‘Scot­land will be in­de­pen­dent in four years’

Alex Sal­mond

Sunday Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BY PETER SWINDON

FORMER First Min­is­ter Alex Sal­mond has claimed Scot­land will be in­de­pen­dent within four years and vowed to play “what­ever part is nec­es­sary” in a se­cond ref­er­en­dum cam­paign. He in­sisted the peo­ple of Scot­land will vote Yes and said Brexit will de­ter­mine the tim­ing of an­other in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum. His com­ments came as Scot­land’s lead­ing his­to­rian Tom Devine sug­gested there is a “slowly open­ing win­dow” of opportunity to en­sure Brexit never hap­pens.

Devine pointed out: “Last year, the UK had the highest growth rate in Europe, and this year the low­est. The sus­tained fall in ster­ling has pushed up in­fla­tion and the Bank of Eng­land has started to con­sider rais­ing in­ter­est rates. As this story un­folds, a slowly open­ing win­dow rather than a chink of light might now seem a more ap­pro­pri­ate metaphor.”

Sal­mond, who was ousted as an MP by Con­ser­va­tive Dou­glas Ross at the Gen­eral Elec­tion, said: “I think Scot­land will be­come in­de­pen­dent, I think that was ren­dered in­evitable when the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment was es­tab­lished.

“The tim­ing has al­ways been the in­ter­est­ing thing and I think the tim­ing and out­come of Brexit will dic­tate the tim­ing of an­other ref­er­en­dum and there­fore the tim­ing of in­de­pen­dence, in the medium term. If Brexit is a soar­away suc­cess, the best thing since sliced bread, then I think that will post­pone an­other ref­er­en­dum but I don’t know any­one who thinks that now. So there­fore I think a [se­cond in­de­pen­dence] ref­er­en­dum will be at some point in the next three to four years, de­pend­ing on the tran­si­tional pe­riod of Brexit, and I think the re­sult will be a Yes.”

Sal­mond’s scep­ti­cism about whether a suc­cess can be made of Brexit is echoed by Devine, who has pointed to an in­creas­ing aware­ness of the “dark eco­nomic clouds” which he said could mean “the English, be­cause it was they who pro­duced the de­ci­sive ma­jor­ity for Leave, might yet come to their senses”.

Sal­mond said he will play “what­ever part is nec­es­sary” in a fu­ture ref­er­en­dum cam­paign. When asked if he would stand as an MP at the next elec­tion, the 62-yearold said: “I’m not rul­ing it out. The tim­ing is not in my hands, I mean Theresa May didn’t know when the last elec­tion was un­til she was up a Welsh moun­tain and she prob­a­bly re­grets climb­ing it.”

Sal­mond made the com­ments while pro­mot­ing his Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val show, which will fea­ture in­vited guests, mu­sic and com­edy, and is co-pro­duced by a former SNP MP and close friend Tas­mina Ahmed-Sheikh.

He added: “There are things you can’t say in of­fice that you can say out of of­fice. And there are things you can do out of of­fice that you can’t do in of­fice, not just as First Min­is­ter, but as an MP you can’t just swan off to the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val for a cou­ple of weeks, that’s not fair on your con­stituents but luck­ily my con­stituents re­lieved me of that re­spon­si­bil­ity and I’m now able to do it.”

Ni­cola Stur­geon, who had ini­tially called for an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum to be held in the autumn of 2018 or spring of 2019, told MSPs be­fore the sum­mer re­cess she would de­lay her plans to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion for a ref­er­en­dum.

SNP West­min­ster leader Ian Black­ford an­nounced a re­fresh­ing of the SNP’s ap­proach to in­de­pen­dence in the Sun­day Her­ald last month, and said they must not be con­strained by a timetable.

Re­spond­ing to Sal­mond’s com­ments about in­de­pen­dence, a Scot­tish Labour source said: “Given his his­tory of un- help­ful com­ments, Ni­cola Stur­geon must hope Alex Sal­mond’s Fringe show is one that gets can­celled early.”

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive deputy leader Jack­son Car­law MSP said: “It is clear that Alex Sal­mond has learned noth­ing from his elec­tion de­feat. The SNP’s ob­ses­sion with in­de­pen­dence and a sub­se­quent lack of fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion, health and the econ­omy was a key fac­tor in the wide­spread losses suf­fered by his party in June. Vot­ers sent a clear mes­sage that they are fed up hear­ing about a se­cond ref­er­en­dum, but it seems Mr Sal­mond, along with many oth­ers in the SNP, are still not lis­ten­ing.”

Sal­mond used his ap­pear­ance at the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val to throw his weight be­hind former SNP MP Michelle Thom­son. The former Ed­in­burgh West MP was told last month that she will not face court pro­ceed­ings and asked for an apol­ogy from SNP leader Stur­geon. Last week, Thom­son hit out at Stur­geon, say­ing it was a “rea­son­able as­sump­tion” that the First Min­is­ter was be­hind the de­ci­sion to force her to re­sign the SNP whip and that Stur­geon may have “pan­icked” when the al­le­ga­tions first sur­faced.

Sal­mond said the sit­u­a­tion was “han­dled badly” by the party and said he had been a “strong sup­porter of her”. He wants to see her re­turn to the party.

He also took aim at the me­dia over its re­port­ing of the Thom­son is­sue. Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence ahead of his first show at the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val, he said: “Al­though I think the SNP made a mis­take, they weren’t the in­sti­ga­tors of the mis­take. The peo­ple who bear the heav­i­est bur­den of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the po­si­tion that Michelle is in now and has been over the last two years are your pub­li­ca­tions. That should be re­flected upon be­cause [the me­dia] have ef­fec­tively re­moved the po­lit­i­cal ca­reer of some­one I thought was an in­cred­i­bly tal­ented fe­male politi­cian and that is greatly to be re­gret­ted.”

Thom­son said “she very much wel­comes the on­go­ing sup­port” of Sal­mond and is look­ing for­ward to a “frank meet­ing” with the First Min­is­ter.

Alex Sal­mond be­lieves Brexit will soon lead to Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence

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