Alex Salmond

first minister of Scotland from 2007 to 2014

Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond (born 31 December 1954) is a Scottish politician who served as the fourth First Minister of Scotland from 17 May 2007 to 18 November 2014. He is a former member of both the Scottish and Westminster parliaments. Salmond was leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) for two terms, firstly from 1990 to 2000 and later from 2004 to 2014. A feud with his successor as first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and his arrest for sexual offences (he was acquitted in the eventual trial) led to Salmond leaving the SNP. Since 2021, he has been leader of the Alba Party.

Alex Salmond

Quotes edit

  • Membership of a supranational economic trading organisation like the EC is the antithesis of 'separation', the meaningless insult directed at the SNP by unionist parties. Membership involves obligations which cede national sovereignty for mutual benefit. Co-operation with our European partners in the functional areas--economic, trading, technical and social policies--offers an independent Scotland the chance to play a reforming part in creating a Europe of equal nations. The EC is by no means perfect and the idea of a centralised European super-state is anathema. Our view of Europe is confederal--each state proud of its national identity but willing to work and co-operate in a powerful partnership...Every member of the SNP signs a commitment to internationalism when they receive their membership card. Our progressive nationalism goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to internationalism.
    • 'Nationalist and Internationalist', Fortnight, No. 291 (Jan., 1991), pp. 16-17.
  • The SNP's commitment to a Bill of Rights and written constitution means that we will outlaw any discrimination but we also have to eradicate it from the dark recesses of the Scottish psyche. We also have to speak out against institutionalised discrimination. For example, it is a scandal of some considerable proportions that no Catholic can sit on the throne, or marry the heir to the throne -- an attitude entrenched in law that belongs to the archaic arrangements of the eighteenth century, not the bright prospects of the twenty-first.
    • Speech in Northern Ireland (27 July 1995).
  • She is the living memorial as to why Scots want their own parliament.
    • Remarks made after Margaret Thatcher opposed Scottish devolution (9 September 1997), The Times (10 September 1997), p. 8.
  • There is not an anti-English bone in my body. I have forgotten more about English history than most Tory MPs ever learnt.
    • The Times (12 December 1998), p. 36.
  • It is an act of dubious legality, but above all one of unpardonable folly. [The bombing] may make matters even worse for the very people it is meant to be helping...if we are to sanction intervention in Serbia then the policy must be capable of achieving two things. It must be capable of weakening Milosevic and helping Kosovo. A bombing campaign will do neither, indeed the chances are it will make both worse.
  • This Prime Minister must be drummed from office and we will use each and every opportunity to make that a reality...But this Prime Minister deserves to be impeached - and we, with others, will present the case that he should be required to answer...I believe that this Prime Minister now operates outside the currency of debate, beyond the pale of decency...I don't just challenge the policies of Tony Blair, I challenge his morality...This is not a question of this Prime Minister - any prime minister - making a judgement call and just being wrong. It is not a matter, as Blair would have us believe, of someone acting in good faith and making an honest mistake. This is a man who buried the intelligence that was inconvenient, manipulated the information to suit his purpose, and entered into a secret pact with the American President to go to war come what may.
  • It's not to pretend you can do everything, but if people like you – in the sense of admiring or having respect for what you are trying to do – then they will understand the odd blemish. If people don't like you, and lack confidence in what you are trying to do, they won't forgive you anything.
  • Am I miffed now? No! It's the best thing that could have happened. We were saved! We were saved!
  • Dealing with the Liberals, it was like trying to grab quicksilver.
  • Come on, this is big stuff. These are all tackling underlying issues – it's not just a question of striking and populist announcements.
  • We have the political engine behind us. We have a public that is willing to listen to the arguments we are putting forward, and we will gain converts to those arguments. We believe people will come to the right conclusion. We trust them.
  • My favourite is a hung parliament with 20 SNP MPs. I want to be calling the shots, organising the tune.
  • No matter the lie, even if I was on my own, I'd have to play it. I can hear my dad saying: 'Play the ball as it lies.' Because of the way I was taught, I would feel awful about it. I don't know if that makes me dead honest or dead stupid.
  • I do have a strong faith and always have had, I’m not a regular churchgoer now but I’m in church a lot – to do readings, to attend events and so on. I had a strong church upbringing which I think has been invaluable to me in terms of a moral compass – of some idea of what’s acceptable and what is not acceptable. I have a Presbyterian nature in that I like its ideas of individual responsibility and democracy. I’m naturally suspicious of people who wear religion heavily on their sleeves – that’s just not me and my style.
  • I don’t think we should get to the state in this or any other country that if someone has a faith they are regarded as curious. Given that [Blair] had that framework – and it’s not for me to question his personal beliefs – then why on earth was he employing folk who so clearly didn’t?
  • The campaign was disgusting. It split on religious lines. It was one of those moments when you thought that ‘if politics is going to be like this, I’d like to go and do something else’.
