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At long last we have a Scot who can stand up to Alex Salmond over the union

Lord Steel, in a speech to the Lords, laid several blows on the hitherto untouchable First Minister

By on Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Lord Steel: 'We are seeing a trend towards the attributes of the one-party state, where news bulletins are led by stories of what the Dear Leader has been doing.' (PA photo)

Lord Steel: 'We are seeing a trend towards the attributes of the one-party state, where news bulletins are led by stories of what the Dear Leader has been doing.' (PA photo)

At long last someone is deciding to confront the Scottish nationalists. In a speech in the House of Lords, reported in today’s Telegraph, Lord Steel manages to lay several punches on the hitherto untouchable Alex Salmond.

To call this a David meets Goliath encounter would be misleading, for David Steel is no David son of Jesse, no outsider, but rather one who is at the very centre of the Scottish establishment. But, and it is a very important but, Steel is as Scottish as Salmond: if anyone is to take on Salmond and his claim to be the authentic voice of Scotland, it has to be another Scot. The battle for the Union must be fought on Scottish soil. It would be to play into nationalist hands to send troops (metaphorically speaking) north of the border. Such fights are best left to people like Steel; Cameron would find himself in the same predicament as Edward Longshanks, whose very victories only served to stiffen resistance.

One is left marvelling at the robust nature of Lord Steel’s remarks. He claims to like Mr Salmond, but then appears to compare him to the late Kim Jong-Il, the cold, capricious, ruthless and overweight dictator of North Korea. And if that is not enough, he likens him to Louis XIV and his claim that “L’etat, c’est moi.”

All this is good knockabout stuff, the type of which Mr Salmond regularly dishes, so presumably he can take it. It is the type of language that no Tory and no Englishman would dare use. Which leads us to the question: who will lead the campaign against separation when the referendum comes? Lord Steel would be my choice, on the strength of this performance.

For, quite apart from the invective, Lord Steel makes a very important point.

Lord Steel also used the speech to attack the SNP’s “little Scotland” mindset. Although he is friends with a former Danish foreign minister, he said he does not want to see an equivalent Scottish post “with similar limited global influence”.

“I would rather have Scots like Robin Cook and Malcolm Rifkind wielding genuine strength as foreign ministers of a United Kingdom,” he said.

In raising this, Steel reminds us of the case made by the earliest proponents of union such as James VI and I. If Scotland is not to be a backwater, it needs to be in alliance with its southern neighbour. Too bad that only the smallest of our unionist parties, the Liberal Democrats, seems to be making this case with any force.

  • JL

    Ehm Lord Steel just resorted to comparing Alex Salmond with Kim Jong Il that hardly makes him a match in fact it makes him look petty.

  • Pedrofour4

    Shame on you….and you a man of god too…..Shame!!!

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith


  • Chickaddison

    Tell me Father, what is the Churches official policy on Scottish Nationalism? Are we all unionists now?

  • Airtteth

    A country’s first priority should be to look after its citizens, especially the weak and disadvantaged. It shouldn’t exist because unelected Lords “would rather have Scots like Robin Cook and Malcolm Rifkind wielding genuine strength as foreign ministers of a United Kingdom,”.

  • andrew

    I  am a Catholic Scot and proud to say I support Alex Salmond and his fight for Scottish Independence.My family have a history in Scotland and Ireland (on both sides)slaughtered by the English.We fought for an independent Ireland and Scotland.You are offensive  to many  a Scots with this article in your “anti  independent Scotland rant”..Many of my relatives died fighting for their freedom,you have insulted their memory.

  • Chickaddison

     Not to mention un-christian. Making unsubstantiated charges against an individual then comparing them to a murderer. Asserting despite no evidence, and repeated statements to the contrary by Mr Salmond himself, that Alex Salmond has said that those who oppose the SNP are un-Scottish is quite simply false witness. From the support this article gives to Lord Steel’s piece, are we supposed to find this laudable?

