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Alex Salmond Interviews: ‘It’s finally been resolved how Scotland can become independent’

Alex Salmond.
Alex Salmond.

In his most in-depth interview since the referendum, former First Minister Alex Salmond talks candidly about battles lost and those yet to come.

Alex Salmond has ruled out another quick referendum in favour of Scotland securing full control of all powers except foreign policy and defence.

In an exclusive interview with The Courier, the man who led Scotland to the brink of independence said his price for supporting a Labour government after the general election in May would be nothing short of home rule.

“Home rule is control of all domestic affairs and taxation. Reserved to Westminster would be foreign affairs and defence,” the former First Minister said.

“There is massive evidence that’s what Scotland wants.

“This Westminster election is about delivering to Scotland what was promised. Not a referendum, but what was promised in the referendum and the things that people are entitled to see.”

With the opinion polls predicting a hung parliament in the wake of the general election and some forecasting the SNP to return 40 or more MPs to Westminster, there is the real prospect of the SNP holding the balance of power.

Many SNP supporters, including thousands who flocked to the party in the wake of the referendum, are demanding a re-run if the party emerges with the largest number of Scottish MPs.

But Mr Salmond, who joins The Courier as a weekly columnist on Monday, dashed any hopes of a rematch any time soon.

“We are not campaigning for a second referendum we’ve had a referendum,” he said. And he made it clear any decision on a future vote would be for his successor Nicola Sturgeon to make as she leads the SNP into the Holyrood elections next year.

* Read the second instalment of Alex Salmond’s interview only in Friday’s Courier

“Another referendum is a matter for the future,” he said. “One thing that’s happened in this campaign is that it’s finally been resolved how Scotland can become independent. That is now the gold standard.

“The decision on whether that will be part of the SNP’s manifesto is for Nicola Sturgeon to make. And she will decide that.”

Mr Salmond made it clear that he sees his mission as ensuring the UK political parties honour the so-called “Vow” in full.

In a panic move to thwart the Yes campaign in the closing days of the referendum campaign David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg signed a pledge promising “permanent and extensive” new powers for Holyrood. The Smith Commission was convened to deliver that promise and came forward with proposals to devolve more tax and welfare powers which were dismissed as “not enough” by the SNP.

Mr Salmond is in no doubt what The Vow means effectively independence short of defence and foreign policy.

“It is real home rule, devo-to-the-max or as near-federalism as we can get in the UK that is what was promised and what should be delivered,” he said.

The message seems to be clear: “virtual independence” in a federal-style arrangement was preferable, for the foreseeable future, to another referendum.

Is this a fair conclusion about immediate SNP tactics?

Mr Salmond referred to Lib Dems describing “The Vow” as home rule and former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling it near-federalism.

“Gordon Brown’s role in that was crucial, because he stood as the guarantor as he claimed of The Vow and, therefore, it was very, very significant,” he said. “I am determined we should all be determined that these promises are now redeemed, and the way to do that is that the real guarantor of The Vow the real one can’t be Gordon Brown because he’s gone into retirement is to elect a block of SNP MPs to deliver that.

“They are the real guarantors of The Vow. That’s what the campaign is. Nothing else it’s to deliver what was promised to us.”

Though delivering near independence is the top priority for Alex Salmond as he contemplates the extraordinary role he may be called upon to play in the aftermath of the general election, there are other vital issues up for negotiation.

“There are other aspects which are important,” he said. “I believe there are some issues like the living wage, which are really important to people. SNP MPs and other progressive allies can help deliver that.

“I don’t want to see our relationship with the EU severed, so that’s another big issue.

“I don’t want to see £100 billion wasted on Trident particularly at a time of austerity. At any time actually, it’s just madness.

“There will be key demands and issues the SNP will force forward at Westminster and in that alignment of the stars of the balanced Parliament and a strong block of SNP MPs these will be delivered.”