Courtesy of the BBC iplayer, I've finally caught up with Alex Salmond's appearance on Any Questions (appearance is obviously the wrong word for a radio show but I can never think of an appropriate equivalent). There were quite a few fascinating moments - and one downright chilling moment, when Menzies Campbell explained that he has no philosophical stance at all on Britain's nuclear weapons, and that it's all about "utility" for him. You'd think he was talking about a screwdriver or a pair of spectacles, but of course the sole function of nuclear weapons is to mass-slaughter millions of civilians - men, women and children without discrimination. (The American bombing of Hiroshima, using a weapon of trivial destructive power compared to modern Trident warheads, burned countless children to death as they sat at school.) Campbell sounded utterly furious when Salmond called him out on the grotesqueness of using the word "utility", but I suspect he was protesting too much - perhaps somewhere, deep down, he felt a twinge of shame at such a clear-sighted recognition of the Liberal Democrats' retreat into a moral vacuum.
Shortly afterwards, there was one of those broken record moments when the pro-WMD members of the panel kept pressing Salmond to say whether or not an independent Scotland would be able to sign the agreement stating that NATO is a nuclear weapons alliance, and Salmond kept responding with the SNP's careful formulation of words about how Scotland would simply be joining 25 of the 28 current NATO members in not possessing nuclear weapons. Anna Soubry in particular seemed beside herself with excitement when she was able to point out that Salmond hadn't technically answered the question, which is true, but that's such a fatuous little triumph. It shows just how warped the preoccupations of the London media have become that Jonathan Dimbleby allowed the panellists so much time to catch Salmond out on a point of pedantry, while giving a completely free pass to the gargantuan holes of logic in Campbell's own argument. Apparently, without the ability to annihilate cities at the push of a button, the United Kingdom would be susceptible to nuclear blackmail, and that would be unacceptable. Er, Ming, isn't that an argument for Finland to have nuclear weapons? And Mexico? And Ghana? Not to mention Iran and North Korea? What makes the UK so special that it's one of only five countries in the world permitted by international law to use the kind of "protection" that the Lib Dems regard as so utterly indispensable? There are only really two options here - either nuclear deterrence doesn't work at all, or it only works on the basis of imperial domination of the world by a handful of 'superior' countries. And by virtue of their dogmatic belief in nuclear deterrence, the Liberal Democrats are therefore either stupid or illiberal.
That said, it would have been easy enough for Salmond to get off his own hook. For the life of me, I don't understand why the SNP have watered down the emphasis on conditionality that they adopted in the early days after the party's stance on NATO membership was reversed. We were assured back then that, although an independent Scotland would be seeking to retain NATO membership, that wouldn't happen at any price. The non-nuclear policy still had absolute primacy. So why couldn't Salmond simply have answered the question by saying : "We would prefer to stay in NATO, but NATO must change. NATO has adapted to the conditions of the 21st Century, but not quickly enough. We want to work from within to make NATO fit for purpose in a post-nuclear era."
Lastly, it was interesting to hear the English audience laugh along with Salmond when he pointed out that it didn't really make sense for the Tories to paint a potential Miliband-Salmond alliance as Middle England's "worst nightmare" only months after begging, bribing and bullying Scotland to remain part of the UK. Perhaps the audience were recognising a touch of cognitive dissonance within themselves - after all, we have opinion poll evidence suggesting that most people in England didn't want Scotland to become independent, and yet loathe the idea of the SNP holding a share of power at Westminster. Somewhere along the line that just doesn't add up - if you want Scotland to "stay", you have to take the place as it actually is, and not as the clone of Buckinghamshire that you might prefer it to be. Scotland votes SNP, not Tory.
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I'm very disappointed to hear that the Scottish Government won't be supporting the designation of Flower of Scotland as the country's official national anthem. The rationale seems to be that the song isn't everyone's cup of tea, but that misses the whole point. The question should be whether you think Scotland needs an official anthem or not - and if you think that Scotland is a country, surely the answer can only be 'yes'. For better or worse, Flower of Scotland is the only possible choice for that anthem because it's the only one that commands broad enough support. The calls for Caledonia or 500 Miles to be chosen can't be taken seriously because no country in the world has an anthem of that sort. (Although I was a great fan of the petition to replace God Save the Queen with Gold by Spandau Ballet.)
A more serious alternative might be Both Sides The Tweed, which although a nationalist song is kind of the antithesis of Flower of Scotland. Mind you, it's one of those songs that have to be explained to people, because superficially the lyrics of the chorus make it sound like a happy-clappy Better Together anthem that Dan Snow and Ross Kemp would thoroughly approve of!