Salmond Sets out His Vision for Scotland's New Kingdom; 1.HAPPY MAN: And Alex Salmond Has Plenty to Be Happy about, with Wife Moira, Top Left, and Deputy Nicola Sturgeon 2.WARNED: Tory Leader David Cameron

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Byline: Michael Tait

FIRST Minister Alex Salmond yesterday revealed that he wants anindependent Scotland to be part of a new UK Commonwealth.

The SNP leader attempted to play down fears that a vote for independence wouldlead to separation from the rest of Britain and confirmed the Queen wouldremain as head of state.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Scottish Mail on Sunday, Mr Salmond saidhe envisaged a UK of four kingdoms, with Scotland retaining close social andeconomic links with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In a move that will raise concerns among the Left-leaning republican elementsin his party, he ruled out holding a referendum on keeping the monarchy.

Mr Salmond sees an independent Scotland existing in the same way asCommonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada, who retain the Queen ashead of state. He said: 'Scotland would not be part of the state of the UnitedKingdom but it is part of the kingdoms because we share a monarchy.

We want to encourage and foster the social union between the countries in theseislands. The monarchy symbolises part of that social union.

'SNP policy is that we can see no reason for not having the Queen as head ofstate. Any parliament of Scotland can have referendums on anything, but I don'tsuggest we should do such a thing.

'I think the Queen as head of state is a good thing to have. If someonedescribed me as a monarchist, I wouldn't sue them.' Speaking a year since theSNP came to power, Mr Salmond is now more confident than ever of leadingScotland to independence.

His hand has been significantly strengthened following the English and Welshcouncil results, with Labour suffering its worst results in 40 years.

Gordon Brown has now been warned by his own MPs to 'get a grip' following theelection disaster.

Mr Salmond said Mr Brown was now suffering a crisis of leadership because ofthe timing of his arrival as Prime Minister. He accused him of 'bottling' it byfailing to go to the polls last year and of lacking the 'nerve' to face voters.

The First Minister said: 'After ten years of Tony Blair, it was unacceptablethat he became Prime Minister without a mandate, after failing to call anelection last autumn. I would have went for it if I was in his position. Allthe signs were that he was going to go for it and I was shocked when he didn't.

'There is always the risk of decapitation after such a scenario, but Labourdon't do that. I think he will carry on until 2010, but if he was leader of theTories it would have been off with his head. However, I think there will beLabour factions that will not be quiet in letting their displeasure be knownover the next two years. …