New Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael makes his first keynote speech in the role in Inverness on Wednesday. This is a chance for Scotland to get to know him a little bit better. The Nationalists and the media have been doing all they can to portray him as some sort of political bruiser, something which is met with a mixture of bafflement and mirth within the Liberal Democrats. This, after all, is the same Alistair Carmichael whose sharp wit has us all digging deep into our pockets at party fundraisers, whose geniality makes him one of the most popular figures in the party. Sure, he's pithy, punchy and persuasive, but he's also very funny and has his feet very firmly on the ground.
His speech is very personal, and comes just 6 days after Fife SNP Councillor David Alexander denounced him as a "supposed Scot", for which, the Courier reports, he has refused to apologise and attacked the paper for bias:
However, Mr Alexander refused to withdraw his remarks, instead claiming there was a vendetta against him and branding The Courier — recently praised by SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond for its objectivity — biased.Alistair will tackle this directly by saying:
Not content with trying to divide the UK, the supporters of independence also seek to divide our fellow Scots - depending on their voting intentions in the referendum.
I tell you this - once you start mixing up politics and patriotism you can quickly get into dangerous territory.
I am proud to be a Scot. My parents both come from families that, as far as we can trace, have always lived in Scotland. My father is a native Gaelic speaker and as a child I competed at local and national Mods. I was educated in the Scottish state sector and gained ‘O’ Grades and Highers from what also used to be the Scottish Certificate of Education Examination Board. I studied Scots Law at the University of Aberdeen. I have held a commission as a Procurator Fiscal Depute – an ancient office of the Scottish legal system. I practiced as a solicitor licensed by the Law Society of Scotland. Since 2001 I have represented a Scottish constituency in the House of Commons.
I drink malt whisky.
What else do I have to do for these people to regard me as a “true” Scot as opposed to being a “supposed” one?
I would say that politicians from the pro-UK side, like Jim Murphy, have been just as bad at bringing patriotism into this argument. He stood at the despatch box as Secretary of State for Scotland and said that the SNP were nationalists and "we're patriots." It's hardly surprising that the relations between Holyrood and Westminster governments were so bad between 2007 and 2010. It does worry me that Murphy has, since being demoted by Ed Miliband, more time to spend with the Better Together campaign.
In contrast, the Liberal Democrats who succeeded Murphy have all sought to be constructive and respectful, with Michael Moore successfully persuading all parties to back the Scotland Act and negotiating the Edinburgh Agreement with Nicola Sturgeon. Alistair worked with Scottish ministers very well over Grangemouth. Those few days when everyone worked together when the chips were down were very pleasant. It would be good to see some more like that.
Stronger and safer
So why should Scotland stay in the UK?
We share our resources and we pool our risks. Where it makes sense to act as a United Kingdom on issues like cyber crime, banking and pensions that is what exactly we do. We are stronger and safer together as a result. When it makes sense to have decisions taken in Scotland by the Scottish Parliament we devolve the responsibility to Holyrood. It is the best of both worlds. It is a constructive and positive approach. Our instinct is to be constructive and find what works best.
I shall let you know how he develops these themes on Wednesday.