Alex Massie

Salmond’s Confederacy?

Text settings

Alex Salmond has been in Washington, where he snagged an audience with Hillary Clinton and delivered a speech at Georgetown University. Hamish Macdonnell explains:

In a speech on Monday he took the time to praise Abraham Lincoln. This is what he said: "A man whose spirit and example will light America’s path for centuries to come. And a man whose name evokes, in the minds of your friends worldwide, the very highest image of America." It did not take long, however, for Labour spin doctors to point out that Lincoln was, of course, the one man who did more to keep the Union in America together, even going to war and winning that war to prevent part of the country from separating and becoming independent. This part of Lincoln's legacy was strangely absent from Mr Salmond's address.

No surprises there, then. But surely even Labour can do better than this? There's no shortage of material. After all, Mark Twain blamed the Civil War on Scotland. Well, sort of. It was all Sir Walter Scott's fault, appparently. Not for nothing was Ivanhoe the most popular novel in the ante-bellum south; not for nothing did some Southern gentlemen consider themselves the heirs to a chivalrous, romantic, medieval society. One that was threatened by a relentless, inhuman, industrialised modernity to boot. Though plenty of Scots-Americans would fight for the Union there's little doubt that the Confederacy was more obviously tinged with tartan. Nor should anyone be surprised that Jefferson Davis visited the site of another Lost Cause - Culloden - on his first visit to Scotland in 1869.

Then again, do Labour really endorse ending, say, habeas corpus (silly question: of course they do) and do they, like Lincoln, deny the right to self-determination and, like the Great Emancipator, are they prepared to wage a bloody war of, in this instance, Southern Aggression to maintain the Union at all costs? Who can tell?

Meanwhile, why the cringe over Salmond meeting Clinton? Granted, it's hard to see what they had to talk about, but such encounters are routine in diplomatic circles. More significantly, I hardly think the Catalan or Quebec or Bavarian media would react in quite such fashion were their leaders photographed with the new Secretary of State. Meeting Hillary is hardly Salmond's greatest triumph, but it's not something to be embarrassed by either.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleInternationalsalmondscotland