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 rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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