  • The Church was the anchor, the rock of the independence movement in the days of Wallace and Bruce, it was the only institutional force that could be relied upon – it certainly wasn’t the nobles.
  • You are able to have disagreements as long as you’re straight talking – you say honestly what can and can’t be done.
  • Let’s not pretend we’re in a worse position than we were half a century ago. That’s just not true. Then, sectarianism was inculcated into life, politics, business – into all sorts of institutions where prejudice should have no part whatsoever. That has largely gone. That Monklands byelection was one of the last redoubts of religion dividing politics.
  • I’m not sure we should ask the Church to be pragmatic. Politicians have to be – that’s part of the balancing of the public interest – but I don’t think that’s the job of the Church. The whole point in having a religion and faith is that you campaign for what you believe, not just for what you think is achievable.
  • We unite behind a declaration of self-evident truth. The people who live in Scotland are best placed to make the decisions that affect Scotland. We want a Scotland that's greener, that's fairer and more prosperous. We realise that the power of an independent Scotland is necessary to achieve these great ends...By the time we enter the referendum campaign in autumn 2014, our intention is to have one million Scots who have signed the independence for Scotland declaration. Friends, if we achieve that, then we shall win an independent Scotland.
  • Scotland will not be a foreign country after independence, any more than Ireland, Northern Ireland, England or Wales could ever be “foreign countries” to Scotland.
  • Like many servicemen, my father never spoke too much about the war when I was growing up. However we all are proud of him as are all families of those who served.
  • For me as leader my time is nearly over, but for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die.
  • The real guardians of progress are not the politicians at Westminster, or even at Holyrood, but the energised activism of tens of thousands of people who I predict will refuse meekly to go back into the political shadows.
  • We now have the opportunity to hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the “vow” that they have made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland. This places Scotland in a very strong position.
  • We lost the referendum vote but can still carry the political initiative. More importantly Scotland can still emerge as the real winner.
  • I have believed in Scottish independence all my political life, I continue to believe in Scottish independence, I shall do everything I possibly can to contribute to that cause.
  • I think that’s been a good kick of the ball.
  • Whatever else we can say about this referendum campaign, we have touched sections of the community who've never before been touched by politics. These sections of the community have touched us and touched the political process. I don't think that will ever be allowed to go back to business as usual in politics again. So friends, sometimes it's best to reflect where we are on a journey. 45 per cent, 1.6 million of our fellow citizens voting for independence, I don't think that any of us whenever we entered politics would have thought such a thing to be either credible or possible. Today of all days as we bring Scotland together let us not dwell on the distance we have fallen short. Let us dwell on the distance we have travelled and have confidence that the movement is so broad in Scotland that it will take this nation forward and we shall go forward as one nation. Thank you very much.
    • Speech at Dynamic Earth (19 September 2014).
  • When you have the majority of a country up to the age of 55 already voting for independence, then I think the writing's on the wall for Westminster. I think Scots of my generation and above should be looking at themselves in the mirror and wonder if we by majority, as a result of our decision, have actually impeded progress for the next generation, something no generation should do. The destination is pretty certain – we're only now debating the timescale and the method. I'll contribute to that debate, but I think it's time for new leadership. There are a number of political opportunities coming up. For many, many years, a referendum route wasn't the chosen route of the SNP or Scotland. For many years, there was a gradual attitude to independence. You establish a parliament and establish successively more powers until you have a situation where you're independent in all but name, and then presumably declare yourself to be independent. Many countries have proceeded through that route – there is a parliamentary route where people can make their voice heard as well – so a referendum is only one of a number of routes. I think that’s the best route. That’s always been my opinion but my opinion is only one of many.
    • Remarks during a television interview (21 September 2014).
  • When the European roof is falling in on one Prime Minister it is difficult to concentrate on just how a previous one destabilised the planet.
  • It would be a mistake to believe that Chilcot and current events are entirely unconnected. The link is through the Labour Party.
  • The coup was timed to avoid Corbyn calling for Blair’s head next Wednesday from the Despatch Box. Indeed many would say that when Corbyn stated that he would be prepared to see a former Labour Prime Minister tried for War Crimes then he sealed his fate as leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
  • Chilcot will not be a verdict, that much is clear. However, it could still supply the damning evidence for the jury to bring a conviction in. In a triumph of hope over experience my political sense tells me to expect fireworks.
  • It can be argued that the lack of accountability about Iraq led Cameron on to committing many of the same blunders on a smaller scale in Libya in 2010. In Libya the UK spent thirteen times as much bombing the country as reconstructing it and the human chaos and bloody carnage of a failed state now moves like the tide across the Mediterranean.
  • It is unfinished business.

Strategic objectives of new Government (May 23, 2007) edit

First Minister's speech at the Scottish Parliament (transcript)
  • It is time to get down to business. Scotland's new politics starts now. ... Let's start as we mean to continue - with respect for diversity of opinion.
  • I do not favour the mushy ground of false consensus. The public interest is not served by parties incapable of defining their driving principles and standing their ground. Politics is either about the competition of ideas or it is about nothing. But just as the public interest is served by that competition, so it is ultimately better served by thoughtful reflection rather just than knee-jerk reaction.
  • About my approach to law making. Despite waiting a long time - a very, very long time - to govern, it is not my position that legislative change is always or often the best way to effect change.
  • A Parliament's job is not just to legislate but to debate, to enquire and to understand.
  • We see barriers to business as barriers to national progress.
  • The future of the western economies in the coming decades will rest on their capacity to fuel economic growth whilst reducing our impact on the planet. Scotland is not just part of that - in truth we are well placed to be a leader. Scotland sits at the heart of one of the wealthiest parts of our planet.
  • This Government believes that it would be economically advantageous for Scotland to be an independent country. Other parties disagree. But as we continue that debate, let us at least agree that this country - our country - has the capacity to become one of the most successful economies on the planet.
  • We must take the lead in the green energy revolution. This country has played a hugely influential role in the development of green technology but we need to take that to another level. I want Scotland to become the pre-eminent location for clean energy research and development in Europe. Becoming a world leader in the development of renewable technology provides a happy marriage of economic advantage and meeting the fundamental challenges of climate change head on. We have the natural resources, the know-how and the skills for Scotland to become the green energy capital of Europe. ... This country - our country - in a unique position to exploit all of these technologies. ... I want to see a Scotland that is nuclear free. A Scotland that uses its natural resources and know-how to deliver clean and secure energy supplies. And a Scotland that develops new clean energy technologies that can be exported and used throughout the world.
  • We should all look forward to an exciting journey.

Scotland and Northern Ireland (June 18, 2007) edit

Speech to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, Belfast (transcript)
  • The prevailing mood in my country is one of optimism and opportunity. Scotland is restless for change and keen to expand its influence and to reach out beyond our shores.
  • I don't stand before you as the First Minister of an independent Scotland - that must wait for another day perhaps.
  • When this assembly reconvened, the world's media descended - doubtless seeking signs of strife and discord. What struck me then and indeed strikes me today was the ability of members to understand and respect their differences - however fundamental - whilst committing to providing better government for the people of Northern Ireland.
  • Differences of opinions, contrasting objectives are not just fundamental - they are necessary in a democratic society. What matters is that they are pursued within the context of the rule of law and mutual respect for the legitimacy of all strands of opinion.
  • In 21st century government - as with 21st century business - there is no excuse for a poor flow of information, for failing to be aware of what similar organisations are doing, for lagging behind the times in terms of innovation and best practice.
  • Scotland is a country which has at its core an internationalism which has been much affected by centuries both of migration and also of welcoming those from other countries.
  • You are the blood of our blood and the bone of our bone.
  • Many American presidents believe they are Irish by descent. Some believe themselves to be Scottish by descent. Actually, most of them are Scots-Irish by descent - certainly the good ones!
  • Let us achieve great things for those who granted us the privilege to serve.

Third Session of Parliament (June 30, 2007) edit

At Holyrood Parliament (transcript)
  • This Parliament exists - and always will - to serve the people and to provide national leadership which reflects their hopes, addresses their fears and raises their aspirations. It is a Parliament which the people demanded. It is also a Parliament of which the people make demands.
  • Scotland is not confused, nor are we a people ill at ease.
  • We are a country weighing the options for our future. We do so positively, and with the highest ideals.
  • I believe in the restoration of an independent Scotland. Others in this chamber take a different view. I welcome that debate and the national conversation to follow. The challenge for all of us is to have that conversation with dignity, with respect and with substance.
  • In Europe we see different visions of government in an interdependent world. Across the world we see a new order struggling to be born, one based on the rule of law and addressing the planetary imperatives of tackling mass poverty and global warming. These changes in governance are not to be feared but rather to be embraced. It is, after all, the essence of democracy that what has always been so, need not always be so.
  • Change is what political leadership is about.
  • This Parliament is led by Scotland's first minority Government. That innovation was unintended - very un intended - but it is one which has breathed new life into our political debate.
  • Our national story has its full share of grief and pain as well as triumph and expectation. But through it all, hope remains and dreams do not die.
  • In this Parliamentary Chamber, above the clash of debate and the arm wrestling over amendments and motions, these enduring themes prevail - our responsibilities to the people we serve, our responsibility to our country and Scotland's responsibility to the world.

Scottish Government's relationship with Europe (July 11, 2007) edit

At Scotland House in Brussels. 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (transcript)
  • The scars remain and the wounds are still deep.
  • We must never forget that, at its core, the European Union is an expression of commonality - a desire for unity to prevent conflict and to encourage mutual benefit.
  • In the European Union of today, the obligation to provide international leadership rests on all nations - large and small.
  • Is the time for Scotland to assume our obligations and responsibilities to help mould the world around us. This must be an era of renewed Scottish internationalism - both as a tribute to the past and a statement of who we are today. It is not just that we are a nation interested in Europe, but rather that it is fundamentally in our national interest that we understand what it is to be European.

Broadcasting Speech (August 8, 2007) edit

Speech at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (transcript)
  • They say the art of government - rather than the substance - is all about communication, but as far as this country is concerned I would go even further than that. I would say that Scotland is all about communication. This is a nation that loves to express itself, to retell old stories and share new ideas, to pass on information, to hear what's happening. We communicate passionately with each other as friends, as citizens, as family. It's a very deep human need and we feel it particularly strongly in Scotland ... It's perhaps not surprising that we couldn't wait for somebody else to invent the telephone or television.
  • While we might always have enjoyed self-expression, we have perhaps at times lacked a little bit of self-belief.
  • I don't think it's a good idea for politicians to design television programmes, but what we can do is design policies - and by implementing those policies we help to create an environment in which talented people can do great things, and significant and dynamic creative companies can be built for this generation and the next generation. That means having the infrastructure, the skills, and the education. We need a clear vision. We need to identify the opportunities and provide the resources.

Citizens Advice Bureaux (August 15, 2007) edit

Speech at Citizens Advice Scotland Conference (transcript)
  • While individuals must take responsibility for their spending, they are entitled to protections from outrageous credit charges.
  • We must tackle the causes of personal debt, and not just the consequences.
  • I believe it is through independence that we can do most to help our nation to flourish, to improve our quality of life.
  • Whatever our constitutional arrangements and no matter how well off we are, there will always be a need for Scotland's citizens to talk about their problems. Therefore, we will always need independent, reliable and accurate advice to help guide them at certain points in their lives.

Principles and Priorities : Programme for Government (September 5, 2007) edit

Speech at Scottish Parliament (transcript)
  • Politicians often like to believe that we exist to make law - and that only through constantly changing the law we achieve our policy objectives. That view of political leadership is mistaken.
  • In truth, most people already believe there is too much legislation and yearn for a more considered and more restricted approach. I embrace that sense of legislative restraint.
  • It is not the purpose of Government to legislate - rather it is for Government and Parliament to legislate with a purpose.
  • Such are the joys of national leadership!
  • To win and retain the trust of the people requires an administration willing to focus on showing competence and direction in the day to day business of government.
  • The people of Scotland want a Government based on principle but able to move with mainstream opinion to build consensus in the public interest.
  • Government must always be about vision. Restoring belief in the power of democratically elected Government to effect change - something which remains one of the great challenges for any modern Government - is about focusing on the 'possible' rather than merely accepting the status quo.
  • Those are the objectives - competence, consensus and vision - against which we should be judged. Of course that judgement could come earlier if the opposition parties wished to force an election!
  • I wouldn't dream of intruding into a reserved matter.
  • I would welcome a Westminster election next month - just as long as it is not organised by the Scotland Office under electronic voting!
  • It is the very stuff of politics that parties like to have a go at each other - a vibrant democracy demands no less.
  • David Mundell MP said it would take a miracle to save Glasgow University participation in the Crichton campus. It is now official - miracles happen in an SNP run Scotland!
  • All that this country can achieve depends on developing our nation as a high growth, vibrant economy. In the modern global economy, even the greatest political ambition is doomed to failure without an economy driving employment, investment, research and development and rewarding success.
  • A critical aspect of increasing economic growth is creating a smarter Scotland.
  • If we are to compete as a nation in the global economy, we need to upskill Scotland. That means more Scots in the workforce with higher vocational skills - and it means many more with graduate skills too.
  • We must remove, not erect, barriers to degree level education.
  • A skilled people, an economy with a competitive edge. These are the ways to transform economic performance.
  • We must never forget that the NHS is a public service. It is a service used by the public and it is a service paid for by the public. ... We must therefore never forget that is the duty of health boards - and of responsive government - to take full account of particular local views and circumstances.
  • It is unacceptable that eight of the ten areas in the UK with the lowest life expectancy are in Glasgow. And it is surely a matter of national scandal that life expectancy in war torn Iraq remains higher than in some areas of the largest city in Scotland.
  • Our united belief in social justice demands no less.
  • A visible police presence on the streets is the best means we have of reassuring communities throughout Scotland. We know too that high visibility policing deters criminals.
  • Scotland has a unique opportunity to develop one of the strongest renewable and green energy industries in Europe - and, a world centre for excellence.
  • The role and function of backbench politicians deserves to be treated with respect.
  • It is about much more than the constitution. It is about how we create the vibrant economy, the healthy society and the socially and environmentally just society in which we - all of us - believe.
  • This Government believes in an independent Scotland precisely because it is our view that the transformation of our country in each and every of those policy areas can best be achieved through that normal, independent status. ... Others have a different view. I respect that.

St Andrew's Day (November 30, 2007) edit

At Glasgow Caledonian University conference on National Days. (transcript)
  • A study only last year by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that young people from white families placed less importance on their Scottishness than young people from Indian, Pakistani and Chinese families. These new and newer Scots see much more clearly and appreciate the values and qualities that make this nation great. And it is right that, as we consider the future of Scotland, as a people we also look at ourselves afresh and take pride in who we are.
  • I respect the view of every Scot and every person living in Scotland. And I do so with a clear sense of my own responsibility to lead change and to argue for what I believe is in the Scottish national interest.
  • One of my central missions in politics is to encourage the people of Scotland to share a restored belief in themselves. A sense of the possible. A sense of ambition. A restless eye for national advancement.
  • The unionist parties are giving ground. The status quo is indefensible, confidence in the nation is rising, the case for consulting the people is unanswerable. That debate on our future is more than conceptual, or philosophical. It must also be about practical steps.
  • No-one should have any trouble finding a party.
  • It is essential that we stress the importance of St Andrews Day to our children - to ensure that they grow up with a full appreciation of their rich heritage and what it means to be Scottish - confident and secure in their national identity and their place in the world.
  • A nation which is ignorant of its history cannot properly make choices about its future.
  • I believe that all of us - whether native Scots or our friends abroad - should strive for a shared understand of our heritage and origins.
  • The Scots were thus truly a chosen people, highly favoured of the Lord!
  • That sense of an inclusive Scottishness - one which does not simply tolerate diversity but rather celebrates it - is at the heart of what I want St Andrews Day to become.
  • Modern Scotland is about continuing that traditional welcome for those of all faiths or none, of including those from every part of the world and of every belief in our social mix. That diversity is our strength. That ability to welcome and to accommodate those from other nations and to develop an elastic sense of what it is to be 'Scottish' makes us bigger and better as a nation.
  • We celebrate the values which define modern Scotland: the values of humanity, compassion, enterprise, ambition, and a determined internationalism.

