review body, and that's a contract with the police and there's two reasons for that - one is moral within the public sector. If you don't have a mobilized and motivated police force, then you have real problems and what the government is doing in Westminster in my view, is in great danger of demoralizing the police service. But secondly and obviously, one of our big challenges is not to use .. (interjection)

JON SOPEL: It wasn't done to tweak the tail of the government in London.

ALEX SALMOND: It, well, can I - no it was to help our public servants feel that they're recognized and motivated in Scotland. But can I just point out the very obvious point I'm making to you that if we want to retain these thousands, or some of these thousands of police officers who otherwise are going to move in to retirement, sometimes of great experience, in their mid 40s, then of course they're not going to stay within the police force as we want them to do in many cases, if they feel that the government is docking their wages like the Westminster government is doing. So I think you're far better to adopt the approach that we've adopted in Scotland, and to pay the police service, what the independent review body said they were entitled to, that seems to me an entirely fair choice, for a government to make.

JON SOPEL: Presumably, you'd make the same argument over education where you've also agreed a three year pay deal for teachers at a time when some would argue that you're back-tracking on your commitment to reduce class sizes.

ALEX SALMOND: Well, some might argue that but it would be entirely wrong. The commitment to reduce class sizes is part of our historic agreement with local government in Scotland and just as a matter of fact, is of course ? the local government, who negotiates directly with their employees in the teaching profession in Scotland. JON SOPEL: Just on the subject of pay. What about MSP's pay because there's a bit of a row going on in London where Gordon Brown is saying that he doesn't believe that MPs should get an inflation rise of 2.8%. He wants them to get 1.9 - what is your recommendation for MSPs?

ALEX SALMOND: Well, MSPs pay is set at a percentage, about 87.5% of MPs pay. MSPs don't actually vote in their pay, they voted to link it to the pay of MPs and that was set by the senior salary review body, so whatever is decided, if Gordon Brown is successful in reducing MPs pay in London, it will have an automatic carry on effect in Scotland. I see no reason, given that the powers of the Scottish parliament, as they are, are the same as when that formula was set, to, to alter that formula.

JON SOPEL: I just wonder whether you have a personal view.

ALEX SALMOND: Well I do think there is a role for MPs and MSPs to set an example overall to the public sector but I don't think that can be the only device. I mean I think Gordon Brown at the present moment, you know, in arguing for example that you must stop what the public servants, whether it's police service or others, to get what independent review bodies say they're entitled - I don't think that is a very effective counter-inflationary strategy. However, I do agree that MPs and others in a relatively privileged position, should be mindful of what's happening elsewhere in society and that's why ? (interjection)

JON SOPEL: So you would favour the lower figure?

ALEX SALMOND: ? well, if that's what the MPs vote for, then that's what the MSPs will get in my opinion.

JON SOPEL: Yet, you're stating the constitutional fact, I just wondered what your opinion is.

ALEX SALMOND: No, sorry, it's not a constitutional - well I've just given you my opinion Jon. I think there's a role for MSPs or MPs setting example to the rest of society, but I don't agree with Gordon Brown, that the right way to tackle inflation is to say to a police service, look, an independent review body has allocated you this, we're going to dock your wages, and we don't think that's going to have an effect in terms of the motivation and mobilization of our police service. We must treat our public servants properly.

JON SOPEL: Okay, let's move on to another area where you clearly disagree with Gordon Brown, and that is over the role of nuclear power. You have said never, no new nuclear build while the SNP is in control. John Hutton, the Business Secretary, says you could be making a mistake that your country will regret, backed up by senior scientists as well, here in Scotland, according to the papers this morning.

ALEX SALMOND: Well, there are many senior scientists in Scotland who take exactly the opposite view but let's just remember that only a few years ago, John Hutton took the opposite view because the last review of nuclear power, which I think it was Patricia Hewitt was the responsible minister, should describe the new generation of nuclear power stations as foolish, only a few years ago. Now it's the government in London who've changed their minds. Now, we're in a different position in Scotland from the UK. We export a substantial amount of energy, the nuclear component of that energy is falling. In fact, in 2006, 92% of the energy needs of Scotland was generated from non nuclear sources.

We've got substantial increases in alternative renewable generation in Scotland and the real issue for Scotland is not whether we can meet our own electricity requirements, which we are going to be able to do comfortably. The real issue is how can we mobilize our total energy potential, which could see us in the medium term, producing twice, perhaps even three times the electricity requirements of Scotland from non nuclear renewable and low carbon sources.

Incidentally Jon, we actually have a comparative advantage, an economic advantage and every one of these sources of energy, whether it be wave power, tidal power, off shore wind power, wind power, carbon capture, clean coal, all of these things, Scotland has an economic advantage in, so why on earth should be invest again in the one expensive technology that we don't have an economic or competitive advantage in; it would be a daft thing to do in Scotland.

JON SOPEL: But at the moment, I think you export something like 20% of your electricity, currently to England. Would it be simply - and that is roughly what you generate from nuclear. Would it simply be acceptable to say, okay, well we'll stop exporting electricity to England. Make up the short fall ? (interjection)

ALEX SALMOND: No, we have a substantial surplus Jon. Could I just give you the latest figures for 2006, which were released incidentally by the UK government, only a few days ago. In 2006, because one of our nuclear stations, we only have two, and one of them hasn't been operating really for the last two years, at anything like capacity.

The nuclear power in Scotland dropped dramatically at the same time as nuclear power dropped dramatically, Scottish exports of electricity to England doubled, or increased rather by 50% in 2006, and they increased by 50% because Scotland has a substantial array of energy, electricity production systems, we were able to export more even while the nuclear component in Scotland was dropping like a stone and that picture incidentally, was repeated last year.


ALEX SALMOND: And as renewable sources keep increasing, incidentally, we produced, we've got more capacity in renewables now than we do in nuclear, so we've got a very exciting electricity future in Scotland and non nuclear one Jon.

JON SOPEL: And a very quick final question Alex Salmond and that is, as you know, we're going to be speaking to Wendy Alexander very shortly, and there's an electoral commission, a meeting this week. We've seen that Peter Hain has presented with some difficulties over the funding for his Deputy Leadership campaign, do you think any of these are resignation issues.

ALEX SALMOND: I think the problems for the Labour Party is this, it does look like there's a systemic failure in the Labour Party, to observe the law and observe indeed the laws that they introduce. And whether it's the UK Labour Party, or whether it's the case in Scotland or whether it's Peter Hain, that at least a prima facae case that various think tanks or institutions or arrangements were made or companies were invented to try and circumvent the law.

This is really now in my view a test for the electoral commission. If this is systemic, as it looks, then they cannot, in terms of the credibility of the electoral commission, continue to allow the Labour Party to get away with this sort of thing.

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


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

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The Politics Show Sunday 13 January 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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