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Last Updated: Monday, 9 April 2007, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
SNP sees amicable split to union
Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond denies independence would cause chaos.
England would still be Scotland's "biggest pal" if the two nations split, the Scottish National Party's leader has told the BBC.

Alex Salmond denied that independence for Scotland would cause chaos, saying the two countries could be good and "friendly neighbours".

Mr Salmond said the SNP was on course to win control of the Scottish Parliament in next month's elections.

He denied that independence would create border or passport problems.

'Prominent economist'

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme the SNP leader said that just as there was no need of a passport "to visit your cousin in Cork", there would be no need for one to "to visit your granny in Grimsby".

The SNP has already said it would hold a referendum on independence in 2010 - towards the end of its first four-year term if it were to take power at Holyrood - at a cost of 7m.

Labour has called the independence proposal a ticking tax bomb.

Mr Salmond dismissed claims that his party's figures did not add up.

He said: "Probably Scotland's prominent economist of the last generation, Professor David Simpson - for 20 years the economic analyst for Standard Life - said our sums did add up. So that is a matter of political debate.

"We know our sums add up. Both in terms of what we want to do in a devolved government and in terms of the appetite and plans for independence."

After independence, England will still be our biggest pal, our biggest friend, our biggest trading partner
Alex Salmond

He said he was happy that his party's plans were leading the political debate.

Mr Salmond said the current Scottish Executive was an "over-mighty bureaucracy" from which efficiency savings of 1.5% "year on year" were "realistic".

The SNP leader said the element of proportional representation in the Scottish Parliament meant it was unlikely that any one party would have an overall majority after the election.

A number of opinion polls over the past few weeks have indicated the SNP could be the largest party after the 3 May election.

Mr Salmond said he had only ruled out forming a coalition with one party - the Scottish Conservatives.

'Unwanted policies'

This, he said, was due to its "traditional range of anti-Scottish policies".

He said that the best way to find out if people were in favour of "negotiating Scotland into an independent and sovereign state" was to hold a referendum.

Mr Salmond added that the weight of polling evidence suggested the Scottish people were in favour of the question being asked.

When asked about how people south of the border, especially those with relatives in Scotland, would feel about Scottish independence, he said: "I think the vast majority of the people in England would say, 'let the Scots have the right to decide their own future'."

Mr Salmond said: "I think a lot of people in England can see the advantages of the people of England being able to decide on things like foundation hospitals or top-up fees, without being bossed around by Scottish Labour MPs, who seem intent on forcing unwanted policies down the throats of the people of England."

He added: "After independence, England will still be our biggest pal, our biggest friend, our biggest trading partner and people both north and south of the border find that a very attractive proposition."

Hear the Alex Salmond interview

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