Salmond confident SNP can reach election target


by G.A.Ponsonby

SNP leader Alex Salmond has said he is confident the party can garner the support of the 40 per cent of the electorate he insists is needed in order to win the forthcoming Scottish election.

Speaking on Radio Scotland Mr Salmond claimed the ‘vision’ of the Nationalists to see the Scottish parliament with real economic powers was the big difference between his party and Labour.  Mr Salmond insisted the SNP were in a “strong position” with an “outstanding team” who were “fighting on a good record” going into the election.

The SNP leader was being questioned on a number of issues by BBC Scotland’s Gary Robertson when he was asked if the SNP were behind Labour in the polls.  Mr Salmond conceded that there was a small gap between the parties but explained that the SNP had already more support than gave them victory in 2007.

Mr Salmond said: “We’ve got a few points to close up, I’ve said that 40 per cent is necessary to win the election.”

“The challenge is of course with the collapse in the Liberal and Conservative support that this time round 40 per cent will be necessary to win the election.”

Asked if the Labour lead was due to a failure to implement some manifesto promises Mr Salmond argued that the party had 100 key achievements and had managed to achieve 84 from 94 headline manifesto commitments.  Pressed on class sizes by the BBC Scotland presenter, Mr Salmond conceded that it had not been fully implemented but that some councils had indeed achieved the target and there had been reduction across Scotland with numbers at a record low.

The interview moved to the question of the Council Tax and the SNP’s favoured replacement of Local Income Tax, however a series of impatient interruptions by Gary Robertson resulted in a tetchy exchange between the SNP leader and the BBC Scotland presenter.

Mr Salmond resumed by arguing that LIT was a much fairer system based on ability to pay but that it had been blocked by the Unionists at Holyrood, he also reminded listeners that the SNP had managed to freeze the council tax for four years, a policy that had recently witnessed a U turn by Labour.

Questioned on the failure to bring forward a referendum bill Mr Salmond explained that there was insufficient numbers within the chamber but pledged to pursue a referendum in the next parliament.

An incredulous SNP leader then took the BBC Scotland presenter to task when Robertson appeared to imply that the SNP had adopted Labour policies such as graduate taxes.  Mr Salmond suggested that the presenter ought to have acknowledged that it was the Labour party who had adopted SNP policies and not the other way around.

Mr Salmond said: “I loved the way you put that one Gary – [that] ‘we have similar policy to the Labour party’ – the Labour party reversed their policy about two weeks ago after having of course imposed tuition fees not just in Scotland but in England as well.

“So in terms of Labour’s shift in position in adopting SNP policies such as the council tax, on the tuition fees and on a variety of other matters it does indicate that there is some strength in the policy programme and delivery and success of the SNP government over the last four years.”

Asked finally what the difference was between Labour and the SNP the SNP leader said: “That’s where we come to the vision thing, in terms of the prospective the SNP are offering over the next five years.

“That is, we want to see a Scottish parliament with control over the major economic levers that allow us to develop our economy in Scotland and not be subject to – whether it’s Labour or Tory – cutbacks from Westminster.”

Hear the full interview here: