Ex-SNP leader views ‘glorious opportunity’

By Alex Stevenson

Former Scottish National party (SNP) leader Gordon Wilson believes his successor Alex Salmond should fight the next election on the basis of “independence or emigrate”.

“I never give Alex advice,” he told politics.co.uk, before revealing why he thinks the current state of Britain’s public finances could be turned to electoral advantage for the Scottish nationalists.

“There is a glorious opportunity on the horizon,” he said, describing the cuts in public expenditure coming from London as a “perfect storm”.

“If I was still in a position of influence never mind authority I’d be running a campaign on the basis of ‘independence or emigrate’ – to get rid of the overhanging of public debt,” he said.

Dr Wilson, who led the SNP from 1979 to 1990 and was succeeded by now first minister Mr Salmond, told politics.co.uk he was upbeat about prospects for independence in the next 30 years.

“I think there’s a likelihood, without being absolutely certain it will happen,” he said.

His memoirs, SNP: The Turbulent Years, are being published today and cover a 30-year period to the early 1990s.

“That was a long time in the life of an individual but it’s a very short time in the life of a nation,” he reflected.

“Originally Scotland was very much against devolution. In the Thatcher years, it was seen to be undesirable. Now, if there’s acceptance that Scotland would do better independently, there’ll be an acceptance by the political consensus – that this should happen. Once you get that, it’s through.”

The SNP hit the headlines over the summer following justice minister Kenny MacAskill’s decision to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Dr Wilson said the decision would have lost him sleep at nights and said he hoped he would have had the “courage” and “integrity” to make the same decision.

He denied the release had had a negative impact on Scotland’s profile in the world.

“There is of course tremendous opposition in the United Sates. That will fade,” he added.

“In the longer run Scotland is probably in many countries regarded as quasi-independent. You wouldn’t have known where it was before.”