Alex Salmond's missing speech

What has happened to his 2008 "Scotland will be a Celtic Lion" speech?

The highly respected Scottish blogger, Love and Garbage, seems to have got a bit of a scoop.

It would appear that the March 2008 "Celtic Lion" speech by Alex Salmond has been taken down from the Scottish government website. This seems odd, for as Love and Garbage can establish:

In fact, if you go to the full collection of the First Minister's big set-piece speeches since taking office you will discover that while the speech is referred to the Harvard speech is the only one that does not have a live link.

So what was in this now elusive "Celtic Lion" speech?

Something rather embarrassing, in hindsight. As Love and Garbage explains:

In March 2008 Alex Salmond addressed an audience at Harvard University. Some of you may remember it. In the speech the First Minister referred to the "arc of prosperity" or Ireland, Iceland, and Norway; he referred to "the remarkable success of indigenous companies that have become global, Nokia in Finland, Ericsson in Sweden, Maersk shipping in Denmark or for that matter the Royal Bank of Scotland." (not the last of his praise for the Royal Bank); he said "the lesson we draw from our neighbours in Ireland - the Celtic Tiger economy - where annual growth has averaged more than 6 per cent over the past two decades, is that with the right strategy, there are no limits to success in the modern global economy."; and a hymn of praise to Scotland's financial sector "of course we Scots are lucky enough to have the one of the best brands in the world - a global recognition and affection for our culture that money cannot buy. Take financial services. With RBS and HBOS - two of the world's biggest banks - Scotland has global leaders today, tomorrow and for the long-term. And a growing number of American firms - not least JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and State Street - are discovering that the Scottish financial sector can do anything you can do in London and can do it better and rather importantly in the current environment can do it at lower cost."

In an aggressive phone call from the First Minister's press office I was told this post (the one you are reading) was going to be "misleading" and "erroneous". I hadn't even written it at that stage. It would seem "that it was normal for speeches of the old administration to be taken down". Now, how can one sensibly doubt this assurance?

However, it would be a pity for the First Minister's political wisdom to be lost to future generations, so here is the "Scotland will be a Celtic Lion" speech in full.

 

Addendum (28 June 2011)

A couple of things followed this post.

First, I received this from Donna Rafferty at the First Minister's Press Office:

This is misleading, because all Ministerial speeches recorded in the Speeches and Statements section during the previous administration (2007-2011) remain available. These speeches include the First Minister's speech at Harvard and can be found at:http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Speeches/speeches.

Following normal website housekeeping, a new Speeches and Statements section has been created for the present administration with its new team of Ministers, and is part of the main navigation at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/news/speeches.

Then the speech suddenly re-appeared on the Scottish government site. The implicit suggestion seems to be it was there the whole time and that, somehow, both me and Love and Garbage missed it.

However, the leading blogger Unity, of Ministry of Truth, has established it was published on the site after the post of Love and Garbage and my enquiries.

What a very strange sequence of events.

 

David Allen Green was shortlisted for the 2010 George Orwell prize for blogging.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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The government has admitted it can curb drugs without criminalising users

Under the Psychoactive Substances Act it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess for their own consumption recreational drugs too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

From Thursday, it may be illegal for churches to use incense. They should be safe from prosecution though, because, as the policing minister was forced to clarify, the mind-altering effects of holy smells aren’t the intended target of the Psychoactive Substances Act, which comes into force this week.

Incense-wafters aren’t the only ones wondering whether they will be criminalised by the Act. Its loose definition of psychoactive substances has been ridiculed for apparently banning, among other things, flowers, perfume and vaping.

Anyone writing about drugs can save time by creating a shortcut to insert the words “the government has ignored its advisors” and this Act was no exception. The advisory council repeatedly warned the government that its definition would both ban things that it didn’t mean to prohibit and could, at the same time, be unenforcable. You can guess how much difference these interventions made.

But, bad though the definition is – not a small problem when the entire law rests on it – the Act is actually much better than is usually admitted.

Under the law, it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess, for their own consumption, recreational drugs that are considered too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

That sounds like a mess, and it is. But it’s a mess that many reformers have long advocated for other drugs. Portugal decriminalised drug possession in 2001 while keeping supply illegal, and its approach is well-regarded by reformers, including the Liberal Democrats, who pledged to adopt this model in their last manifesto.

This fudge is the best option out of what was politically possible for dealing with what, until this week, were called legal highs.

Before the Act, high-street shops were free to display new drugs in their windows. With 335 head shops in the UK, the drugs were visible in everyday places – giving the impression that they couldn’t be that dangerous. As far as the data can be trusted, it’s likely that dozens of people are now dying each year after taking the drugs.

Since legal highs were being openly sold and people were thought to be dying from them, it was obvious that the government would have to act. Until it did, every death would be blamed on its inaction, even if the death rate for users of some newly banned drugs may be lower than it is for those who take part in still-legal activities like football. The only question was what the government would do.

The most exciting option would have been for it to incentivise manufacturers to come up with mind-altering drugs that are safe to take. New Zealand is allowing drug makers to run trials of psychoactive drugs, which could eventually – if proved safe enough – be sold legally. One day, this might change the world of drug-taking, but this kind of excitement was never going to appeal to Theresa May’s Home Office.

What was far more plausible was that the government would decide to treat new drugs like old ones. Just as anyone caught with cocaine or ecstasy faces a criminal record, so users of new drugs could have been hit with the same. This was how legal highs have been treated up until now when one was considered serious enough to require a ban.

But instead, the government has recognised that its aim – getting new drugs out of high-street shop windows so they don’t seem so normal – didn’t depend on criminalising users. A similar law in Ireland achieved precisely this. To its credit, the government realised it would be disproportionate to make it a criminal offence to possess the now-illegal highs.

The reality of the law will look chaotic. Users will still be able to buy new drugs online – which could open them to prosecution for import – and the law will do nothing to make drugs any safer. Some users might now be exposed to dealers who also want to sell them more dangerous other drugs. There will be few prosecutions and some head shop owners might try to pick holes in the law: the government seems to have recognised that it needed a better definition to have any chance of making the law stick.

But, most importantly for those of us who think the UK’s drug laws should be better at reducing the damage drugs cause, the government, for the first time, has decided that a class of recreational drugs are too dangerous to be sold but that it shouldn’t be a crime to possess them. The pressure on the government to act on legal highs has been relieved, without ordinary users being criminalised. For all the problems with the new law, it’s a step in the right direction.

Leo Barasi is a former Head of Communications at the UK Drug Policy Commission. He writes in a personal capacity