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Scottish independence leader running for UK parliament

AFP , Sunday 7 Dec 2014
Alex Salmond (Photo:Reuters)
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Alex Salmond, who quit as Scotland's first minister after losing the independence referendum, announced Sunday he will run for a seat in the British parliament in the May general election.

Salmond, who led the campaign for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, said he wanted to return to politics in London to "make sure that Scotland gets what it's promised" from the post-referendum settlement.

Scotland voted by 55 percent to 45 percent to remain part of the UK in the September 18 referendum.

Salmond announced the day afterwards that he would step down as first minister in the devolved Edinburgh parliament, and as leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP).

Eleven weeks on, the 59-year-old said would bid for a seat in the British parliament, after previously serving as an MP from 1987 to 2010.

"With so much commitment among the people and with so much at stake for Scotland, I think it's impossible to stand on the sidelines," he told a local constituency meeting in Scotland.

The seat he is bidding for was won in the 2010 general election by the centrist Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in the governing coalition led by Prime Minister David Cameron, with a 14-percent lead over the left-wing SNP.

Salmond's party currently holds six of Scotland's 59 seats in the 650-member British parliament.

It is hoping to take dozens of seats from the main opposition centre-left Labour Party, which won 41 in 2010, and holds the balance of power in a hung parliament.

"It is likely there will be no overall majority in the Westminster parliament, and therefore in that Westminster difficulty there lies an opportunity for Scotland," Salmond said.

"A strong group of SNP MPs will have the capacity to rumble up Westminster.

"That offers the prospect of real power for Scotland."

The SNP says it will not work with Cameron's centre-right Conservatives but is open to deals with other parties.

Scotland is set to get sweeping new powers including setting its own income tax rates, under plans unveiled last month by a cross-party commission on greater devolution set up after the referendum.

But the plans do not go far enough for the SNP, hence Salmond's wish for a seat in the British parliament to press the party's case.

Salmond said he would not seek to replace Angus Robertson as leader of the SNP group in the British parliament, instead seeking a role in negotiating "progress" for Scotland.

Salmond's deputy Nicola Sturgeon has replaced him as SNP leader and Scottish first minister.

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