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 UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder