Alex Salmond: “the strong economy and the just society”

I conspired to miss the First Minister’s keynote speech at the SNP’s Spring conference today, but not deliberately.  Small matter of taking the chicklet to a birthday party.

Though my excuse is much lamer than that of SNP HQ staffer, Sue Ruddick, who managed to give birth rather unexpectedly it seems.  Congratulations and a great big welcome to the world to her wee man, who truly is of the independence generation.  Which was fitting really, given that the independence generation dominated the boss’s speech.

But I’ve listened to so many of Alex Salmond’s speeches that even reading the text, I can hear his voice – every cadence, tick and crescendo.  It seems that today I missed a stormer.  As Angus McLeod, Scottish political editor of the Times and longstanding commentator, said this was “the speech of a politician at the top of his game.  Almost relentlessly positive in tone and content“.  Praise indeed.

Fond of quoting Burns in his speeches, reading and re-reading this brings to mind the question, “when will we see his likes again”?  For, this was a big speech packed full of big themes and big announcements from the biggest beast in Scottish politics.

It came as close as damnit to elucidating what amounts to Alex Salmond’s core beliefs:  “..working for a Scotland that can truly prosper – the strong economy and the just society“.  These were the twin themes forming the warp and the weft in the tapestry he spun.

On the strong economy, there were announcements of a further £5 million package to support 2.500 young people into work, of every SNP council elected after May delivering a living wage, of a £300m package of “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects delivered in a list to London.  The challenge is clear:  if we are stronger together, help us deliver growth for our economy by releasing the capital and borrowing that would enable Scotland to get on with delivering these projects, putting people back to work in the process.  “In devolved Scotland we can demand, in an independent Scotland we can deliver”.

Some of the usual messages were present and correct;  lines already tried and tested.  Labour was dismissed for its negativity and irrelevance at the top of the speech – “once upon a time, it is said, Labour were the ‘people’s party’ but.. in May last year, the people spoke.  And they chose Scotland’s party“.  He focused little on the opposition and making negative attacks, but when he did, he trained his sights on his counterparts at Westminster.

Indeed, pointing up the differences between Scottish and UK Government – of demonstrating that “home rule with independence beats Tory rule from Westminster, any time, any day” – formed a significant part of Alex Salmond’s speech with the cornerstone the commitment to the NHS.  “On the health service we are showing our friends in England there is an alternative.  And let me absolutely clear –  because of the independence we have over the NHS – this Government, this SNP Government will ensure Scotland’s NHS is never for sale“.  This division over the status and treatment of the NHS north and south of the border is hugely significant and gives the SNP a powerful argument and selling point for a yes vote.

The First Minister continued to drive this wedge, with a commitment that “for 35,000 young Scots, with the SNP the EMA (educational maintenance allowance) is here to stay“, and by indicating that while Scotland has record numbers of police officers, the UK Government is cutting numbers and preparing to privatise certain functions.  It is potent and resonant stuff and at last, we are starting to see reasons to choose independence – or at least to reject the status quo – being set out.

The language he used was interesting too.  This was a speech in which the lines between independence and devolution were deliberately blurred.  Salmond talked of the “little independence” the current settlement provides being good, while emphasising that “real independence” will be even better for Scotland.

At last, Alex Salmond found his touchy-feely side.  Suddenly, it is all about people: big numbers and constructs were by-lines in this speech.  This SNP Government is in the business of putting itself on people’s side, demonstrating that “we can be a beacon for social justice but only if we allow our light to shine“.  Thus, he made a commitment “to create the conditions in this land which will see a life opportunity for every young Scot“.  He also announced a £10m Commonwealth Games legacy fund to enable communities to upgrade their sports facilities – the just society in action, no less.

And the First Minister set out how his Scottish Government was providing for the independence generation, demonstrating how they are using the powers they have to provide the “best package of free nursery education on offer anywhere in the UK“, commiting to enshrine an entitlement to provide every 3 and 4 year old, and every 2 year old looked after child, with 600 hours of nursery provision.  Again, he indicated this was “a statement of intent – a signal of the nation we can be, and we will be, with the powers of independence“.

All the way through this excellent speech, Alex Salmond was moving the debate on.  This much we have, look what we can do now, but imagine what else we could achieve with a little bit more.  Indeed, though the sections on independence and what it would mean for Scotland were aspirational, gone were the narrative sweeps of old.  Independence has a purpose:  “Scotland, not just a nation of promise, but of potential fulfilled“.  Independence is what other countries do;  independence would deliver a different kind of union on these islands, one based on a partnership of equals;  independence is nothing to be scared of “because being independent is the most natural thing in the world“.

This was a vital speech, signalling a step change in the terms and tone of the debate.  Softening it actually.  There was nothing about the process of independence and lots about its purpose.  It was a speech with plenty of meat on the bones, showing how the SNP is delivering for the people of Scotland, but could deliver so much more – “just a Yes vote away“.