Vision for Scotland in the European Union (December 12, 2007) edit

Playfair Lecture on 40th Anniversary of Europa Institute, Playfair Library, Edinburgh University (transcript)
  • We Scots are proud Europeans. By history Scotland is - and by our ambition Scotland will remain - a European nation, a full member of the European Union. This is the starting point of our engagement with Europe. We will always play our full part and work to advance common European interests.
  • We Scots derive a strong sense of identity from our nationhood. Scotland has always retained a unique culture and character - not defined in opposition to our neighbours, but by ourselves and our basic values. We Scots have made great contributions in the world of philosophy, economics, science and letters. We were the first country in the world to adopt free education for all. And our legal system is a unique hybrid of the civil and common law traditions.
  • As Scots our Celtic heritage ties us closely together. It binds us with our cousins in Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic and Wales. And with other Europeans lucky to blessed with good weather. We have Celtic cousins in Brittany, Galicia and Cornwall. Our is a heritage shared in a love of music and song, of poetry - and a special affinity with the sea and with nature.
  • Scots have also for these past three hundred been part of a political union - the United Kingdom. Some of you may argue this is three hundred years too long. Others may disagree. But Scotland has played its full part in the Union - meeting our obligations and advancing the common good, without ever losing sight of our distinctive identity and values. And our destiny.
  • Scotland has a global identity. We have always been internationalists, looking beyond our shores for ideas, influences and ways that we can enrich others. Scotland has deep ties of kinship and history with the Commonwealth. And the Scots Diaspora has a prominent place in the history of the United States, Canada and many nations.
  • Scotland is a nation that has always combined many layers of identity, from the local to the global. Scottishness has always meant far more than a simple identity with nation. It is founded on cosmopolitanism, on decency, on humanity - on advancing ideas and common interests. This is the basis on which we consider our relationship with and our position in Europe. And this is why Scotland is at ease as we consider our future within the European Union.
  • Scotland's long-term prosperity does not depend solely - or even predominantly - on oil and gas. It will also be based on our success in the other industries of the future - sectors such as renewable energy and the life sciences, where we are already a major European player.
  • Not only would an independent Scotland within Europe be at ease with ourselves and our partners at the table. We would be naturally suited to the aims and values of Europe itself - and with the responsibilities of being modern, compassionate, global Europeans.
  • No Member State, even the most passionately pro-European, is always fully in agreement with all the policies of the EU. And all make their voice heard on the issues that affect them most. This is how Europe should work. It is how an independent Scotland would act.
  • We have pushed hard to ensure that the UK negotiating line takes full account of Scotland's circumstances - and we will continue to do so. But we have no guarantee of success. Nor can we be sure that Scottish interests will not fall victim to trade-offs that the UK Government has to make at the Brussels negotiating table. Independence would remove that uncertainty at a stroke.
  • I want to see Scotland at the heart of Europe's energy policy and future.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Lecture (December 19, 2007) edit

Speech on the government plans for Gaelic, at St Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh. (transcript)
  • A strong economy and strong culture go hand in hand.
  • I will not give you an elegy - words to stir your hearts as our beloved Gaelic slowly fades away. And I will not be prescribing palliative care.
  • I want to see Gaelic thrive across the whole of Scotland.
  • Is not because I am a poor sailor and fear the voyage to Skye.
  • Gaelic is not a regional language - it is a truly nationwide language. And the future success of Gaelic depends on attracting new speakers to the language here as much as its does on fostering Gaelic in its traditional heartland.
  • There has always been - and always will be - interdependence between the economic prospects of Scotland's Gaelic speaking population and the strength of our Gaelic culture. The language will thrive only once there are real economic opportunities for Gaelic speakers.
  • Ten years ago, alongside the return of the Book of Deer, I was arguing strongly for the return of the Lewis chessmen to Scotland. Sadly this campaign is as yet incomplete. Of the ninety-three pieces known to us today, the National Museum of Scotland holds only eleven. The other eighty-two remain in the British Museum in London. I still find it utterly unacceptable that the Lewis chessmen are scattered around Britain in a bizarre parody of the Barnett Formula. And you can be assured that I will continue campaigning for a united set of Lewis chessmen in an independent Scotland!
  • Our Gaelic language and culture has prevailed.
  • We cannot take Gaelic's future for granted, particularly when the number of speakers continues to diminish. As the stewards of Gaelic in Scotland, we are responsible for ensuring that the language is able to flourish.
  • Gaelic language and culture is inseparable from the future success of the Scottish economy.
  • We have the assets, skills, knowledge and ideas to match and overtake our closest neighbours. By that I don't just mean the rest of the UK, but also the small, independent countries, Iceland, Norway, Ireland and Denmark, that form an arc of prosperity around our shores. ... There is every reason to feel confident about our economic future. Every part of Scotland has the potential to take us towards our goal.
  • We all accept that renewable energy is vital to reducing climate change.
  • The future strength of our rural economies and communities will depend upon the availability of a sufficient and appropriate supply of housing.
  • As the world becomes increasingly inter-linked and competitive, we know that our future economic success and prosperity will be predicated upon the strength of our human capital, and our ability to forge and to sustain competitive advantage.
  • As we look to secure our ambitions for this nation's future, we must recognise that a vibrant Gaelic language and culture are central to what it means to be Scottish in the modern world.

