Contrite apology from Salmond


From Democracy Live: Alex Salmond's comments were made during question time

Alex Salmond is accustomed to dominating the Holyrood chamber with elevated rhetoric. Tonight the tone is one of contrite apology.

At issue is the first minister's plan for a two question referendum on Scotland's constitutional future: independence plus the option of devo max.

A leading academic, Dr Matt Qvortrup, told The Times that such a plebiscite, as set out by the Scottish government, was potentially confusing in that it gave equal status to two issues which might be thought to be contradictory.

Towards the end of first minister's questions, Mr Salmond indicated that this criticism had been retracted by the academic.

However, it subsequently emerged that Mr Salmond had, inadvertently, got it wrong.

The quotes the FM had delivered had actually come from a draft suggested by Mr Salmond's own adviser.

Cue anger from opposition leaders. In news statements, in points of order, in interviews, they demanded clarification.

Start Quote

Mr Salmond has probably ended the row for now, not least by offering a swift apology and by doing so in a relatively humble fashion”

End Quote

The first minister, they argued, was guilty of misleading parliament and of seeking to nobble a critic.

Mr Salmond duly came back to the chamber just before the vote tonight at five pm. He apologised.

There had been no intention to mislead parliament - but his comments had been wrong, based upon a misinterpretation placed by him upon information he had received immediately before entering the chamber.

Crucially, he said the error was his - and his alone. In short, he would not allow public blame to be cast upon his staff.

Smiling now, Mr Salmond said he had subsequently spoken to Dr Qvortrup - noting that he should perhaps have done so before first minister's questions.

Dr Qvortrup accepted that a two-question referendum was possible - provided certain conditions were met. And he was willing to act as an adviser to the Scottish Parliament.

So what are the conditions? Broadly, that independence and devo max should be placed in conflict, not in continuum.

Dr Qvortrup will suggest in a letter to The Times for publication tomorrow that, while it was "always an honour to help the press", the full content of his views did not feature in the original article.

In summary, he believes that having two questions of equal weight would be unusual and not advisable.

He suggests instead the "New Zealand model".

'Legitimate' proposal

Under this, people in Scotland would be asked first if they wanted change - then asked to choose between devo max or full independence.

So where are we tonight? Mr Salmond has probably ended the row for now, not least by offering a swift apology and by doing so in a relatively humble fashion.

Some opposition critics are complaining that he apologised with a smile, that he has yet to grasp the controversy.

For myself, I thought his smile was one of wry acceptance of his situation.

But the longer term controversy over the nature of the referendum will continue.

To be clear, Mr Salmond is not absolutely intent on such an approach.

He says only that devo max is a "legitimate" proposal for inclusion - if it has evident support.

Perhaps Mr Salmond will now be more ready to listen to the advice of Margo MacDonald, who said he should stop "piddling about" with a second question and stick to the issue of independence.

Brian Taylor, Political editor, Scotland Article written by Brian Taylor Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

Pies or bridies? Budget schmoozing

The CBI has to scale down its annual dinner in the face of electoral spending rules

Read full article


Jump to comments pagination

Comments 5 of 161


This entry is now closed for comments


  • A painting of the White House on fire by Tom FreemanFinders keepers

    The odd objects looted by the British from Washington in 1814

  • Chris and Regina Catrambone with their daughter Maria LuisaSOS

    The millionaires who rescue people at sea

  • Plane7 days quiz

    What unusual offence got a Frenchman thrown off a plane?

  • Children testing a bridge at a model-making summer school in Crawley, West SussexSeeding science Watch

    The retired professor who turned village children into engineers

  • Krouwa Erick, the doctor in Sipilou town at the border of Ivory Coast and Guinea - 27 August 2014Bad trip

    The Ebola journey no-one in Ivory Coast wants to take

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.