Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Alex Salmond predicts record vote turnout

Alex Salmond Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Salmond touched on a range of topics during an interview at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Scotland's first minister has predicted that the independence referendum will attract the biggest turnout in the country's political history.

Alex Salmond urged political gamblers to put their money on an unprecedented 80% turnout.

The former racing tipster also said he expected people who had never voted before to be a "major factor".

The pro-UK Better Together campaign accused Mr Salmond of "desperation" ahead of the vote on 18 September.

Mr Salmond was speaking during a wide-ranging conversation with historian Tom Devine at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

He said: "I think the best bet of this referendum is a bet on an 80% poll. If you can get odds on an 80% poll, you bet it."

'Opinion polls'

Mr Devine predicted: "It will be the biggest poll in Scotland's history in terms of turnout."

The first minister responded: "Absolutely, and many of the people who will be voting will be people who are not touched by opinion polls and opinion surveys, which tend to discount people with no voting record, and I think that's going to be a major factor."

Mr Salmond, who was once a Royal Bank of Scotland economist, went on to pin much of the blame for the collapse of the bank on its capital markets division in London, which was formed out of the former NatWest capital markets division and troubled Dutch bank ABN Amro.

He said: "There hasn't ever been a single employee of that division working in Scotland. Every single person works in the market division in London.

"Now I'm not saying that therefore the headquarters in Gogarburn (Edinburgh) are absolved of all the craziness that they engaged into. I'm just pointing out that to see RBS's failure as a particularly Scottish matter is also wrong."

Mr Devine rejected the notion that an independent Scotland would have been left to shoulder the collapse of RBS single-handedly, insisting the EU and the World Bank would have stepped in to avert an international banking crisis 20 times worse than the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The pair also charted the rising popularity of Scottish nationalism through history.

'Winston Churchill'

Mr Salmond said: "My mum used to think Winston Churchill was the greatest man that ever lived.

"My dad, of course, wanted to hang him. It was about what he did to the miners and things like that.

"I remember once, and I've just done it again, when I was younger and more foolish as a politician I actually said that to a journalist and there was a headline saying: Salmond's father wants to hang Churchill.

"So I phoned my dad and said: 'You probably saw the headline, I really shouldn't have said that.'

"He said: 'No you shouldn't, did I teach you nothing? Hanging was too good for that man."'

Mr Salmond conceded that some parts of Scotland have benefited from being part of the UK in the past, citing Scottish traders who embraced British imperialism with "enthusiasm".

But he acknowledged the toll that imperialism took on the nations of the empire and suggested the anti-imperialist song Freedom Come All Ye would be an appropriate national anthem for an independent Scotland.

The song, which was composed by Hamish Henderson in 1960 and renounces Scotland's imperialist record in Africa, was sung by South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza at the Commonwealth Games to international acclaim.

A Better Together spokesman said: "This is desperate stuff from Alex Salmond. It was only pooling and sharing our resources across the whole UK that prevented the collapse of the financial services industry in Scotland.

"Clearly the pressure of the last few days is beginning to get to Alex Salmond. With the polls showing more and more Scots are saying no thanks to independence, the First Minister is sounding increasingly detached from reality.

"Instead of the usual bluff and bluster, Alex Salmond should be honest with Scots about his Plan B for currency in a separate Scotland."

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