  • Websterdennis

    Have you asked Archbishop Keith O’Brien for his views? I am sure he will be at odds with David Steel and you Father. He is after all Scotland.’s Archbishop and the Premier Catholic in the UK. To compare Salmon to any totalitarian Dictator is reckless at least.

  • Edmund Burke

    You should get over the persecution complex, Andrew. I am Irish and don’t feel the need to express that in terms of Anglophobia, despite a painful history. This is not a matter of “independence” – as if Scotland were some far away colony – but “Separation”, for this is a matter of the Union. Besides, when it comes to colonialism, it was a Scottish monarch, James VI/I, and his Scottish court, who popularised the term “British” and inaugurated the first overtly “British” – i.e. Anglo-Scottish – imperial enterprise – the Plantation of Ulster. Thereafter, Scots were found in the forefront of British imperial expansion, not as manipulated followers or cannon fodder so beloved of chippy balladeers, but, more often than not, as commanders and leaders of the enterprise.

  • Edmund Burke

    +Keith O’Brien and any other prelate, whether nationalist or unionist, should make it clear that when speaking on this issue they are expressing their private opinion, and that their opinion therefore carries no ecclesiastical authority with it. 

  • Edmund Burke

    A union is like a marriage, and when there is a marital separation the children’s welfare needs to be accommodated. And as a joint colonising Kingdom in the case of Ulster, the “children” of the union with England, the Ulster Protestants, a separate Scotland would retain certain responsibilities regarding the financing of that province. 

    Ironically, it was because Scotland went bust over an ill-conceived colonisation of Panama, that they asked the English for a bailout and full union in 1707. They couldn’t wait to get access to colonial careers in India and elsewhere in the Empire.

    Try to inform yourself about Scottish history beyond the Braveheart trash.

  • Michael

     Steel took over as leader of The Liberal Party from Jeremy Thorpe who unfortunately got involved in some sort of criminal trial (involving a dead dog?) .

    David Steel always used to be portrayed as the little puppet in David Owen’s pocket in Spitting image.
    The current leader of the Liberal party, Nick Clegg is not, of course in anyone’s pocket (ahem).

    Perhaps Alistair Darling who stood up to another Scot (with rather a  megalomaniac reputation) rather well, might be a better choice rather than a former leader of The Liberal Party?

  • andrew

     Ironically,it was the English Queen Elizabeth (Tudors) who began the plantation (1571) to support English colonisation in Ulster.A fact in Irish history you very conveniently forgot to mention.Lets blame the Scots again..

    Further more-in 1688 the English invited king Billy and his wife to be king and Queen of Britain and Ireland and led to the battle of the Boyne- and the wide scale slaughter of Catholics resulted in that battle.Another piece in  history you conviently left out in your anti -Scottish rant.

    A union is like a marriage …well  no.The Scots were forced into submission after years of tyranny from England.

    You  are the one that is ignorant,if you knew the history you would have known who started the plantation the first place.You don’t even know your own history never mind Scotland`s.

    It`s been a pleasure!


  • Anonymous

    If Scotland is not to be a backwater, it needs an alliance with its southern neighbour. Perhaps.

    But if England is to regain its nationhood- which it is denied by the fact of not being allowed its own parliament and by the anomalous situation which allowed Gordon Brown, whilst sitting for a Scottish seat, to formulate policies for England which had no force in the area which he actually represented – then the English need the Scots to go their own way. God speed, but go, and go now.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think Lord Steel, he of the Abortion Act, is a model for ANY Catholic to admire.

  • Anonymous

    …banging head against wall; that that man could ever appear on a Catholic website!?

  • Alex Grant

    You should try to ‘inform yourself’ beyond rubbish British history which by definition would have it that the Scots post Darien were begging to be incorporated in your great country. I think you will find that the story is a little more complex. England was ready to invade (again!) Do you think you did us a favour?

  • The aetheist

    A man of the catholic church using such militaristic language (but only in jest apparently) is actually quite disturbing. You have about as much political presence as the unelected member you fall over yourself to praise. Claiming Steel to be at the centre of the Scottish establishment just about sums up  your level of knowledge.