Cardinal Winning Lecture (February 2, 2008) edit

Speech on the contribution of faith-based schools at the University of Glasgow. (transcript)
  • It is the foundation of my Government's mission to build a modern, compassionate and just society in Scotland. A society where we not only meet our immediate needs, but ensure that all can share in the benefits of prosperity. And a Scotland that is ever conscious of its global responsibilities - promoting peace, supporting international development and protecting our environment. Building this society and instilling these values in our population requires the highest standards of teaching in our education system - and a strong ethical dimension.
  • I have a particularly happy memory of a BBC programme showing the new Cardinal anxiously listening to commentary of the League Cup Final - Celtic were playing Raith Rovers - and assuring reporters that his appointment could only help Paul McStay's ability to score a penalty. I believe I am correct in saying that while papal infallibility is assured, the doctrine of the Church says much less about the infallibility of Cardinals. And even less about the infallibility of Paul McStay!
  • Cardinal O'Brien has told me that his elevation proves that - in one respect at least - Scottish Cardinals are like buses. One has to wait for four hundred years, only to have three arrive in succession!
  • The Church has long recognised Scotland as a filia specialis, or 'special daughter'. And in turn Scotland has much to be grateful for. It is no exaggeration to say that the nation of Scotland owes its identity and its survival to the recognition and support of the Catholic Church.
  • I have long been a supporter of the quality of faith-based education in this country - and a particular admirer of the contribution of Scotland's Catholic schools.
  • I believe that here we are in full agreement on the tremendous role that faith schools can play in Scottish society. And they do so by endowing our children with a strong moral foundation. A positive and distinctive identity. A keen sense of personal responsibility and the common good. A strong commitment to charity - the true meaning of which is helping others.
  • When I visited St Margaret's School in Loanhead ... I was struck by pride that the children took in their faith, and their identification with the ethos of the school. These children were not just learning to be good students. They were learning to be good people.
  • The foundation of Scotland's success - our great intellectual, social and economic flourishing - was our commitment to education. To free education for all. ... We seek to build an education system that is open to all. A system that will not just benefit our economy - but will help to strengthen Scotland's entire civic and intellectual life. That is why we place such strong emphasis on ethics and values.
  • In Scotland you were allowed to starve but had to learn to read and write. Whereas in England the poor house provided an alternative to starvation, but education was only for the privileged few. This country has been a learning nation - first, last and always.'
  • Through religious education, our young people also learn respect for and an understanding of other beliefs and how to make a positive difference to themselves and the world by putting their beliefs and values into action.
  • When we consider the ideals - the values - that we should foster in Scotland's young people, we can think of the words inscribed on the mace of the Scottish Parliament. Words that help describe the values for our whole democracy: justice, wisdom, integrity and compassion. Values that are - and have always been - at the heart of Catholic education in Scotland.
  • I use the word 'celebrate' quite deliberately.
  • It is time to celebrate diversity and distinctiveness. And to openly welcome the contribution that faith based education can make to Scottish education.

Scotland in the World Forum (February 4, 2008) edit

Speech at the University of Aberdeen. (transcript)
  • Make no mistake - Scotland has already changed. And Scotland is continuing to grow and develop as a nation and a society. Last May, the people of Scotland sent out a clear message. They did not just vote for a change of government. They voted for a change in governance. A stronger, more effective, more democratic Scotland. And they expressed their hunger for a higher level of ambition - in our government and in ourselves. In the country we seek to build. And in our image and standing abroad. These are profound and permanent changes.
  • We have strong economic relationships with the rest of the UK. With our EU partners. And with large and small nations across the world. And I would contend that the basis of that framework is not Scotland's relationship with the other nations of the UK - strong and enduring though that will be. Rather, the reality is that our fundamental economic role is as a member of the world's largest single market - the European Union. And it is this relationship which does most to shape the rules and the terms of our global commercial ties. Nonetheless it remains for many an article of faith that a positive future for Scotland's economy depends squarely on our continuing membership of the United Kingdom. ... I for one was not convinced!
  • I believe that we must look outwards, not inwards, to test our true economic potential - measuring ourselves against our international competitors.
  • Like any internationalist, I embrace Scotland's interdependence and the advantages that such interdependence confers. But in international relations - perhaps even more than the economic sphere - there are major advantages to pursuing an independent policy that promotes Scotland's global interests. Indeed it precisely because we live in an interdependent world - one where markets are integrating and information flow is unstoppable - a world where the reality of climate change acts as a daily reminder of our reliance on each other - that independence matters. Interdependence is a welcome fact of modern global politics. What matters in the Scottish national interest - above all else - are the terms on which Scotland engages. The equality of esteem, of authority between nations matters more now than it has ever done.
  • The choice for Scotland is quite clear. We can choose to remain a bit part player - unable to advance our interests and influence the international agenda other than through the United Kingdom. Alternatively, as in independent country, we can actively seek responsibility - eager for the opportunity to help shape the great global debates.
  • I want Scotland to be a leader in international conflict resolution. I want to build on the tremendous sense of goodwill towards our nation across the globe. Real leadership is not just about winning conflict - it is about having a strategy to defuse it. Resolution of conflict is harder, more subtle, more difficult.