I’m only sorry I didn’t get to hear it after all.




18 thoughts on “Alex Salmond: “the strong economy and the just society”

  1. Braveheart

    Any point in either of your posts?
    Alex Salmond repeats the same core beliefs. Why ever not?
    North Ayrshire delivered a living wage. Good for them. The SNP shouldn’t?

    • Alex Salmond’s speech, like the one in the musical, is snake oil. You might not see it, of course, but I thought the transposition was amusing.

      No reason why the SNP shouldn’t bring in a living wage. Just pointing out Labour did it first. Why ever not?

  2. “of every SNP council elected after May delivering a living wage,”

    North Ayrshire Council introduced the living wage last year.

    It’s not SNP controlled.

    It’s Labour controlled.

  3. I came across this and was strongly reminded of Alex Salmond’s speech (any one of them…)….

  4. My main point is no matter what lies ahead for Scotland every single one of us should want a clean justice system.

    The Lockerbie case, and the SCCRC findings on the verdict, prove we don’t have that and that is something that should worry us all no matter which Party we vote for. The implications of the SCCRC findings in the conviction of Megrahi show that we almost certainly did not convict the right person. If anyone thinks that it is in order for any government to ignore that sort of evidence from an indepedent scrutineer then I hope that person ends up in a Scottish court of law one day and is subject to the same corrupt Scots Law we saw in Zeist. For that is the very least they deserve!

    • The Scottish Government is NOT ignoring the Scottish Justice System. May I remind you they have quite limited powers to deal with the matter. They are doing all they can within those limits. The time for independence, with a Scottish Government with full power to make Scotland a fairer and better place, now rests in the hands of the Scottish voters. May they grab the chance with both hands and wrest Scotland’s government out of the Wastemonster’s grasp. Vote YES to independence.

  5. Jo

    I make no secret about my rage about the Lockerbie verdict but I also assume that there are compelling reasons of which we are unaware why we are where we are today on this issue. I would be less eager to judge at this moment.

    • David, there are no “compelling” reasons why a Scottish Government should ignore a clear signal from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission that there were SIX grounds to suggest a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in the atrocity which brought about the biggest loss of life the UK has seen since WW2. Governments are either about justice or they are not. Do NOT make excuses for politicians who are prepared to look the other way so that “Scots Law” is not embarrassed. That is NOT justice. Governments either believe in justice or they don’t and the conduct of the Scottish judiciary in the Lockerbie case was appalling. (Tantamount to the obstruction of justice I believe Prof Hans Koechler called it!) Salmond, with a new administration, and clean hands on Lockerbie, could have reined the judiciary in and insisted an SNP would have justice on Lockerbie, not just for Megrahi but for Scotland and the 270 people who lost their lives. There is no compelling reason you could present to justify ignoring the evidence we know about which says we convicted the wrong man. There is also no compelling reason to justify a Scottish Government standing by silently while the Scottish Judiciary stalled Megrahi’s second appeal for more than two years.

    • And David, your “rage” clearly isn’t that great if you’re making excuses for the people in power who could bring justice on Lockerbie.

      • I think you are being a bit unfair.

        The problem is that unless you have access to ALL the facts, then you cannot be in a position to make a judgement against the Scottish Government.

        The primary responsibilty for any government is to their people and the country. Distasteful actions by governments are sometimes necessary. There is also a responsibility to uphold the law – and that includes keep confidential information secure, and not releasing the information for political purposes.

        How would it seem if the First Minister broke the law? Governments pass laws; they are not there to release information as they see fit in order to further their own ambitions. Such a move would see all trust and confidence lost.

        (I have a very strong personal interest in what happened at Lockerbie – one family of four that was killed in the town were close personal friends for my parents.)

      • “I have a very strong personal interest in what happened at Lockerbie – one family of four that was killed in the town were close personal friends for my parents.)”

        Then shame on you Barbarian for making excuses too.

        I am not being “unfair”. I am simply asking for someone with the powers to change things to turn the Scottish Justice System upside down and INSIST it operates with justice at its core. What is your problem with that exactly? What would anyone’s problem be?

        And I absolutely CAN make a judgement against the Scottish Government. They came to power in May 2007: the SCCRC announced those six grounds to suspect a miscarriage of justice in the Megrahi conviction in June 2007. They had the power to ensure the Scottish Judiciary heard that appeal. Instead they allowed the appeal to be delayed by more than two years. Why if they were for Scotland and it was in Scotland’s best interests to get to the truth about Lockerbie? They didn’t need to put a case: the SCCRC had already put the case for them!

        You say “distasteful actions by governments are sometimes necessary”. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean if you can see someone has been wrongly convicted but it isn’t in the interests of the establishment to say so it is ok? Is that what you mean? I call that dishonest. I call it to lie. But you say it is “sometimes necessary”. That makes you untrustworthy. And it isn’t the way I want justice to work in Scotland.