  • Edmund Burke

    England is not my country. As regards doing the Scots a favour, well the Scottish parliament thought so. Yes, I know the Burns line about “bought and sold for English gold”. Get over your victim status and behave like a grown up country.

  • Dan4540

    You clearly do not know much about Alex Salmond.He does not get involved in the personal stuff yet he is regularly attacked in a very personal way by his opponents.David Steel is clearly doing that.And if you seriously think that in a debate David Steel would be a match for Alex Salmond then Father you do not know Scottish politics.
    I to am a Catholic and you do not speak for the thousands of Catholics in Scotland who support our country returning to normal again.

  • Donald

     I couldn’t help but notice when you wrote, “Ironically, it was because Scotland went bust over an ill-conceived
    colonization of Panama, that they asked the English for a bailout and
    full union in 1707. They couldn’t wait to get access to colonial careers
    in India and elsewhere in the Empire.” Actually it was the English who sent an ultimatum to Scotland saying if we didn’t colonize Panama they would wipe out the whole of Scotland. Also who mainly took over India and it’s surrounding area’s? The Scottish. Who defended these area’s? Again the Scottish. All this was because England wanted to extend it’s Empire and lands. Again when England went to colonize America who went in the front lines to fight the American’s in the War of Independence? Again the Scottish were forced to fight and take the casualty’s and the English excuse was,”They wanted to have the first blood.” Actually the English really wanted to save their own so called “experienced fighting force.” Also I found out that 50% of England’s army was forced Scottish, 20% Welsh and 10% unwilling Irish that means the England’s percentage was 20%. Also 49% of the Scottish men never came back that explains why Scotland has such, now, a small population. The reason England lost it’s empire was because they used all of Scotland’s manpower to taking over the colonies.
    For the record I am 13 yrs old and It appears I know World history better than you.

  • Edmund Burke

    I didn’t say that plantations began with James VI/I, but the largest and most resilient one did. The first plantation, as it happens, was not that of Elizabeth I but of MaryTudor, who planted the midlands, Offay and Laois, with English Catholics. Scotland also enthusiastically embraced William of Orange as King, apart from sections of the Highlands, which lowland Scots described interchangeably as Gaels or “Irish”. The Highlanders in turn referred to lowland Scots as “Sassenachs” or Saxons, because, of course, Lowland Scotland had been English-speaking since the Middle Ages – nothing to do with the Union of Crowns, but with the Angle and Saxon invasions of eastern England and Scotland alike. There was no unicultural Scotland prior to the Union of the Crowns, except in Mel Gibson’s imagination and of people of similar levels of historical insight.

  • Edmund Burke

    Offaly, not Offay

  • Chickaddison

     So it had nothing to do with the English parliament refusing to allow the Royal navy to protect his Majesty’s subjects in Panama. Or with Englands wars with Holland (Scotlands main trading partner). We can all select our history snippets. Pah! Sins of the fathers, etc. Why on earth should the activities of a bunch of 17th Century Scottish capitalists have any bearing on 21st century politics and modern educated Scots, many of whom have lived and worked abroad. I resent the implication that we are a race of born losers and can never aspire to be anything else. As for Scots rushing to take up posts in colonial India, so did the Irish — and I don’t see many of them at Westminster nowadays.

  • Edmund Burke

    Well done for a 13-year old. Still, you’ll find that history  - particularly the history of Anglo-Scottish relations over several centuries – is more complicated than a single-cause or a single constant can explain. Neither does the notion of being a permanent victim explain very much. Neither, by any stretch of the imagination, can Scotland be regarded as a significant factor in the end of the Empire. You might, being so manifestly precocious, look at the recent histories of Scotland and Empire written by your fellow countrymen, Tom Devine, John Mackenzie and Michael Fry, unless you regard yourself as knowing more than them as well. Or perhaps they too have been “bought and sold for English gold”. When you live in a self-reinforcing anglophobic mindset, nothing, no proof, no argument based on evidence, can penetrate, and rational discussion, which great Scottish Enlightenment thinkers like David Hume advocated, becomes impossible.

