ALEX Salmond, who famously said a referendum on Scottish independence was a "once in a lifetime opportunity", now believes there will be another one - in his lifetime.


And the former First Minister made clear in an interview with the right-wing Spectator magazine that the catalyst for the Yes camp's defeat was the opinion poll 12 days before the ballot - which placed the pro-independence campaign ahead for the first time - and the No camp's response to it.

The subsequent Vow by the three main UK parties on more powers for Holyrood was the difference between a Yes and a No vote, he suggested.

"The impact it had was highly significant. It gave people who were moving towards Yes an easier option: for change to be delivered, guaranteed, vowed without the uncertainty of a Yes vote."

Mr Salmond claimed upwards of 10 per cent or more of the Scottish electorate was swayed by the Westminster promise but that many of these voters now believed it was a "great pity that they were brought to that position".

And he admitted he also underrated the involvement of the Labour big beast Gordon Brown and "the fact that the one politician with any credibility would underwrite the commitment from three politicians with no credibility".

The ex-party leader criticised David Cameron's post-poll protocol gaffe when he suggested the Queen was pleased with the No vote and was "purring" down the phone-line.

He accused the Prime Minister of behaving like a "schoolboy" and claimed "anybody who has any knowledge whatsoever of Her Majesty the Queen would not envisage the words 'purring down the phone' because she is a woman of enormous experience and understanding of the sentiments of her people".

Mr Salmond also hinted that Mr Cameron had suffered a royal rebuke, saying: "I doubt very much that he'll ever do it again. I was in Balmoral the day after, incidentally, for an audience."

The Nationalist grandee, who is now aiming to become the MP for Gordon to help keep the main UK parties' "feet to the fire" over enhanced devolution to Scotland, said just days before the referendum vote: "In my opinion, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

But when asked by the Spectator if there would be another such poll in his lifetime, the 59-year-old politician replied: "Oh yes."

The Aberdeenshire MSP now has his eyes on leading a much-increased SNP contingent in the House of Commons, possibly even holding the balance of power in a hung parliament.

Intriguingly, the ex-party leader stressed to the Spectator that the SNP's choice not to vote at Westminster on those matters devolved to Holyrood was "my choice", noting: "But, of course, in that position we would, obviously, be prepared to listen to other counsel."

That could mean the Nationalists would, for a price, be prepared to vote with Labour on English legislation; they voted on the tuition fees bill - technically an England-only piece of legislation - because they believed its effects would stretch to Scottish universities.

In the magazine interview, Mr Salmond sets out his aims for the SNP should no party have an overall majority at Westminster; "pursuing the redemption of The Vow in full terms, sticking up for Scottish causes and pursuing progressive politics with allies on things like the living wage or international issues when we have got a lot to say".

The former FM, who in the weeks before the referendum vote, gave a speech in London in which he described the UK capital as the "dark star", sucking in resources from elsewhere, explained how he always had a high regard for the UK Parliament "because, frankly, if you can't speak in the chamber of the House of Commons, you can't speak".