Alex Salmond hints at retirement from top job as he becomes longest serving First Minister

Alex Salmond speaks at a Church of Scotland conference in Edinburgh as he marked 2,002 days in office. Picture: PA
Alex Salmond speaks at a Church of Scotland conference in Edinburgh as he marked 2,002 days in office. Picture: PA
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ALEX Salmond revealed yesterday that the row over the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was the lowest point of his leadership.

Speaking on the day he

became Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister, the SNP leader said he would not be going “on and on” in the role, a reference to Lady Thatcher’s famous 1987 post-election interview.

His comments prompted speculation that Mr Salmond could be ready to walk away if he loses the 2014 referendum, but he insisted he had no immediate plans to quit.

The SNP leader officially overtook Lord Jack McConnell yesterday as the longest-serving First Minister as he completed 2,002 days in office.

Asked about his darkest day, Mr Salmond said that governments must deal with “political stooshies” but he added: “The Megrahi issue. I believe, absolutely, Kenny MacAskill took the right decision and for the right reasons and I think that was vindicated. But during that particular stooshie, which had Scottish and international implications, there were some difficult days.

“But if you’re doing the right things, and you believe you’ve done the right things, then that’s a great strength, and of course the election was vindication of that.

“People said the SNP government would never survive

taking that decision. In fact, we survived to prosper.”

Mr Salmond, who will turn 58 next month, has been First

Minister since May 2007, after making a dramatic comeback as SNP leader in 2004.

He had been party leader since 1990, but quit as an MSP to return to Westminster in September 2000, where he had been an MP since 1987. Asked how long he could go on for, Mr Salmond linked his future to the autumn 2014 ballot.

He said: “I know that you mustn’t repeat the mistake of some politicians and say you’re going to go on and on, so I’m not going to say that.

“I want to see Scotland win the referendum. I want to see us open the door of opportunity in that referendum and I have no immediate plans to depart the scene.

“I and the SNP – and people

before me – have worked our socks off for generations in order to bring Scotland to the point where we are. And we have got a job in hand to

persuade our fellow citizens to vote by majority to become an independent country.”

Mr Salmond marked becoming Scotland’s longest serving First Minister with a speech to church leaders yesterday, where he insisted that an independent Scotland can continue to have a major influence on the world stage.

“You don’t have to be a big country to have a big vision – you don’t need Trident missiles to get people to listen to you

internationally,” he said.

“As an independent Scotland I’ve made it clear we should seek in Scotland to have influence as opposed to state power. The power we seek is the power to make a positive contribution to the world.”