    One tip: “It’s”, with the possessive suffix or apostrophe, means “it is”. If you mean to write “Its”, as in “belonging to it”, this should be written without a apostrophe, i.e. “Its”. Also, there is no need for an apostrophe in “areas”, unless you are referring to something which belongs to an area.

    Still, for a 13-year old, commendably assertive. When you grow up you may well see things differently. On the other hand, unfortunately, perhaps not.

  • Forbzdrummin

    Let me just tell you, David Steel is self-serving nobody, who’ is elected by nobody. What concerns him and his ilk in Westminster is the loss of place, privelege, and salary which Independence threatens, at a stroke.

  • George Anders

    A rather sad article of little value other than to insult a proud nation. It also insults half the nations of the world if you do a nations by population google. The USA is better by being bigger – I’ll go with the Scandanavian models thank you.

  • Donald

    David Steel’s comments regarding the democratically elected First Minister of Scotland are disgraceful. 

    Scotland is currently run by a wholly democratic Government, whose behaviour is controlled by the UK civil service ministerial code.  The SNP were first elected to form the Government of Scotland in 2007, and were re-elected by an even bigger majority in 2011 to form the Scottish Government for the second time.

    Perhaps David Steel, from the Liberal Democrat party is slightly annoyed, that at the last election in Scotland, the SNP took more seats than ALL the other parties combined, while the poor liberal democrats lost every single one of their mainland Scottish seats.  

    However, it is a tawdry piece of speech by David Steel, when he likens the Scottish Government to a dictatorship, as he well knows that Alex Salmond is a committed democrat.  It is a nasty, bitter, dirty assertion to make, and David Steel really should apologise.

    What people like David Steel does not realise, is that the voters of Scotland are not stupid.  They have not somehow been deceived or hoodwinked by the SNP.  Indeed, the reason the SNP are so popular is that unlike, say the Liberal Democrats, the SNP actually stand by their manifesto commitments.  One such commitment is a referendum on the restoration of Scottish independence, in the latter half of the parliamentary term (2014).

     I hereby challenge David Steel to make such disgraceful accusations away from the legal protection he has in the unelected house of Lords, or apologise.  What he has said is wrong and shameful.

  • EditorCT

    For David Steel to liken anyone to a “cold, capricious, ruthless… dictator” when he is personally responsible for the introduction of the evil abortion act, beggars belief.  Only in today’s upside down Church would you find a Catholic priest holding him up as a good example in ANY context. With the amount of innocent blood on David Steel’s hands, I’d be very wary of praising his choice of necktie.

  • Donald


    I have the same name, and you’ll see my post above.

    I just wanted to say, you do know your history, and need pay no heed to the rather patronising response you had from Edmund.

    You are correct regarding Darrien, and Edmund is spectacularly ill-informed.  The Darrien failure did not actually bankrupt Scotland, but it did bankrupt several very wealthy Scottish landlords who invested in the scheme.  Sadly, many of those people were at that time in the old Scots parliament (now the court of session in Edinburgh).  You need to remember that in 1700, the Scottish parliament was NOT democratically elected, and there were many rich vested interests in the chamber.   The desire for the union between Scotland and England was not triggered by Darrien, but was actually the culmination of years of a sequence of events, principally driven by the English against Scottish interests.  The idea of the union was put forward by Queen Anne.

    At the time of union, 1707, many traders in Scotland desired, if a union had to happen,  a federalist union in which Scotland would effecively remain independent but with closer formal trading ties, but instead were offered the treaty of union, which was an incorporating union.  This incorporating union was against what the vast bulk of Scots wanted, and there were weeks of protests against it.  The people who signed the act in the Scottish parliament, were in the main bribed by money and titles offered by England.  This is indeed borne out by official records, and the writings of Daniel Defoe (yes, that one) who was an English spy in Scotland at the time.

    The day of the signing, there were riots across Scotland, and the members who signed had to be afforded the protection of a militia guard, otherwise they would have been lynched.  Robert Burns famously wrote about the signatories, describing them as ‘bought and sold for English gold, such a parcel of rogues in a nation’.

