Friday, 30 December 2011

Is Alex Salmond Basking In Glory?




Alex Salmond's year is ending on a high note. Since 5 May, when he managed the unimaginable, he has shown the governance of Scotland is in safe hands. It's little wonder his followers are thoroughly delighted with their leader's anointment as Briton of the Year by The Times - and rightly so. Hopefully The Times uses the title Briton in a modern context and not in the historical one I was taught at school - 'an inhabitant of southern Britain prior to the Anglo-Saxon invasions'.

To further enhance Mr Salmond's status in the UK political scene, Jonathan Freedland's article in the Guardian is astonishingly flattering and even accurate in part and Reform Scotland's latest poll, although it should be taken with a very large pinch of salt given its credentials, can only increase the SNP leader's public profile.

Most of the accolades paid to Mr Salmond are old news, which brings me to wonder why the unionist press has so suddenly decided to praise instead of pillory him for his separatist agenda. Joyce McMillan has a few thoughts.

Like the Burd I too feel much of what has been written recently in the MSM has a vaguely condescending tone, but that doesn't dampen my respect for the man. He deserves every credit for bringing Scotland to the notice of the international community; not just as a country that is proud to wear tartan and eat haggis, but as a nation that has a distinct heritage and culture. The Burd also expresses my slight concern regarding the economic case for an independent Scotland, but I tend to bury my head in the sand about it, because how many independent countries in recent times have returned to their previous lords and masters because they're broke? 

The SNP has struggled for decades to be acknowledged as a mainstream political party, but where I disagree with the Burd is when she states that awards such as the Times has bestowed does Scotland no good.  I tend to believe in the 'there's no such thing as bad publicity' idiom as far as politics is concerned, but again I wonder why Westminster based media hacks are so intent upon praising Scotland's First Minister.

I cannot ignore the fact that Alex Salmond holds the position he does because of his colleagues. The SNP administration, both past and present, are a credit to their principles and beliefs. To show the party is 'in tune' with the people he allows the odd MP/MSP to voice their own opinions - such as John Mason's thoughts on gay marriage - but there's no doubt Mr Salmond runs a tight team and for that he can be applauded.  Not all SNP members - or SNP supporters -defend his vision for Scotland or all his policies, but they're discerning enough to realise dissent, when the aim is to handle our own affairs, is foolish.

Will the leader of the SNP be basking in glory?  No - or at least I hope not. He's a formidable politician who is respected or even feared by many in the UK's unionist political arena. They mess with him or his colleagues in the cabinet at their peril is the message that has finally been heard by the UK government.

Alex Salmond knows he isn't where he is today without the work of thousands over the years. As 2012 approaches he'll keep his powder dry until he knows the time is right to ask the Scots' opinion in a referendum, but meanwhile, is it too much to ask for a review of the SNP's EU policy, a warts and all look at why some schools are failing our children and why we are training medics when we know many will be unable to find work here?

29 comments:

JRB said...

I’m afraid I must confess to being one of those, slightly disillusioned by our present SNP government.

They did meaningfully more when they were but a minority government. Since their recent overwhelming success, and total lack of opposition, there has crept into the ranks of the SNP an unpleasant air of complacency.

There has been a concentration of thought on the minutiae. With all the challenges that face Scotland, parliamentary time has been wasted on unnecessary legislation and crude attempts at social engineering.

As an end of term report, I would have to say of Mr Salmond – shows potential but must concentrate more and do considerably better next term.

I would also caution Mr Salmond about such plaudits as given by the English press and remind him of a verse by Alexander Pope -

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike

Gedguy said...

Subrosa,

Good article.
I was totally dumbstruck to read Joyce McMillan's article in the Scotsman. It was not something that I would have expected from that paper. I wonder how long she'll be in that job?

JRB,

I agree with Subrosa who said: 'there's no such thing as bad publicity'. The more a respectable politician can get publicity the better for the arguments that he puts over. I can only say to you that AS cannot lead us to the 'land of milk and honey' if someone else holds the purse strings. Independence will give us that ability to go our own way in the world and, when that happens, I'm sure that there will be many discussions about the direction that we go in, as opposed to the current situation where that decision is taken by Westminster.

footdee said...

Rosa ,I did`nt read any concern for Scotland`s economic prospects in Burds piece,was she not only exposing the Times usual unionist sneers about the Scottish economy?

tris said...

