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25 March 2015

Alex Salmond: “I’m not saying I would rival David Beckham, but…“

Alex Salmond's interview with our editor, Jason Cowley, has provoked a storm online. Here are the best bits that didn't make the final cut.

By Stephen Bush

There is a majority in Scotland for independence, and Nicola Sturgeon will hold another referendum:

Alex Salmond: Two things have been said to me since the referendum from thousands and thousands of people. One is “Thank you” – people who really enjoyed having the chance, the democratic opportunity. And a lot of people say “Sorry”. And when they say sorry, it’s not necessarily that they think they did the wrong thing, it’s more “Sorry for not being able to vote for independence”. So it’s a two-way thing. Sorry in the sense of “I shouldn’t have been intimidated” or… but also sorry in a sense that “I didn’t feel you presented enough for me to vote for you”. So it’s quite an interesting – buyer’s remorse or not, I don’t know – but it’s something to think about. Because it tells you there is an actual majority there.

Jason Cowley: Now?

AS: I think there probably is, if the referendum was held now, but I’m more thinking it’s not going to be held now, it’s going to be held some other time, at a time and a pace with them and by Ms Sturgeon.

On Clegg’s mismanagement of the coalition:

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AS: You imagine that would be in the terms of the agreement. A confidence and supply agreement has a formality to it; it’s not a coalition but it has a formality; what people can and can’t do.

If I can just digress for a second and comment on this cabinet coalition, the person who’s made a total codswallop of it is Nick Clegg. In a coalition, you can of course quite legitimately sacrifice a number of things; but you mustn’t sacrifice your key objectives. So for the minority party in a coalition, Clegg said the objective was electoral reform; and his key policy he was identified with was no tuition fees. So you go into a coalition, you don’t sacrifice these two. These are the two you get. You might sacrifice other things, but you are able to come out on say—

JC: He got his vote on AV, didn’t he?

AS: His objective was not to have a vote, his objective was to get it.

On immigration:

AS: You want to have people with skills and ability and enthusiasm come to your country, and that’s a great compliment, when they do, and in particular, to tens of thousands of overseas students that we raise as human capital and this bunch of… Neanderthals kick them out the country. They try to stop them from coming and once they get here they try to kick them out. So it’s total madness, to the highest degree. 

On CCHQ’s deployment of him as a scare figure:

AS: Also, I’m a pretty poor bogeyman to be absolutely frank. As soon as we get a reasonable amount of exposure, I’m not saying I would rival David Beckham but let’s put it this way, I’m pretty confident I’d be less unpopular than Cameron or Clegg or Miliband for that matter. I might not be more popular than them but I could be less unpopular than at least that gang.

On the movers and shakers in the next government:

AS: Well, my view on that, is that it’s quite interesting what David Steel said a couple of days ago: if the Liberals are reduced to half their MPs the last thing they’re going to be doing is going into a coalition. The surviving half will want to survive. I don’t think the Liberals are going to be a big factor in this. I think it’s going to be us, the Ulster Unionists and our allies.

And on that photo-shop of him and Ed Miliband outside Downing Street:

AS: What government, maybe they do this in Australia, but what sane government puts the leader of the opposition photographed outside Downing Street? As the leader of the opposition, you should be unbelievably pleased!