    Four days after the treaty was signed, the articles of union were burned at Glasgow cross as part of a Scotland wide series of demonstrations, which lasted several months.  

    In 1713, just six years after the union, Scottish MP’s put forward a motion in Westminster to abolish the union, and for Scotland to once more become independent.  It was defeated by a mere six votes.

    Now in 2014, we will have the chance to end it properly.

  • Anonymous

    A sad, sad article from someone who has swallowed a lot of Unionist propaganda without knowing the other side of the story (based on the brief outline of his background).

    Steel may be a Scot by birth etc, but he has identified with the fake ‘British’ label that slips into being ‘England’ and ‘English’ every time they forget to use the camouflage term. Travel overseas and the UK is universally known as “England”

    This vile abuse by Steel has finally destroyed the 100 year old theoretical commitment of the Liberal /LibDem Party to ‘Home Rule’ – which of course they keep dangling as a carrot to vote for them – but never deliver, even when in coalition in Government.

    A sad, sad article and a sadder end to a once proud Liberal Party, founded on the back of the Home Rule, Crofters Party that preceded it.

  • Mctenter

    What the hell is this priest doing spouting political comments in the Catholic Herald. I sincerely hope his Bishop tells him plain and simply to look after God’s work and as for printing this un-priestly diatribe – you, Catholic Herald, surely need to look to your publishing policy.

  • Dan4540

    ” Get over your victim status and behave like a grown up country”

    Which is exactly what we are trying to do ????

  • Hamish

    Edmund, I see you don’t like the Scot’s. Why don’t you like them?

  • Dan4540

     Is Norway a backwater,is Denmark a backwater ? True we will not have nuclear weapons nor will we go chest thumping around the world and getting involved in illegal wars but that is a good thing.
    And your point about Scottish MPs formulating policy in England is correct but the only political party who seem willing to do anything about that are the SNP.
    And yes we will be involved in alliances with England but also other countries as well.

  • Anonymous

    I was quoting Fr Lucie-Smith. Whether Scotland is a backwater or not is a moot point but it’s of no concern to me. I just want England back and inasmuch as the SNP will help me achieve that I will cheer their progress.

  • Edmund Burke

    I did not say, neither do I think in the slightest, that the Scots are born losers. This must be a projection of your own tetchy inferiority complex. It seems that you regard anyone who questions the idea of separation must be anti-Scottish. What a narrow perspective on a big question. 

    On the contrary, the Scots have proved to be an exceptionally talented people, not least in spreading and administering the British Empire. Your own fellow countrymen, historians Tom Devine, Michael Fry and John Mackenzie, state as muchi their detailed works. You should read their books and you might learn something useful, even if it doesn’t fit into your simplistic comfort zone.No the Irish are no longer in Westminster; we are busy having our budgets checked by German MPs even before the Irish electorate get to see it.

  • Edmund Burke

    What is wrong with you? Can’t you distinguish between questioning the separation and pointing out Scotland’s imperial role and anti-Scottishness. I am in no way anti-Scottish. I simply don’t like distorted and self-satisfying mythology masquerading as history. You will find that in most countries in Europe and elsewhere, there is a healthy questioning about simplistic notions of nationalism. In those countries, most can do this without being accused of being anti-the-nation. Indeed, it is a sign of maturity and security.

  • Hamish

     Well sorry if I have hurt your feelings but the comments show that you ARE anti-Scots. Look through them from a Scots point of view.You will notice someday.
    Again I am sorry if I upset you.

  • Edmund Burke

    I am NOT anti-Scots. My remarks could only be thus interpreted if no reference to Scotland’s leading role in the formation of “Britishness” in the 17th Century, and in the expansion of the British Empire, can be made without an accusation of “anti-Scottish”. These are just facts in the world, neither pro-Scots nor anti-Scots, just facts. Are Tom Devine, John Mackenzie and Michael Fry, all Scottish historians, “anti-Scottish” because they have written about such matters? I don’t think so. Why be so hyper-sensitive? Irish historians are writing about Ireland’s constructive – and not just destructive – role in the British Empire as well. Are they “anti-Irish” for doing so?