A good summary SR.

And it's important to remember (as you did) that, while he is an outstanding politician with the most incredibly achievements under his belt, he's surrounded by talent. Some of the very best in Scotland.

Your own MSP John, is an incredible finance secretary. He can make money go a very long way. Nicola Sturgeon is an outstanding debater too, and a consummate performer on radio and television for our country.

If you compare them with their English counterparts ... the dubious Osborne (whose policies aren't working, and even if they do they will leave a Britain even more divided than ever) and their health secretary, who is going to allow up to 49% of the NHS beds to be private!!!!!

Mike Russell too, compares incredibly favourably to Michael Gove and his insistence that every English child (regardless of intellectual capacity) be forced to read Milton and Dryden, texts which can defeat doctoral students! Rather than encouraging an interest in literature, that is likely to result in many kids never opening another book. it's not that there aren't some excellent modern books written in actual spoken English that they could read, enjoy and develop a love for.

It's not surprising that over many matters, most recently the sale of drink which is cheaper than water, the English government is following the SNP's policies, and that just before the last election, the Labour opposition adopted almost of of them for itself.

I have friends in England who are genuinely fearful for a future once Rawnsley's reforms go through and a two tier health service is all that they can hope for.... "We'll fit you in, sir, just as soon as we've done all the paying patients"

It's one way of getting rid of the lower classes and leaving just enough to serve in Waitrows and empty the bins.

it's good to be Scottish.

Gedguy said...

Tris,

As you know, I live in England and the proposed changes to the NHS frighten the life out of me. The closer I get to retirement the more Scotland looks the better place to be.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

we cannot look at the issue of Scotland's independence with a purely parochial mind-set.

At present the world is experiencing a crises created by a financial toxic quagmire.

The UK through its institutions and governance is deeply immersed - possibly to the point of drowning - in this quagmire.

I'm pretty sure Salmond, Sturgeon, Swinney et al., are fully aware of of the stodgy and sticky mire they have to launch their escape from, and the energy and forces they will need to harness for it to succeed.

What is more difficult is to decide the point to aim for -is it the EU or sovereignty? And assuming sovereignty prevails, will Scotland have the grit, wit and capability to stay free of the shackles of debt peonage that created the quagmire.

In my opinion that's the Gordian knot Salmond et al are still struggling to unravel. An exercise made more difficult by the fact they have one hand shackled to the UK establishment.

Steve said...

A good summary SR.

And it's important to remember (as you did) that, while he is an outstanding politician with the most incredibly achievements under his belt, he's surrounded by talent. Some of the very best in Scotland.

Your own MSP John, is an incredible finance secretary. He can make money go a very long way. Nicola Sturgeon is an outstanding debater too, and a consummate performer on radio and television for our country.

If you compare them with their English counterparts ... the dubious Osborne (whose policies aren't working, and even if they do they will leave a Britain even more divided than ever) and their health secretary, who is going to allow up to 49% of the NHS beds to be private!!!!!

Mike Russell too, compares incredibly favourably to Michael Gove and his insistence that every English child (regardless of intellectual capacity) be forced to read Milton and Dryden, texts which can defeat doctoral students! Rather than encouraging an interest in literature, that is likely to result in many kids never opening another book. it's not that there aren't some excellent modern books written in actual spoken English that they could read, enjoy and develop a love for.

It's not surprising that over many matters, most recently the sale of drink which is cheaper than water, the English government is following the SNP's policies, and that just before the last election, the Labour opposition adopted almost of of them for itself.

I have friends in England who are genuinely fearful for a future once Rawnsley's reforms go through and a two tier health service is all that they can hope for.... "We'll fit you in, sir, just as soon as we've done all the paying patients"

It's one way of getting rid of the lower classes and leaving just enough to serve in Waitrows and empty the bins.

it's good to be Scottish.


And it is xenophobic, anti-english comments like this by their supporters that ensure I will always regard the SNP as merely anti-English rather than pro-Scottish. The idea that all is good in Scotland simply because it is not English is as silly, stupid and wrong today as it was in the 70's when I first encountered it. Its also indicative of just how far they haven't come in 30 years that it is still prevalent.

Regards

English Pensioner said...

