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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Salmond has a Moses moment

We all know that the First Minister has a high view of himself.  In fact, a lot of us seem to agree.  Love him or hate him, he's got to be one of the most successful political communicators in recent years.

His detractors see him as self-absorbed, arrogant and conceited.  So when, in a pitifully tribal First Minister's Questions today, Alex Salmond appeared to liken himself to Moses it can only have given such people a bit of extra ammunition.

Not the cleverest of moves, I suspect, and one which will lead to some predictable headlines in tomorrow's daily newspapers.

Salmond, responding to a question from Roderick Campbell about discussions at the British Irish Council, stated that he will be telling the council's next meeting to "let my people go!"  Not quite the comparison others have unwisely made it, but the reference and implications are self-evident.

I'm not really sure why the First Minister would want to make the comparison. Moses did not lead his people into the promised land.  Indeed, he only saw it from a distance.  His people frequently exasperated him and he spent forty years wandering around with them in the wilderness on a journey that could have taken a few days.  And he had conversations with burning vegetation - never a good sign.  No wonder he needed those tablets.

Also, Moses' mission was not, contrary to common misconception, to lead his people into "a land flowing with milk and honey".  Oh, no. It was simply this - to take them out of slavery in Egypt on God's instruction ("let my people go so that they may worship me in the desert.")  The Old Testament God is a bit of an egomaniac, but the point I want to make is, I think, a relevant one.  It's not so much where we've come from that matters but the destination.  In short, what concerns me is not separation from England as a desirable end in itself, but what the eventual "promised land" will look like.  What will be the defining characteristics of an independent Scotland?

Salmond understandably wants "his people" to be freed.  But for what purpose? For me and others like me who are not ideological nationalists, independence is a potentially attractive option because of the freedoms it offers Scottish people to take control of their own destinies; political freedoms, social freedoms and economic freedoms.  Detachment from the rest of the UK is for us neither an end in itself nor particularly desirable unless it is simply a first step in an innovative vision to transform Scottish society, our politics and our economic and industrial potential.

"Let my people go".  Yes, but go where?  This is a challenge for the SNP and Yes Scotland.  They need to communicate to a sometimes skeptical public what they want an independent Scotland to be - and also that the vision is an achievable one. Why will independence be better for Scots?  Why should the business community support independence? What would be the nature of an independent Scotland's political system?  In fairness, both are making constructive attempts to do this but so often the debate we're having descends into farcical claim and counter claim between nationalists and unionists that the more sane contributions are not heard.

For any aspiring Moses-type figure a focus on the end-goal is vitally important.  It didn't take the Israelites very long to become unhappy with freedom from Egypt. Far more thought must be given over to constructing a positive view of our country's future and selling it to the electorate, avoiding the temptations to engage negatively with Better Together or to focus principally on correcting the many myths - little would be gained from becoming embroiled in pitched battles with the opposition. Much will come down to how each side communicates its respective messages. Credibility will be key to determining the outcome and if the "Yes" camp can put together a proposition for Scotland's future that is not only positive but credible it has a greater chance of victory.

Ultimately the referendum will come down to whose message the voters are prepared to put their faith in - the Better Together campaign with its refusal to declare explicitly what a post-referendum Scotland will look like or Yes Scotland? It's early days, but if Salmond wants to ensure Scots are "let go", perhaps he needs to model himself a little less on Moses and instead look at more recent history for inspiration and guidance.


6 comments:

Caron Lindsay said...

Remember the rest of that sentence - Let my people go so that they may worship me -

Very Salmond:-)

Andrew said...

Well, the full quote is: "Let my people go so that they may worship me in the desert". The "in the desert" is quite intentional and theologically significant. Quite why the FM would want to lead "his people" into a wilderness for such purposes I don't know.

Let's not make too much of this, though. It was clearly a misguided attempt at humour, nothing more. There are more important questions to be asked, such as what will Scotland be like, either post-independence or post-referendum. At least the SNP and Yes Scotland are attempting to provide some answers, which is more than can be said for Better Together.

cynicalHighlander said...

I believe that quote can also be attributable to a 'freedom fighter' but have been unable to ascertain who so rather than accept the Better Together parties who will turn, or tell deliberate lies, for personal political gain I will hold my wheest.

Andrew said...

Well, Cynical Highlander, I am not familiar with any "freedom fighter" associated with the words "let my people go". Then again, that doesn't mean that such a person didn't use those words, but there can be no doubt as to the original source.

As you will know, I am far from a supporter of Better Together, which I consider to be a coalition of negativity. My point really in writing this was a) in response to the likes of Willie Rennie, claiming that Salmond was saying he was God, that this is no big deal and b) that the FM should perhaps be a bit more careful in choosing his quotations. We all know how headlines can define people.

I hope you're not suggesting that this piece contains "lies" that i am using for some kind of strange "personal gain"? Or is this yet another tarring of all people within a party with the same brush? I mean, did you actually read anything I wrote?

cynicalHighlander said...

I hope you're not suggesting that this piece contains "lies" that i am using for some kind of strange "personal gain"?

No not at all Andrew but there was a reference on the radio that that quote was also used by another non religious person. I agree that Salmond uses language which can be spun in a negative way as does his 'bragging' on achievements which always sets up the bragger for a fall.

Andrew said...

Well, that makes more sense now. Pleased to have ironed out our misunderstanding. I think a few people throughout history have used these words; it's a bit juvenile for anyone to jump to huge and unfair conclusions about what Salmond was supposedly suggesting. The Bible has been quoted for centuries for various reasons. I simply feel that Salmond should be more careful to avoid language that, as you say, can be spun in a certain way.

Personally, I used the "incident" as an opportunity to challenge those supporting independence to look towards the future and think a bit more about selling a better Scotland to the public than making petty objections to balloons and other such trivia.

At the end of the day though, it's all much ado about nothing in the wider scheme of things. I don't quite grasp how people can get so offended by words, phrases and Biblical references when there is so much else to be legitimately angry about!