Alex Salmond interview: Nicola Sturgeon is prepared to call a Scottish Independence referendum as soon as possible after Brexit

Alex Salmond

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Alex Salmond
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Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

  • Alex Salmond, former Scottish First Minister, says another Scottish independence referendum could take place within “a very sharp timescale” after Brexit.
  • Salmond told BI that a “hard Brexit” would force the Scottish government to call another vote before Britain crashes out of the single market.
  • Former SNP leader attacked the “arrogance” of Theresa May’s government and “utter buffoonery” of Boris Johnson.
  • Salmond defended his new show on Russia-funded RT, claiming his interviews would be better than “90 percent” of interviews on mainstream media.

LONDON – Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is prepared to call another independence referendum shortly after Britain leaves the European Union, the former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has told Business Insider.

The former SNP leader, who led the last failed independence campaign, said that his successor would be forced to call another referendum as soon as possible if Britain leaves the single market in March 2019 without a transition deal in place in a ‘Hard Brexit’.

“If it’s a hard Brexit we are going to have a very sharp timescale,” Salmond told BI, adding that Sturgeon would act quickly to help Scotland “avoid” the effects of Britain leaving the single market without a transition deal in place.

“This impacts very much on the timing Nicola will be considering for a second referendum. The nature of Brexit to a great extent dictates the nature of a referendum,” he explained.

The former MP suggested that Sturgeon could call another vote before the end of the two-year transition deal May aimed for in her Florence speech, if it led to Britain leaving the single market.

“If we had a transitional stage of two years, that dictates the timescale… we have to avoid a situation where we were excluded from the single market,” Salmond said.

Sturgeon had initially set out plans to hold a second referendum before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, if Britain gets a hard Brexit. However, she has since rowed back from these plans following the SNP’s loss of seats to unionist parties in the general election, suggesting only that a referendum could be called before the next Holyrood election in 2021.

Commenting on Salmond’s remarks, a Scottish Government spokesperson told Business Insider:

“As the First Minister has made clear, we believe the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country.

“That means that, at the end of the period of negotiation with the EU, when the terms of Brexit will be clearer, we will come back to Parliament to set out our judgment on the best way forward at that time, including our view on the precise timescale for offering people a choice over the country’s future.

“In the meantime, we will redouble our efforts to seek to influence the Brexit talks in a way that protects Scotland’s interests.”

Mainstream interviews are “rubbish 90% of the time”

BI spoke to Salmond last week at the launch of his new TV show, “The Alex Salmond Show,” which will be broadcast on RT, the Russia-funded channel formerly known as “Russia Today.”

Salmond’s new TV show will be similar to his show at this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which featured interviews with the likes of Brexit Secretary David Davis.

The Scot’s decision to begin his career in TV presenting with RT was met with strong criticism from some of his former SNP colleagues. One unnamed SNP MP told PoliticsHome that Salmond’s decision to host the show was “dangerously undignified” while MEP Alyn Smith told The Herald “what the f*** is he thinking?”

At the launch of his show, Salmond read out names from a list of 115 politicians he claimed have appeared on RT, and said the channel had never dictated his views in the past. RT has been accused of being a propaganda outlet for the Putin-led Russian government.

“So, if it’s good enough for John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, John Redwood, Crispin Blunt, Liam Fox, Ian Blackford, Vince Cable and Caroline Lucas, then I can probably withstand any criticism,” he told an audience which included George Galloway and Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski.

Speaking to BI, Salmond was not only unfazed by the criticism but confident that his style of interviewing will produce content more insightful than the “confrontational” approach taken by mainstream interviewers, which he described as being “rubbish 90% of the time.”

“I’m absolutely convinced because of the 30 years experience I know how to get people to say more about themselves,” he said.

“It’s about trying to find out what lies behind the beliefs they’ve got. I absolutely know that I’ll get more out of people by doing that then saying things like ‘oh at the Blackpool conference in 2007 you said such and such and now you’re saying something else’.

“What politicians do in those circumstances is tighten up and go down into the defensive. I know how to get people comfortable and once you get people comfortable they’ll have something very interesting to tell you.”

I know how to get people comfortable.

He added: “The interviews we’ve done and the ones we’ve got in the can… I have got some really interesting revelations [on my show] believe me, which I know I wouldn’t have got [on other TV channels].

Salmond explained that the purpose of his show would be to find “off-beat stories” within the “undergrowth” of British politics, away from the Westminster bubble.

An example, he said, would be an examination of why an effigy of him was set on fire in the East Sussex town of Lewes in 2014.

“They burned me a couple of years back and I’ve always been fascinated as to why they do this. It’s more than just a bonfire. They burn a current celebrity figure. Is it a harmless commentary on political events? Or is it like the Wickerman? If we had started broadcasting earlier, we certainly would have been in Lewes.

“We would have been examining how they pick the public figure they incinerate every year… You wouldn’t see that happening in Hyde Park. That’s the type of story.”

Scotland has been treated “disdainfully”

Salmond’s enthusiasm for his transition from politics into the media was clear, but so was his refusal to completely close the door on his former career.

“I may come back to it [politics.] I’ll never say never,” he said, before laying into the “arrogance” of the UK government’s approach to Brexit and the “utter buffoonery” of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

On the former, Salmond accused the Conservative government of behaving like an “early modern monarch” who has detected a “whiff of any sort of power” on the issue of what powers currently exercised by the EU should be devolved to Scotland after Brexit.

“It’s not the most important issue,” Salmond said, “but unlike Damian Green or someone, I was actually here in Westminster when the Scotland Bill went through in 1997. I knew what the arrangement was. If a power wasn’t specified as reserved, it was desolved. Now they are trying to re-write the foundational statutes of Scottish Parliament.

“It’s a good example of the total arrogance of which the Westminster system has approached this, and how disdainfully they have treated Scotland.”Boris Johnson

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REUTERS/Mary Turner

Salmond reserved his most damning language for Johnson. The foreign secretary’s mistaken claim that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran to teach journalism when she was arrested in Tehran last year is being used against the imprisoned Brit as evidence as she faces another five years being added to her sentence.

“I think it’s extraordinary. It’s utter buffoonery,” Salmond said.

“I have made lots of criticisms of the UK Foreign Office over the years. I think its done some really bad things, as well as good things. But they’ve never been buffoons. They did bad things deliberately, to pursue a state interest. We now have somebody who does bad things by mistake.

“That moment where he started reciting The Road To Mandalay because he remembered it from Eton. He has a capacity to cause great damage by accident. The very definition of buffoonery. The Foreign Office has never had a buffoon in charge before. They’ve never had people blundering about, knocking over the furniture by accident.”