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Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Salmond calls for closer NI ties
Martin McGuinness looks on as Ian Paisley and Alex Salmond shake hands

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said he wants closer co-operation with the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The SNP leader told assembly members at Stormont that his party's electoral success was a "seismic" change after 50 years of Labour Party domination.

He said Stormont and the Scottish Parliament "now share a political model based on necessary compromise".

Mr Salmond also met his NI counterpart Ian Paisley of the DUP and his deputy, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein.

In his address, Mr Salmond told Mr Paisley: "The deputy first minister hasn't stopped being a nationalist and you, first minister, haven't stopped being a unionist.

"Nevertheless, what matters is identifying the areas where you agree and working on those. It doesn't remove the other issues, but it allows a democratic chamber to function and an executive to govern.

"No-one in this chamber should feel that their aspirations, their view of the future, is anything other than legitimate.

Martin McGuinness, Ian Paisley and Alex Salmond
Mr Salmond (right) met Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley
"Differences of opinions, contrasting objectives are not just fundamental - they are necessary in a democratic society.

"What matters is that they are pursued within the context of the rule of law and mutual respect for the legitimacy of all strands of opinion."

Mr Salmond said that, as the SNP first minister, he still believed passionately in Scottish independence, but he needed to win arguments on an issue-by-issue basis.

"The point is simply this - each of us now belongs to a political culture where passionately held belief and unresolved debate about the constitutional position of our respective nations can sit alongside an understanding that being in government also imposes an obligation to deal with the here and now - and not the hereafter."

Mr Salmond hopes to resurrect a more formal relationship with London designed to tackle devolution disputes.

He also believes Edinburgh and Belfast may agree to seek further powers, possibly to cut corporation tax.

Mr Salmond said the close relationships between Scandinavian counties could provide a good model for stronger ties between devolved governments in the UK.

He said the British-Irish Council, which meets next month in Belfast, is "the best mechanism we currently have for Scotland and Northern Ireland to work together within the devolved structure".


SEE ALSO
When neighbours become good friends?
17 Jun 07 |  Northern Ireland
Chancellor congratulates Salmond
01 Jun 07 |  Scotland
Paisley's praise for nationalist
17 May 07 |  Scotland

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