He's got a lot of support in England!
Most Scots don't realise that large numbers of English would be very happy for Scotland to have independence, not because we dislike the Scots, but because it is the only way that we can envisage that we'd get an English Parliament. We simply wish to make our own decisions with regards to those same issues as the Scottish Parliament is allowed to do, without Scottish and Welsh MPs voting to give us something different than that which they have given themselves.
So I'm a firm supporter of anything which might lead to Scottish Independence, although I suspect when it comes to the crunch, it'll never happen.
Realistically, I favour a federal set up much the same as in the US, where the central government only deals with national matters, mainly Defence, foreign affairs, etc, whist the states handle most other matters which they vigorously defend against central interference.

tris said...

No Steve.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I am not anti English, but I am anti English governance.

It may suit England to have toffs govern them, to be privatising the health services, demanding children read books that even educated adults shun, to have a transport system dictated by the wishes of a few rich Tory supporters.

But it is not the Scottish way.

I have lived in England, most of my best friends are English and the person I admire more than any other in the world is half English. I am most assuredly not, not, not anti-English.

But I'm bloody glad I don';t have to live under the Tories for my domestic policy.

It's bad enough having their none-too-bright foreign policy, and their murderous welfare system, where untrained people decide, on a target basis, who is sick and who is not, and people on chemotherapy have been found fit for work, when their hair is falling out and they are too weak to stand; people with MS who have no balance as found fit for work, and yet there are drug dealers claiming every benefit going because the DWP are frightened of them.

I'm grateful that I will be able to go to a hospital and get treatment, without having to either pay, or wait in a queue behind those who can.

That above all is why it is good to be Scottish.

Tell me, Steve how many policies can you think of that are better in England than the equivalent in Scotland?

Gedguy said...

Steve,

I don't find anything in what Tris said to be anti-English. He is anti-UK government. If/when independence happens England will, most likely, be our biggest customer; why would we want to insult a customer?

English Pensioner,

The West Lothian question is-and always has been-irrelevant. Add up the number of Sottish, Welsh and NI MPs and compare that to the amount of English MPs. It's a no brainer; what England wants, England gets, due to the huge majority they have in the House of Commons.
By the way, I live in England, have an English daughter and English grandkids. I have no animosity towards the English whatsoever. Now ask me what I think of the UK government and you will get a different answer. Could it be that the English are so used to substituting the word 'British' with the word 'English' that they can't see the difference when it come to political discussions?

Munguin said...

What’s anti-English and xenophobic about comparing Mike Russell and Mike Gove? I wonder if Steve knows that both are.....err.....Scottish.

Surely if Tris were anti-English and xenophobic he would have reserved his criticism for only those among the English government who are actually English. Instead of reserving his longest paragraph and most damning criticism for someone who is Scottish.

I think it’s the unthinking mindset that simply regurgitates what is a reasonable critique back at you and tries to dress it up as something it so clearly is not, without any kind of thought at all, that tell us all much more about small minded little-Britain pro-Union attitude, with head in sand and fingers in ears, than any reasoned argument ever could.

Woodsy42 said...

Salmond was interviewed on the BBC World at one - yesterday I think it was - and I had to laugh at his comment when asked what he thought of the award. His reply was to the effect that he wasn't sure if it was because of what he had done or was more a reflection on the standard of other politicians.
A while since I have heard such a beautifully crafted condemnation of those in Westminster.

Demetrius said...

Curiously, "Private Eye" reports that the SNP are trying to attract Chinese money to allow HST2 to be extended to Scotland (perhaps with a direct link to the Edinburgh Tram?). This will enable elite Scots to get to Heathrow and the West End of London with about an hour or a little more saving of time. Odd that.

Clarinda said...

Yes Woodsy42 - it was an excellent and tactful response and a well aimed barb at Westminster (please note Steve, not "anti-English").
I don't feel Mr Salmond is basking in undeserved glory - but it must be tricky to remain modest and hold firm when so many outwith the SNP team are floundering in his/their wake?
It is fortunate that he has the political integrity and humour to parry situations that could be awkward in the virtual absence of any robust or useful opposition.
Perhaps after our Independence, Steve can celebrate a reclaimed 'Englishness' which will be a precious consequence of Scotland's Independence and the exact opposite of what Steve claims the SNP and their supporters stand for!

Steve said...

I am not anti English, but I am anti English governance.

