ALEX Salmond has revealed David Cameron would have dismissed his request for a Section 30 order to hold an independence referendum in 2014 if he thought that had been the SNP’s preferred option.

The former First Minister, who is now the leader of the pro-independence Alba Party, told how he secured the historic vote by wily negotiations with the then Conservative Prime Minister. His strategy was to wrong foot the Tory PM to make him mistakenly think the Section 30 order was not actually a preferred option and that a multi-option referendum was.

In a warning to the SNP, he said that had he presented the Section 30 order route to an independence referendum as his favoured position – as the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly done – Cameron would not have granted it.

“In any negotiation, the first thing to do is to negotiate your strengths and your position. I do speak from some experience in this,” he told The National as his party launches its manifesto for May 6 today.

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“In 2011 the idea that David Cameron said, ‘jolly good show Alex, you’ve won the election, and in terms of the rules of cricket it’s your turn to bat and we will now give you a referendum’. That’s not how it happened. 

“What happened is that the week after the election I went down to London to initiate negotiations. 

“Cameron wouldn’t see me, so I started negotiations with [then Chancellor] George Osborne who did his thinking for him and then over the period of months we had to present him with a less palatable alternative than granting a Section 30 [a three-way referendum controlled by the Scottish Parliament]. That’s how it was done.”

He continued: “I don’t regard Section 30 as the gold standard. Section 30 is what we arrived at. It was the outcome of the negotiation to enable a vote on independence, if David Cameron had said ‘the game’s up, we’ll be like the Czech Republic and let’s go our separate ways’, I would have said ‘done’.

“It’s very foolish indeed to get fixated on a Section 30 as you are being fixated on something that can only be granted by Westminster.

“So, if you want to get a Section 30, the very last thing you do is to tell people that is your aim in the negotiations. David Cameron wouldn’t have granted a Section 30 if we had gone to him and said ‘I’ll tell you what David, what we are wanting is a Section 30, a Yes/No referendum, in which we control the franchise, the timing and the question. If I had gone into negotiations saying that I would assure you, we would not have had a referendum in 2014.

“Therefore, I worry when people say ‘we’ll ask for a Section 30 referendum’. A Section 30 referendum is a tactic, a democratic device, an enabling mechanism, the strategy is

Scottish independence, not a Scottish independence referendum.”
Referring to a scenario from the TV series Dr Who, the former SNP leader said he feared that if the Scottish Government repeatedly asked for a Section 30, and the PM repeatedly said no the country could find itself in a “transient time loop”.

He said: “There was an episode where the doctor got stuck in a transient time loop. Now the independence movement of Scotland must not get stuck in a transient time loop where we go on this process where we say ‘we are about to ask for a Section 30’, we ask for a Section 30 and the Prime Minister says ‘now is not the time’ so we go back in our box for months and years until we ask again.” 

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Salmond’s Alba Party is standing candidates in all eight regions of Scotland where it aims to win at least one seat in each area. It is not standing in the constituencies where it is urging supporters to back the SNP in a bid to achieve a Yes “supermajority” in Holyrood.

The route and pace to reach independence are two key differences over strategy between the SNP and Alba. Salmond says the SNP lack urgency to reach independence with the timetable slipping on when a vote should be held. 

Sturgeon says Salmond can’t “bulldoze” his way to independence and that his strategy will put off undecided and “soft no” voters.

The National revealed yesterday if Alba candidates are elected, they will put down a motion in Holyrood immediately instructing the Government to start independence negotiations with the PM.

Asked about the claim Alba will be a hindrance to independence, Salmond said the existence of different groups and a larger number of pro-independence MSPs would be helpful.