So, now we know. Willie Rennie was right all along. Scotland's First Minister didn't put up any sort of a fight when China sent the boys round to talk about the Dalai Lama. Today's Scotsman has the details.
The Scottish Government didn't get involved in meeting the Dalai Lama when he visited Scotland between 21 and 24 June. Alex Salmond refused point blank to meet him, and nor did any other member of his Government. He had no problem giving time to the Chinese Consul General two weeks before, though. The Scotsman have obtained a record of that meeting and it makes no mention of any discussion taking place on human rights.
This is what the note says about the Dalai Lama's visit:
The Ambassador asked the First Minister about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Scotland in June. The First Minister clarified that is a private visit at the invitation of the Conference of Edinburgh’s Religious Leaders and the Edinburgh Interfaith Association, amongst others. The Scottish Government is not involved in the visit.It almost sounds apologetic. A "Yes, he's here, but it's now't to do with us." Not "We welcome the fact that he's coming. He's an important figure in the world who stands for peaceful protest and human rights. I'm going to meet him. I know you don't like it, but that's the way it is. I hope that you'll reflect on the way your Government treats your citizens."
I feel quite ashamed that our First Minister showed himself to be completely devoid of spine in front of these people. Shabnum Mustapha, Amnesty Scotland's Director, said in January that there is direct evidence that raising the issue of human rights with China does reduce the amount of repression. Why did Salmond allow a full meeting to go by without doing so. It's not even as if he could have been thrown out - they were on his turf.
This is not the first time I've been ashamed of Alex Salmond. The way he sucked up to Rupert Murdoch made me many other Scots cringe.
I am, however, proud of my leaders, both in Scotland and London. Willie Rennie isn't the pandering sort and has spoken out vociferously on human rights. He's not been afraid to take on powerful bodies like the Catholic Church in support of equal marriage even if it means upsetting people.
Nick Clegg was happy to meet with the Dalai Lama even though the Chinese threw a bit of a strop about it.
Alex Salmond never really talks about the things that I care about - like poverty, children, human rights, equality. He often seems uncomfortable when asked about these issues. I'd much rather be part of a thriving union that does act on these things than an independent Scotland that ignores them because they might be a bit awkward. That's part of the reason I just don't get independence. I want a free, liberal society where everyone has a decent place to live and enough to eat and a decent education, where people aren't held back by their background. I want a Scotland that stands up against other places where governments abuse their own citizens. Those are my priorities and while they could be achieved as part of the union or by independence, I'm just not confident that all the people who are leading the calls for independence share my values enough to fight for them.