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:

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

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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Unconvinced by Ken Loach’s benefits story? That says more about Britain than the film does

The director has clashed with a film critic about his representation of the welfare state in I, Daniel Blake.

I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s new film, has kicked off a row between the director and The Sunday Times’ film critic, Camilla Long.

Published on Sunday, the review – which called the film a “povvo safari for middle-class do-gooders” – has led to Loach and some audience members rowing with Long online.

Long also describes the film – which is an unforgiving drama about the cruelty of welfare bureaucracy – as “misery porn for smug Londoners”.

Her contention is that it is “condescending” and “patronising” to benefits claimants, partly because it will mainly be seen by affluent audiences, rather than “the lowest part of society” – so acts as a vehicle for middle-class guilt rather than an authentic reflection of people’s lives.

I’ve seen the film, and there are parts that jar. A reference to the Bedroom Tax feels shoe-horned in, as if screenwriter Paul Laverty remembered last-minute to tick that box on his welfare scandal checklist. And an onlooker outside the Jobcentre’s rant about the Bullingdon Club, Etonians and Iain Duncan Smith also feels forced. (But to me, these parts only stood out because the rest of the script is convincing – often punishingly so.)

A critic is free to tear into a film they didn’t enjoy. But the problem with Long’s review is the problem with the way Britain in general looks at the benefits system: disbelief.

For example, Long calls it “a maddening computer error” and “a mysterious glitch” that Daniel Blake – a 59-year-old carpenter who has been signed off from work by his doctor after a heart attack – is denied his disability benefit.

Actually it’s because he’s been found “fit to work” after an agonising tick-box phone assessment by an anonymous adviser, who is neither a nurse nor a doctor. This is a notorious problem with work capability assessments under a welfare system constantly undergoing cuts and shake-ups by successive governments.

Both the Personal Independence Payment (which replaced the Disability Living Allowance in 2013 under the coalition) and Employment and Support Allowance (which replaced the Incapacity Benefit in 2007 under New Labour) have seen backlogs and delays in providing financial support to claimants, and work capability tests have repeatedly been under fire for being intrusive, inappropriate, or just wrong. Funding for those in the “work-related activity group” who claim ESA – in which you work if you are deemed able to during continual interviews with an adviser – also suffered a 30 per cent cut in last year’s budget.

Also, when people claiming ESA believe they have wrongly been found “fit for work” and appeal – as Blake does in the film – more than half of decisions are overturned when they reach a tribunal.

It’s a system that puts cost-cutting above people’s welfare; Jobcentre staff are even monitored individually in terms of how many sanctions they impose (Blake’s friend Katie is sanctioned in the film), making them feel as if they are working to targets.

The situation for disabled, sick or broke people claiming welfare is unbelievable in this country, which is perhaps why it’s so difficult for us – or for some watching Loach’s portrayal of the cruel system – to believe it at all. At best, it’s because we would prefer to close our eyes to a system that we hope we never have to grapple with. At worst, it’s because we don’t believe people when they say they cannot work, and demonise them as “shirkers” or “scroungers”.

By all means question Loach’s cinematic devices, but don’t question the point of telling the story at all – and the story itself. After all, it’s the very inability of people who rely on the state to have their voices heard that means they are always hit the hardest.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.