Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond to run for UK parliament in 2015, may become kingmaker

Scotland's First Minister; and now former leader of the Scottish National Party; Alex Salmond, reacts during his speech at the SNP's annual conference in Perth, Scotland, on Nov 14, 2014. Mr Salmond said on Sunday, Dec 7, that he would run for a
Scotland's First Minister; and now former leader of the Scottish National Party; Alex Salmond, reacts during his speech at the SNP's annual conference in Perth, Scotland, on Nov 14, 2014. Mr Salmond said on Sunday, Dec 7, that he would run for a seat in the British parliament at next May's election in order to help ensure Scotland gets the extra powers it was promised. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond said on Sunday he would run for a seat in the British parliament at next May's election in order to help ensure Scotland gets the extra powers it was promised.

Salmond, who stood down as First Minister of Scotland and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader last month after spearheading an unsuccessful campaign for Scottish independence, said his party would have an opportunity to wield significant power if the election result is as close as many expect.

In a last-ditch attempt to shore up support for the United Kingdom days before a Sept. 18 referendum, Britain's three main political parties promised to give more powers to Scotland.

Last month, plans for the greatest transfer of powers to Scotland from the United Kingdom since 1999, including the authority to set income tax rates, were set out but the SNP has criticised them for not going far enough.

"The Westminster parties will concede as little as possible ... it is up to us to make sure that Scotland gets what it is promised," Salmond, who was a member of the Westminster-based UK parliament from 1987-2010, told a meeting of his local party. "With so much at stake for Scotland, I think it is impossible to stand on the sidelines."

Salmond said he would run in Gordon in North East Scotland. The seat is currently held by Liberal Democrat Malcolm Bruce, who won it with a majority of more than 6,700 in 2010 but is stepping down at next year's election. The SNP candidate came second in 2010.

Since 55 percent of Scots voted to reject independence, the SNP has bounced back. Last month a poll by Ipsos-MORI showed the SNP, which has six seats in the UK parliament, could win 54 of the UK parliament's 59 Scottish seats next year.

That would virtually wipe out the Scottish chapter of Britain's opposition Labour party, threatening its chances of unseating Prime Minister David Cameron and turning the SNP into the third party and potential kingmakers in a hung parliament.

"The SNP and our progressive allies have moved into a commanding position in Scottish politics," 59-year-old Salmond said. "It is also likely there will be no overall majority in the Westminster parliament ... that offers the prospect of real power for Scotland."