I WONDER how many of the political and media critics who have rounded on the First Minister after the interview by Alastair Campbell in GQ have actually read the article? I bought the magazine and was left with a very different impression after reading the interview.
Campbell (not known for subtlety or neutrality as an interviewer) makes it clear his intentions are to give the First Minister a hard time. The interview sets out a series of traps, inviting the First Minister to criticise English icons such as Churchill and Shakespeare, as well as current coalition politicians. Other blatant but simplistic traps were requests to comment on England’s chances in the forthcoming World Cup and Tony Blair’s possible status as a war criminal.
The comments on Putin were part of a wider tour of world leaders and were prefaced by clear disapproval by the First Minister of many of Putin’s actions – bearing in mind that the interview took place before Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. Putin’s domestic approval ratings run, I understand, at more than 80 per cent, a rate which our own politicians cannot match within their own parties, far less with the wider electorate. Maybe Salmond’s comments about restoring pride in Russia were not that far off the mark?
Further, at no point in the interview does the First Minister refer to Scots as a “nation of drunks”. This term seems to have emanated from opposition politicians here. His comments in the interview acknowledge that Scotland has a historical and ongoing problem with alcohol and include some speculative thoughts on why this is the case. Given the undoubted reality of our problems with alcohol, a denial by Salmond would have certainly merited criticism and hostility – instead we got an honest assessment of the situation.
It was depressingly predictable that opposition leaders used the GQ interview as platform for attempted character assassination at last week’s FMQs, rather than discuss the huge constitutional issues facing this country.
It WAS Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who in 1962 described the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a “country of slaves ruled by barbarians” and little has truly changed over the years, apart from the barbarians becoming richer.
This must place the admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, recently expressed by Scotland’s own First Minister, Alex Salmond, in a new and alarming light.