Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond last night made a bold play for a seat around the Number 10 cabinet table, announcing he will stand to become an MP in 2015 and won’t rule out a coalition with Labour if he is elected.
Salmond, leader of the unsuccessful Scottish independence campaign, is widely expected to win the seat, currently held by Liberal Democrat MP Sir Malcolm Bruce, who is stepping down at the next election after more than 30 years. However, Salmond’s plans were met with accusations of arrogance by Labour.
Last night, Geoff Aberdein, former chief of staff to Salmond when he was Scottish First Minister, told City A.M. the Scottish National Party (SNP) “would consider a coalition with Labour if the arithmetic works,” and would play a “key role” in Westminster either way.
Salmond is set to be granted a decisive role in any negotiation process by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Aberdein added.
Salmond is thought to be seeking a deal with Ed Miliband if Labour is wiped out in Scotland in the 2015 election and struggles to form a majority government. A coalition role would be good news for the SNP, as the party seeks to drive a harder bargain with Westminster over devolution north of the border. One of the first things on Salmond’s list, if he is successful, is thought to be ending the Trident nuclear programme on Scottish soil.
The former leader is banking on Labour doing particularly badly north of the border as a number of surveys have predicted, but pollsters are hedging their bets.
Mike Smithson, founder of the well-regarded website politicalbetting.com, said there is a lack of strong data.
“It looks very bad for Labour. One can see situations where the SNP has 25 or more seats. In most cases that would be at the cost of Labour, which would mean the chances of forming a majority would be that much reduced ... But there hasn’t been the polling,” Smithson said. He added that while the SNP may win a number of seats in the Commons, Labour would seek alternative agreements with other parties before looking to Salmond for support. “Labour would prefer a coalition with the Greens the Lib Dems and the SDLP way ahead of the SNP,” he added.
Miliband is thought to be cautious about any possible deal with the SNP, fearing it could force him to devolve more power than the three main political parties have already agreed.
Margaret Curran, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, accused Salmond of arrogance following his comments in support of a possible coalition. “The SNP are counting the seats at Westminster before they’ve even said what their MPs would do for working people the length and breadth of Scotland. This smacks of arrogance,” she said. “At the last election, Salmond said ‘vote Lib Dem to stop Labour’ – and we saw how that ended up. The fact is, if you want a Labour government and Labour policies after next May, you have to vote Labour.”
Kate McCann, David Hellier