    • The first step to claw out the full details of the matter are in hand. We need that information but it is still being held as secret. The Scottish Government is doing all it can to have that information released into the public domain. First they must prove the convicted man’s conviction is doubtful, then prove him innocent, then expose the dark forces that convicted an innocent man. So we must be patient until we get the facts. Do not forget that we still cannot get the full facts released by the UK government about the almost certain murder of Willie MacRae. Even those documents released by Northern Constabulary carry doubt. There are photos of MacRae’s gun and bullets. It is a six shot revolver but there are five live bullets and TWO empty shell cases. So that assumes the gan had all chambers loaded and one up the spout. So, if two bullets were fired where they both in Willie’s head? Kind of hard to shoot yourself twice in the head. Kind of hard to miss with a gun pressed to your head? Why was the gun found a long way from the car and why would Willie shoot himself while still on the move? The incident was at a layby. Why not stop there and then shoot yourself? Why are the Government so shy to show both full Lockerbie and MacRae papers for public inspection? They both smell of UK government invollvement

  6. Salmond is an excellent orator, and can deliver excellent speeches. he is definitely improving, since we now see less of the “unacceptable to the people of Scotland”.

    He could certainly teach one or two within his party a few things, let alone the opposition.

  7. Did anyone ask him why he doesn’t want the truth behind Lockerbie to come out?

    Did anyone ask him why he keeps insisting “Scots Law” possesses “integrity” when the verdict in the Megrahi trial is so flawed it is embarrassing?

    Did anyone ask him if he ever considers the plight of so many of his supporters who had waited with baited breath, in 2007, expecting him to take on the political and judicial establishments on Lockerbie and their dismay when he went the establishment line to keep the truth buried?

    Did anyone ask him if, by taking such a line, he was serving the best interests of Scotland or was he serving the political and judicial establishments both north and south of the border by covering their backs?

    Did anyone ask him if the 270 people who died over Lockerbie deserve better?

    Did anyone ask him why our SCCRC no longer has the power to refer a case straight back to the Court if it finds evidence to justify such a step because his Justice Minister removed that power (buried in “emergency” legislation to deal with the implications of Cadder)? (Was that move designed to deal with any future appeal on Megrahi’s behalf so that a judge can immediately kick it out?)

    Did anyone ask him if he wants a clean justice system in Scotland or just a bunch of people devoted to paying homage to something called “Scots Law” which, on the evidence of Megrahi’s trial, is utterly toxic and corrupt and committed to anything bar justice?

    Salmond could have taken them all on, on the issue of Lockerbie, not for Megrahi, but for Scotland. He bottled it, he complied with former Unionist governments for reasons he has not yet shared. He will never know how many people he let down in the process. And I don’t just mean the dead at Lockerbie: I mean those of us who truly believed that if anyone could have swept the dross aside on Lockerbie it was him.

    • Yes to all those questions and they are all answered. The Scottish Government are in exactly the same position as you are. They cannot get access to the needed documentation. What they got had blacked out words, phrases and sections. Until they get the facts they cannot rule on the matter. The request to release the information is being stymied by the UK government. Ask yourself why?

  8. The essential thing about Alex’s speech (like that of |Nicola today) is that there is plenty of content in it.

  9. Yeah, sorry to say you really missed a barnstormer Kate. That was my first foray into SNP conferences, and it was a great introduction! Amazing atmosphere, especially knowing that there were FOUR rooms of people unable to get in the main hall.

    You really got the feeling that independence is coming. This wasn’t a speech hoping Scotland might possibly vote for independence; this was a speech laying out exactly why Scotland WILL vote for independence. You came away wondering what on earth could possibly possess someone to vote no!

    • The biggest problem that Scotland has just now is the utterly bogus BBC, (and the rest of the Mainstream Scottish Media). The non-politically motivated are fed a diet of myth, misinformation and misstatement. Witness the BBC’s Bryan Taylor’s report that deliberately claimed Nicola Sturgeon had said Scotland would have had to rely upon The UK to bail out the Scottish BOS. All lies, Nicola said, correctly, in the first place BOS is a limited company, Thus not Scottish, pays tax to the UK Treasury, its business is international and only a small part is in Scotland. That an independent Scotland would not have had lax UK style controls on financial institutions. However, with big headlines, and a several days wait for a published, (and quite well hidden), correction, the damage was done. This is the norm for the BBC who are a well known hive of Labour Party members, activists and supporters. Often the BBC employees have family connections to Labour officials. After all, did not BBC Scotland’s former employee, Gordon Brown go on to become a Wastmonster MP, Chancillor and Prime Minister. The BBC is the Wastemonster State Broadcaster and propaganda machine. Pat attention and see the bias in ALL political debate on BBC Channels.

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