DESPITE speculation and even wishful thinking in some quarters, Alex Salmond will not be standing in the current election for the depute leadership of the SNP – but he told us the contest could prove critical for shaping SNP strategy to win independence.

In an exclusive interview with The National, Salmond says he won’t stand, but welcomes the debate which will surely follow the finalisation of candidacies.

He said: “I haven’t really said anything about it. It’s not something I have in mind.

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“I haven’t released a statement about it as I don’t really regard it as a tenable or realistic proposition.”

As for the debate: “We don’t even know the field yet but I’m sure there will be no shortage of candidates.

“I always liked internal elections as they are good for debating issues. Deputy leadership elections in the SNP have been quite significant, and in living memory the really significant one that I can remember was myself against Jim Fairlie in 1987, which was basically the classic face-off between the fundamentalists and the gradualists.

“It was an epic contest which was resolved in favour of gradualism and myself, so they can be good for debate and a template for party strategy, as the party benefitted from having the issues discussed and people getting things out of their systems.”

Salmond had strong words on Brexit for Prime Minister Theresa May and leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn. “Theresa May is the worst prime minister that I know of,” he said. “She is someone who knows from her own experience and her own background and her own wishes during the EU referendum campaign, and also from the professional advice of her civil servants, that Brexit of any kind, but especially a hard Brexit, is going to be an act of economic self-harm that is going to blight the lives of millions of people.

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“As for Jeremy Corbyn, he is guilty of abdication of opposition. He is offering no choice, no substance, a will o’ the wisp policy that no one can get a handle on, because Corbyn knows full well that he is part of a hard Brexit cadre of an old Labour leadership, whereas Labour’s membership and their predominantly younger supporters are keen on staying within a European context.

“He wonders why he can’t get a lead in the opinion polls – well you can’t stay fuzzy on the big issue of the day and expect to beat the Government.

“That might tell the SNP that time is short to provide a different Scottish solution.”