Alex Salmond: Scottish Labour will pay the price
With opinion polls suggesting a collapse in the Labour vote in Scotland since the referendum in May, the outgoing SNP leader said there was deep resentment at the way the party had been prepared to bury its differences with the Tories to campaign for a No vote.
“The role, hand-in-glove, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Conservative Party in the referendum campaign is not going to be either forgotten or forgiven for a generation in Scottish politics,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.
“Every single Labour personality who has been pictured in the referendum campaign in that pose - that hand-in-glove, shoulder-to-shoulder pose - will pay a heavy price for many years to come.”
Labour in Scotland is currently in turmoil following the resignation of the leader of the Scottish party Johann Lamont amid bitter recriminations.
While support for the SNP has surged since the referendum, recent opinion polls have suggested Labour could be left with just a handful of Scottish seats in Westminster after next year’s general election, casting severe doubt Ed Miliband’s chances of entering No 10.
Mr Salmond was dismissive of the prospects that shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy - seen as the frontrunner to replace Ms Lamont - could restore the party’s fortune.
He said that Mr Murphy had spent his entire political career at Westminster and never previously expressed any interest in Scottish constitutional development “except of course to try and stop it”.
Despite his criticisms, he refused to rule out the possibility of the SNP joining a coalition with Labour in the event of another hung parliament at Westminster, although he acknowledged that the prospect was “unlikely”.
“Parties change sometimes, parties change their leaders sometimes, so we might get a different direction but I think that it’s unlikely that the SNP would see itself in a Westminster coalition,” he said.
Mr Salmond indicated that he was still considering whether to try to make a Westminster comeback at the general election.
“I am going to make up my mind in a few weeks what I shall do,” he said.
“The things I’ve said is I intend to continue in politics and I intend to continue to represent the people of the North East of Scotland if they wish to elect me.”
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Mr Salmond said that despite the No vote in the referendum in September, he believed that Scotland would eventually opt for independence and to leave the United Kingdom.
“The destination is set, I think, but the number of stops along the way and the exact timetable - I think that is to be determined,” he said.
“But the great thing is it will be actually determined by the Scottish people, not the views of any single politician.”
Mr Salmond’s deputy and soon-to-be successor as SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has not ruled out another referendum, particularly if the rest of the UK votes to leave the European Union.
But she said “there is no short cut to Scotland becoming independent”, in advice to those who suggest Holyrood could make a unilateral declaration of independence if the SNP wins another majority at Holyrood.
“There is no low road, there is only the high road of democracy and when another referendum happens, if another referendum happens will not be dictated by politicians - it will be down to the will of the Scottish people,” she told Sky News’s Murnaghan programme.
When asked if an EU exit would precipitate another independence referendum, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think if that scenario was to unfold there would be significant disquiet and concern within Scotland because it would be disastrous for our economic interests to be outside of the EU.
“Europe needs reform and change, it’s not perfect, but our interests are best served within it and for us to be taken out against our will would be democratically indefensible.
“I put forward this week what I think is a democratic fair proposition.
“If you wind back to the referendum campaign, we had Westminster politicians queuing up to say the UK was a family of nations, a partnership of equals, Gordon Brown even said if we voted no we would be as close to a federal state as it is possible to get.
“What I am suggesting is if there is an in/out EU referendum, as I now think is inevitable, then for the UK to come out of the EU it would require not just a vote for that across the UK but a vote for that in each of the constituent nations of the UK.
“That to me would be the kind of federal solution that Gordon Brown appeared to be promising, and it would be a protection against any of the equal members of the family of nations being taken out of Europe against our will.”
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