I WAS dismayed to read Alex Salmond’s contribution (Insight, 5 January). He was once again referring to what he seems to believe is the special character and unique inventiveness of Scots. As examples he claimed Alexander Fleming and penicillin, John Logie Baird and television, Alexander G Bell and the telephone, and for extra impact he threw in Prof Peter Higgs and the boson with due mention of Dolly the sheep. All due to Scotland!
This sort of propaganda is pathetic. Let us take a more detached, brief look at these “Scottish” achievements.
Alexander Fleming. Born in 1881 in Ayrshire but moved to London at the age of 13. He completed his schooling and university education in London. In 1928 he noticed (as had many before him) that the penicillin mould killed staphylococci bacteria, and until 1940 he tried unsuccessfully to develop a treatment based on the mould. He failed and abandoned the attempt in 1940, but in the same year the investigation was taken up successfully by a team in Oxford headed by H Florey (Australian), EB Chain (German refugee) and N Heatley (English). Their progress was subsequently taken up by the US pharmaceutical industry.
John Logie Baird. Born in Helensburgh in 1888 but moved to England in 1923. In England he pursued his work on television and was the first to demonstrate transmission of moving images. His system was given a six-month trial by the BBC in 1937 but was rejected after two months.
Alexander G Bell. Born in Edinburgh in 1844, emigrated to Canada in 1870 and became a US citizen in 1882. His telephone system was the first to receive a US patent.
Peter Higgs. Born in England in 1929 and took up a lectureship at Edinburgh University in October 1960. He made his prediction about the boson in 1964.
Dolly the sheep was born in Scotland as a result of the efforts of a team led by Ian Wilmut (born and educated in England) and Keith Campbell (born and educated in England).
The next question is who in this assemblage of researchers were Scots? If we apply the criterion that is to be applied for the referendum, the only people who would comply would be the native Englishmen. Fleming, Bell and Baird would not qualify.
I do not want to enter into the debate as to who invented how much of what; that distracts from the main point. That is, within Britain we have opportunities for a wide range of talents. Fleming, Baird and Bell flourished outwith Scotland. Had they been confined to their country of birth they would probably not have achieved so much.
Salmond held up these developments as examples of Scottish “specialness”. But if they are looked at accurately and dispassionately they strengthen the Better Together view.
Eric Davidson, Cults, Aberdeen