Alex Salmond (Linlithgow, Scotland, 1954) is a politician of the Scottish National Party (SNP), currently MP of the House of Commons in the British Parliament, and that during 2007 and 2014 he was the First Minister of Scotland. We consider that one of his greatest achievement in this period was the celebration of a referendum about the Scottish independence, after an agreement between the Scottish and British governments in the so-called Edinburgh Agreement signed in 2012. However, 55% of Scots in the referendum decided that Scotland should remain part of the UK. This result led to the resignation of Mr.Salmond, after the placed bump on the expectations about the Scottish independence. But this situation could be reversed in the future. The Brexit can become a new opportunity. To discuss these issues, and this process which was a lesson in democracy to the whole world, Alex Salmond gives an interview to polileaks.es:
-Was the defeat in the referendum the worst moment in your political career?
I’ve had better mornings. I was incredibly disappointed that the Yes campaign was not successful in securing Scottish independence although the referendum was a spectacular victory for the democratic process. When we began our campaign we were polling at just 28%, but ended up on 45%. So, while we did not win the referendum, we certainly won the campaign, and of course the aftermath.
-Do you think that Scots were afraid of the independence? Where was the spirit of William Wallace?
Scotland showed the world that, as a nation, we are champions of democracy. Scotland showed confidence, belief and empowerment, not fear.
-In 2014, EU and UK governments had said that an independent Scotland would not remain as an EU member. This year the situation can change if the Brexit wins. If UK leaves the EU, why now Scotland could remain as an independent member of the EU? What is the difference between 2014 and 2016?
Under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, there would be a two year period in the event of Britain leaving the EU, where the details would be established. During that period, Scotland would have the opportunity to negotiate its position. I have said before that the pressure to have an early referendum on Scottish independence under those circumstances would be irresistible. It would be up to the people to decide.
-The Americanization of all political campaigns are a fact, and nowadays, a lot of negative and aggressive campaigns are being held with a great success. In the case of the Scottish referendum, the “Yes” campaign was very moderated. ¿Could have worked better a more aggressive/negative campaign against the union?
As I’ve said, the Yes campaign was a masterclass of how major political decisions can be made and argued in a democratic way. In Scotland, we have endured the negative aspects of the union since 1707 – therefore need no reminders. The Yes campaign was about what Scotland could achieve – what Scotland could do on its own. It was vital that it was a campaign of positivity.
-The Scots had doubt about the plans regarding keeping the pound as Scottish currency, the NHS or the permanency in the EU. Do you feel that some key concepts were not well explained to the citizens?
I think that many of the key concepts of the argument fell victim to the scare tactics of the Better Together campaign. A lot of these arguments come down to common sense. In the case of keeping pound sterling, England is our biggest trading partner, and Scotland is England’s second-biggest trading partner after the US. There would have been a common sense agreement for a common currency.
-Surprisingly, the British press had not provided a very impartial and objective information about the Scottish referendum, breaking all journalistic values. Why it happened? The BBC coverage was flagrant. Did anyone take the responsibility and resigned?
One of my biggest regrets of the campaign was not being able to foresee the true extent of institutional bias in certain areas of the British press. Indeed, the right wing press in Scotland offered few surprises with their prejudicial, short sighted journalists infecting social media with purposefully slanted articles. The BBC were one of the biggest tools in the scaremongering campaign, and completely ruined one of the greatest reputations in the world of broadcasting.
-Was the adoption of the Euro for Scotland a proposed alternative at some point? Don´t you think could be the Euro a better currency to expand the Scottish economy in an independent situation?
I was always adamant that Scotland would keep the pound, and that the pound would be the best currency for an independent Scotland. It is, after all, as much Scotland’s pound as it is Northern Ireland’s Wales’ and England’s currency.
In the end, seems that Cameron lied to the Scots with false promises, why Scots did not believe more in you at that moment? Was better the devil you know than the devil you don’t?
The Vow, which was the last ditch attempt by Better Together to save their campaign, was decisive. It was designed for the 10 per cent of people who were moving to Yes – the swing voters who could be persuaded that they could still get progress for Scotland without voting Yes.
Why you wanted to keep the monarchy? Don´t you think that option was not promoting a real independence and could help the unionist campaign? In the Spanish case, would be hard to believe an independent Galicia, Basque Country or Catalonia, keeping the Spanish king.
I’ve made the point before that there is a better case for an English republic than a Scottish one. Scotland isn’t a classless society by any means, but class inequalities in Scotland are not generally linked to the monarchy.
In a recent poll, only a 3% of Welsh would support an independent Wales. Why independence is more successful in Scotland than in Wales?
If you look at the makeup of the recently elected Welsh parliament, then the fact that Plaid Cymru are now the official opposition shows that the political dynamic in Wales is changing. Plaid Cymru said that independence isn’t something that they’ll campaign for in the near term, but it is a long term aspiration of the party.
-We understand that you are aware of the conflict between Catalonia and Spain about the celebration of a referendum. What can be the solution for this case with both sides confronted and without disposition of the Spanish government to negotiate?
I met with President Carlos Puigdemont in London last week, and we discussed this. I reminded him that it took Scotland 66 years to force the UK government to sanction a referendum on independence. The circumstances between Scotland and Catalunya are different. Each nation has its own identity. Spain and Catalunya must continue to have dialogue and negotiate, and Catalunya must be prepared to hold a referendum when the time is right.
-The absence of negotiations, can lead to the creation of paramilitary organizations as the IRA in Ireland?
The only way to resolve national issues is to ensure that all who are involved have the opportunity to discuss and negotiate. If both sides of an argument do not discuss the issue, then the issue can manifest itself into something which is increasingly difficult to resolve. However, you can’t liken the issues of one country to another too closely. Ireland isn’t Scotland, as Scotland isn’t Catalunya – I’ve made that point before, and it is a fundamental point.
-In the case of Galicia, one of the 3 nations integrated in Spain with Basque Country and Cataluña. The nationalism is in a very fragmented situation and losing power regarding national parties. It is possible to start the process of independence with a fragmentation? What advice could you give?
The advice I offer is quite simple. The people of any nation should have the right to determine their own destiny. However, to unilaterally pursue that destiny, when it is not the vision that is shared by the majority of the population, would be irresponsible. There must be a clear and undeniable mandate for independence. The democratic process cannot be put at risk under any circumstances.
Polileaks.es members want to give many thanks to Mr.Alex Salmond and his team for made this possible.