Alex Salmond: Scotland 'didn't mind' Thatcher economics

ALEX Salmond has said Scotland "didn't mind the economic side" to Margaret Thatcher, but disapproved of the "social" implications of her policies.

In a revealing interview with Total Politics magazine, the First Minister said many businesses had "warmed to the SNP" after he had strived to bring his party "into the mainstream of Scotland".

Mr Salmond also accused David Cameron's Conservatives of being anti-Scottish, dismissing all speculation that the party had talks to form a coalition with the Tories after the next Westminster election.

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In remarks that will fuel criticism that the SNP has adopted a free-market, tax-cutting agenda more in tune with the Thatcher legacy, Mr Salmond said: "The SNP has a strong social conscience, which is very Scottish in itself.

"One of the reasons Scotland didn't take to Lady Thatcher was because of that. We didn't mind the economic side so much. But we didn't like the social side at all."

The remarks could prove risky for the SNP, as the party used the image of Lady Thatcher and her perceived closeness to Gordon Brown in anti-Labour pamphlets for the Glasgow East by-election.

There has been speculation that the SNP had been in talks to prop up the Tories after the next election at Westmintser, but Mr Salmond said there was no chance at all of the two parties going into coalition in London.

However he confirmed that a hung parliament would be the best result at the next general election.

Asked whether he could "do business" with Mr Cameron, Mr Salmond replied: "The Tories have been more constructive than other opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament but I don't think you have to scratch very hard to see real anti-Scottish antagonism from many elements of the Conservative Party. I don't think the leopard has changed its spots."

He added that the "wrapping has changed somewhat" but "I think the leopard is still there".

Speaking to Tory blogger Iain Dale, Mr Salmond also revealed that the first time his own father had heard him speak in a parliamentary chmaber was during his first address as First Minister.

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"He didn't really approve of me setting foot in the House of Commons. It was a hell of a moment."

Mr Salmond said he did not "do daunted" but admitted the Glasgow airport attack had left him a "bit daunted".

He had been watching TV with Sean Connery when the news came in.

The First Minister had even changed the name of the Emergency Room – the room meant to deal with such national crises – to the Resilience Room.

"It's very difficult to be calm in a room with a bloody big notice that says "emergency"!"

In a remark that will amuse if not surprise, political observers, Mr Salmond admitted he was "not short of confidence".

The last time he had apologised was when he had to tell his wife Moira that he may have to ask her to "unbook" their summer holiday.

But he added: "When you're First Minister, you probably don't find it wise to own up to mistake after mistake."

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While Mr Salmond has had more contact with Gordon Brown than with his predecessor Tony Blair, the pair had irreconcialable differences.

"You wouldn't expect us to be bosom buddies, walking arm in arm to the pub for a wee snifter...

"I believe in independence for Scotland, clearly the Prime Minister doesn't. No amount of rapprochement will bring us together on that issue. And that applies to a range of other issues too."

Apart from pursuing policies that would make Scotland more competitive, the Scottish Government will be "attacking" the binge drinking culture "which is an even bigger problem than it is in England", he said.

"This is difficult because we are tilting against vested interests, the power of which you would not believe."

Mr Salmond was also unapologetic about the treatment of Wendy Alexander, the former leader of the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament.

"Nobody has accused me of wanting to get rid of her. I have said nothing about her troubles. This idea that I was chasing and harrying her...I must be the most restrained politician of all time."