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Alex Salmond
"All our London opponents are smacking of desperation"
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Colin Wight reports
"In Mr Salmond's constituency the decision has been greeted with some surprise"
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BBC Scotland's David Calder reports
"The SNP leadership in Scotland say they are behind Alex Salmond"
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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 19:36 GMT
Salmond defends Westminster move
Mr Salmond has led the party for a decade
Alex Salmond stepped down as leader last year
Former Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond has been defending his decision to quit the Scottish Parliament to become a Westminster candidate.

Members of his Banff and Buchan constituency party unanimously backed the move at a meeting on Sunday night.

His decision to fight the seat at the next general election was also endorsed by the party's 31-strong national executive at its monthly get-together on Saturday.

Here he is, at the very first opportunity, abandoning the Scottish Parliament for Westminster

Raymond Robertson, Conservative spokesman
Mr Salmond was immediately attacked by political opponents, who said that the decision represented a major u-turn.

However, Mr Salmond was unrepentant on Monday.

"I have stood for the Scottish Parliament, and had a fairly substantial role in having it established," he told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme.

"Along with the late Donald Dewar, I think I helped have a standard of debate established there.

"Now that the Scottish Parliament is under new leadership, with John Swinney and Henry McLeish for the Labour party, I have been asked to do a job which remains at Westminster and I'm willing do to that job."

Increased representation

He said the Scottish Parliament was the focus of SNP politics.

"But Westminster remains important, and it's very important that there is increased SNP representation at Westminster," he said.

"It is very important that we don't leave the field open to our political opponents and people who run down Scotland and the Scottish Parliament at every opportunity."

Liberal Democrat Michael Moore said the move showed that the SNP was in "disarray".

Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson ridiculed the move
"This is an absolutely amazing u-turn by the man who was the author of the SNP turning its back on Westminster.

"It highlights the mess of the SNP's policies towards the House of Commons."

Tory spokesman Raymond Robertson said Mr Salmond had said only last year that he was never going back to Westminster.

"Immediately after the last general election he proudly boasted he was the only one actively working to get out.

"Here he is, at the very first opportunity, abandoning the Scottish Parliament for Westminster," he said.

And Scotland Office Minister Brian Wilson added: "Can you imagine what he would be saying about an MP of any other party who went to Holyrood, put their toe in the water, decided they didn't really like it and said, well I'll go back to Westminster and I'll leave my driver behind because the Scottish Parliament is so important."

Giving up seats

The SNP's new leader John Swinney had said he wanted his predecessor to stay in the House of Commons because of his "substantial experience".

The SNP's other five MPs are to give up their seats at the forthcoming general election to focus on the Scottish Parliament.

Stan Tennant, the convener of the SNP's Banff and Buchan constituency association, said: "The constituency has decided that it wishes our MSP and MP Alex Salmond to remain as our Westminster representative, and to be our candidate once again at the forthcoming general election.

"Stewart Stevenson has also been adopted as prospective candidate for Banff and Buchan for the Scottish Parliament."

He will fight the by-election which will follow Mr Salmond's departure from Edinburgh politics.

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See also:

17 Jul 00 | Scotland
Salmond to quit as SNP leader
17 Jul 00 | Scotland
Reaction to Salmond's departure
17 Jul 00 | Scotland
Torrid times at the top for Salmond
17 Jul 00 | Scotland
Resignation letter in full
17 Jul 00 | Talking Point
The Salmond decade
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