Church of Scotland (May 25, 2009) edit

Speech at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, The Mound, Edinburgh (transcript)
  • I am well aware that in theological and democratic terms I am, no more than "God's silly vassal"
  • I have always had a special regard for the General Assembly and its members. This is the place - and you are the people - that do so much to give expression to the heart of Scotland.
  • Our churches are here to provide comfort and to offer hope as they always do in moments of extremity.
  • When our society is tested - we depend on the strength of the institutions which sustain that society - our churches, trade unions, charities, our universities and colleges, our legal system. And, of course, our political institutions, which should be a source of hope, a source of purpose.
  • As we look again to rebuild a rich country, we must make sure this time round we also build a rich society - a society where the measure of wealth is not only the money in our pockets but the wellbeing of our communities.
  • Trust is a precious quality. An essential quality. Once lost it is not quick or easy to rebuild.
  • Trust is the lifeblood of a decent society. The true currency of democracy.
  • People naturally aspire to the symbols and the ideals of our nation. Yet whether it is a political party, a church, a charity - any institution built by man can fail and can fall. The key thing is to aspire to be better. And, for our political institutions, to understand that self sacrifice - just like forgiveness - is at the centre of the order of things.
  • There is a need to renew our economic institutions and the principles which guide them. Parts of the financial sector, we now know, were run on a false prospectus. With the rewards to some individuals completely divorced from basic ideas of fairness, or service. And, as it transpires, sadly those rewards were also divorced from any reasonable notion of lasting value. That could not be sustained. And it was not sustained.
  • It is easier for us to talk of sacrifice and of change than it is to achieve them. Both can be difficult, sometimes painful. But we have guidance on this new path. We have ourselves, we have each other.
  • Our courage and our resolve will be tested. And so too will our imagination. Because our world is changing. And if we are prepared to imagine and to shape it in new ways, we will find ourselves stronger, more free - a better, closer community.
  • The Declaration of Arbroath of 1320 ... was a challenge not just to the ambitions of our neighbour but too many of the accepted views of that time. As a statement of the 'community of the realm', the Declaration of Arbroath may be Europe's first statement of a contractual relationship between government and citizens.
  • Without the church there would be no Scotland - and something important, precious and distinctive would have been lost to the world.
  • As you sowed, so Scotland reaped.
  • Let no-one mistake. This Church, and other faith groups, have the ability to be agents for change and change for the better. ... You have worked to promote understanding among faiths. To tackle sectarianism. To promote development worldwide. ... And let me say that for our Parliament, that is something that may not yet be formally our responsibility. But it is, in reality, our obligation. ... In ancient times it was said that Sparta had no city walls. It did not need them, the people were the walls of Sparta. This church and our other institutions - spiritual and secular are the walls of Scotland - the rocks on which reform and renewal will be built. ... We will continue to draw on this Church as a source of wisdom. A source of strength. A source of hope.
  • Any house built on sand - big or small - will not survive the storm.
  • There is nothing wrong with Scotland that cannot be fixed by what is right with Scotland.
    • Paraphrase of Bill Clinton's "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America."

Speech at a Burns Supper in Dundee (4 February 2023) edit

  • [T]o get to a position where you say to a majority of our people that you cannot have single-sex spaces – prized and worked and strived for – because of some daft ideology imported from elsewhere and, as we’ve seen, imperfectly understood by its proponents in Scotland, borders on the totally absurd.
    And the six per cent decline in independence vote over a month – think about that.
    Thirty years of gradually building, building, building until we get independence over 50 per cent and then thrown away with some self-indulgent nonsense, which even if it was right, which it is nae, would hardly be tactically the most astute manoeuvre when we're meant to be taking Scotland to its next date with destiny."

Quotes about Salmond edit

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