We're not governed by the English. Small point but perhaps worth bearing in mind.

Attempts to raise standards are to be ridiculed are they?

It may suit England to have toffs govern them, to be privatising the health services,

How do you know that privatising parts of the NHS won't work? If there is no change to the service as seen from the patients point of view then what is the problem? Because of your friend's fear? Are they up to speed on the workings of the NHS? Do they have a detailed knowledge of its inner workings to the same degree as those in charge of it? If not perhaps we shouldn't take their fears too seriously as they are not founded on anything substantial.

Oh and correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't there a bit of a stushie a couple of years back over the SNHS use of private medical companies to carry out operations?

demanding children read books that even educated adults shun,

How do you know what children want to read? This is simply an attempt to raise their standard of literacy. Whats wrong with that? That Adults shun those books; well we live in an X-Factor society don't we. Most adults probably have never read any book in their lives.

to have a transport system dictated by the wishes of a few rich Tory supporters.

Not sure what you're on about with the transport system though. Care to enlighten us?

But it is not the Scottish way.

As a scot myself, speak for yourself.

I have lived in England, most of my best friends are English and the person I admire more than any other in the world is half English. I am most assuredly not, not, not anti-English.

Reminicient of the "I'm not racist, some of my best friends are black" excuse isn't it?

But I'm bloody glad I don';t have to live under the Tories for my domestic policy.

Your preference I guess

It's bad enough having their none-too-bright foreign policy, and their murderous welfare system, where untrained people decide, on a target basis, who is sick and who is not, and people on chemotherapy have been found fit for work, when their hair is falling out and they are too weak to stand; people with MS who have no balance as found fit for work, and yet there are drug dealers claiming every benefit going because the DWP are frightened of them.

Sounds like a Scottish version of the Daily Mail. Just an unsubstantiated rant.

I'm grateful that I will be able to go to a hospital and get treatment, without having to either pay, or wait in a queue behind those who can.

Which you can do in England as well. If you want to pay you go to a private hospital not an NHS one so you won't be in the same queue.

That above all is why it is good to be Scottish.

i.e. Given the relentless negative comparison to England, not English

Tell me, Steve how many policies can you think of that are better in England than the equivalent in Scotland?

Why should I? It proves nothing. Many of the areas of policy you have compared are in full control of the Scottish Assembly anyway and not subject to Westminster control. You have just spent your time arguing that all things Scottish are better because of a negative comparison to the equivalent English system. Why don't you explain to us why Scottish policies which are under our full control are so much better on their own merit rather than in comparison to English ones. I might then decide to take you a bit more seriously.

tris said...

Steve: We are ruled by England. We have been for 300 years. The partnership is so unequal as to be ridiculous. Of course I don’t blame the English for that. The figures speak for themselves.

If all the Scots, all the Welsh and all the Irish in parliament voted for something, and all the English voted the other way, who would win? There are 533 seats for England at the moment and there are 59 for Scotland. In 2013 there will be 502 for England and 52 for Scotland.

I didn’t say privatising health wouldn’t work, although I think it won’t. For people who can afford to pay, or take put insurance [policies, it will be wonderful; absolutely fantastic. I’m a private patient at my dentist, dating back to a time maybe 8 years ago, when almost every dentist in Dundee was private, under Labour. It costs an arm and a leg, but there was no choice. Now under our government, dentists are taking NHS patients, and I can compare the standard of treatment I get with the standard the NHS patients get. If you can afford to pay, it is a very good thing. For those who can’t it is a bad thing.

Yes, Labour had private companies in doing various procedures. A friend of mine had a bowel cancer test done by a private company at Stracathro Hospital. It was a small number; as far as I know there is little or none of it left.

The transport issue to which I referred was that of the high speed train, the route of which was to be running close to the houses, or estates of people who count, in Tory constituencies. It appears to have been put on hold while alternatives are looked at since the Welsh Secretary, who for some reason has her constituency in the part of England through which the train may (or may not) run, has threatened to resign if it goes near her voters’ homes.

Privatisation isn’t the Scottish way. I’m not talking personally. Even when Thatcher and major sold off almost everything there was to sell, they couldn’t get Scottish water sold off. No more could Tony Blair when he was privatising what little his Tory friends hadn’t managed to sell off.

I’d be grateful if you’d desist from the racist slurs. I must be among the least racist people in the world, and I take it as a foul and filthy insult. If there is one thing I detest more than anything else it is racism. I suspect most regular readers of this or any other blog that I frequent would confirm that.

Yes, I’d hate to live under Tories, particularly this bunch who are not just evil and self serving; they are also incredibly incompetent.
Scottish Daily Mail. No, that’s Tory, and the Scottish Daily Mail is as English as the English Daily Mail. The comments are really only unsubstantiated if you’re not very well informed about what is going on. If you work in that area, or read blogs about what’s happening, or even one of the not-Tory papers, you would know that it is true. Disgraceful and shocking, but true.

You may be able to get treatment now, but who knows when that English health minister gets his plans through? Possibly it will be like America where you may get free emergency treatment but it will be accommodated in lower standard buildings with fewer facilities, less equipment and possibly less competent staff. There are plenty in America who can’t get treatment; can’t go to the doctor for fear of the cost. And putting health insurance on to employment packages means that employment for people with expensive conditions is even more difficult to get.

Ah... No policies where it is better in England... Thanks. I thought not.

subrosa said...

Like you JRB, I'm not impressed by the social engineering that is currently underway. The sectarian legislation, the issue of gay marriage and the increase in units of alcohol, (where the cheap drinks will be relatively unaffected compare to a bottle of Scotch), smack of a nanny state and reactive governance.

The talent is there to be a strong government which allows freedom to all. I hope to see it used more wisely.

subrosa said...

Perhaps she was footdee and I misinterpreted her. Apologies.

subrosa said...

Indeed the SNP has talent and ability Tris, but I'm slightly concerned about the aims of government. (See my comment to JRB).

I think Michael Gove's going the right way and I also think Mike Russell should completely reorganise colleges to make at least half of them quality technical colleges - just for starters.

I doubt if the increase in alcohol will make much impact on Scotland's relationship with alcohol, but it will certainly raise more money for government.

I could go on but I won't. :)

subrosa said...

We'll have to find the grit, wit and capability Crinkly. Time to behave like grownups.

subrosa said...

Steve, I don't believe Tris meant is comment to be anti-English. I know he's not but he's very anti-Westminster.

subrosa said...

Auch EP, I'm sad you think independence will never happen. It may just because unforeseen circumstances create the situation, but who knows.

I can never understand why England cannot get its act together and fight for an English parliament. There are some excellent organisations which never join together. If they did then they could create a force to be reckoned with by our 'representatives'.

subrosa said...

Aye Woodsy, the man's a craftsman with the one-liners. He's also an excellent orator - second to none - when he's on form.

subrosa said...

What I understand is that yes, they're trying to acquire direct flights from Scotland to places such as China, without the need for those flying from Scotland to use Heathrow. Maybe I've misunderstood. I will go and read more.

subrosa said...

I'm sure Alex Salmond can manage the balance Clarinda. He's been coping with it for the last few years so he's well practiced.

Junican said...

Subrosa, dear.
It bothers me that you think that politicians actually decide policy.

The reality, for all to see, is that it is the shadowy 'experts' - un-named and unelected, who decide policy. Ministers deviate from the policy decided by the 'New Aristocrats' at their peril.

And so we see Advanced Education being made 'free', but, on the other hand, we see 'minimum pricing for alcohol'. If the later does not morph into an extra tax, no matter what it might be called, I will eat my hat.

But Alex is indeed a better politician than most - he can lie better.

Cynical? Definitely.

subrosa said...

I'm not quite foolish enough to think that Eck sits down and decides the running order Junican. :)

Like you my cynicism leads me to believe that once in power, politicians are run by mandarins. However, as the front man, Eck has a responsibility to create debate - whether an honest one or not I leave that to you to judge.

Munguin said...

I see that Steve is of the “I’m allowed to make sweeping generalisations without any proof brigade” of the “you are anti-English and xenophobic” variety. While also being of the “why should I, and, you prove it” as in “what’s your proof that English health reforms will make things worse?” and “how do you know what children want to read” and “why should I even try to think of a policy that is better in England than Scotland” mind set. It must make an informed debate with Steve an absolute joy.

subrosa said...

Most unionists can't articulate their reasons for staying in the union Munguin.

I suspect Steve is one of them. :)

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