  • Lesrob_mcq

    Your relatives died a long time ago. My Irish and English relatives died fighting for Britain in the world wars. If yours fought in the Jacobite rebellions then they did not fight for independence. They fought for an absolute monarchy: authoritarian, Stuart rule over all Britain. Scots fought against them and formed the main part of the government army at Culloden.. Scotland chose to be part of the Union; no-one forced them into it. Scots alone do not have the right to end the Union. We all have a say. 

  • Charles Martel

    Lord Steel is a vile man with the blood of millions on his hands.

  • Chris Walters

    And as for any Catholic, priest or laity, quoting David Steel with approval {shakes head in disgust}

  • Stephen Gash

    Quote: ” if anyone is to take on Salmond and his claim to be the authentic voice of Scotland, it has to be another Scot. ”

    We English have never been asked as a nation about devolution or constitutional reform or independence.

    David Steel signed the Scottish Claim of Right that states, “We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledg tha in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount”.

    This led to the Scottish people having their referendum on a Scottish parliament.

    Yet he and other signatories like Gordon Brown, Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy deny the English a referendum on an English parliament.

    Indeed, another signatory, Robin Cook, mentioned in the article above, while a cabinet minister said on BBC radio “England is not a nation, it is just a collection of regions”.

    David Steel sits in the unelected House of Lords that does not scrutinise the devolved chambers, only England’s domestic affairs. His party leader, Nick Clegg, leads the way in constitutional reform, especially the House of Lords. He also denies the English a referendum on an English parliament, but foisted an unwanted referendum on alternative voting upon them.

    It would be a simple matter to replace the House of Lords with an elected English parliament. It would be even simpler to give the English a referendum on one. Instead, we are told that an Englishman must not lead the unionist side in Scotland. In view of that blatant piece of racism together with the flagrant discrimination against the English concerning constitutional reform, maybe it is time England left the so-called United Kingdom.

    It is obvious that the rest of the UK do not want the English as a people and nation, only their money.

  • Stephen Gash

    Slaughtered by the English eh? And you have the nerve to call anybody else offensive. If we English had at any time been consulted by the British it is highly unlikely there would ever have been a United Kingdom.

    Without question, the greatest source of mutual hostility between the peoples of these islands is the United Kingdom. We probably agree on that.

    However, the ONLY country that benefitted from the United Kingdom is Scotland. For one thing it enabled 8.5% of the UK population to provide 30% of Caribbean slave-owners and probably a similar proportion in the southern United States.

    Ever wondered why the Ku Klux Klan called itself a clan? There is nothing more offensive than a warmongering, divisive, self-styled Celt playing the victim card in the name of “freedom”.

    I hope I haven’t offended.

  • Stephen Gash

    You missed out the myth about the English dancing in the streets, thankfully.

    When James I became King of England, and the Union of the Crowns established, London was flooded with Scots eager to join in England’s wealth. Most ended up on the streets causing James I to set up a charity specifically for the Scots. This, looking after Scots but nobody else, is just so typical of Scots, it is stereotypical. This charity is now called Scotscare.

    James I surrounded himself with his Scottish cabal which provoked Guy Fawkes’s attempt to blow up parliament. When King James asked Fawkes why he did it he replied “To blow all the Scottish beggars here present back to your mountains”. This sentiment was quickly covered up with the political spin of Fawkes fighting for Catholic emancipation, thus stoking up anti-Catholic resentment.

    Contrary to Scottish myth, far from dancing in the streets in 1707, English people were most resentful of the Act of Union, so that Scots were attacked in public places, being pelted with apples and the like.

    If the 2013 vote had gone the way of separation would Scotland have paid back the Darien money?

    The Stuart dynasty led to the “eleven years of tyranny” and ultimately to the English Civil War. Then at Scottish insistence the monarchy was disastrously brought back.

    Back to the present day, England is the only country earmarked for erasure by the British establishment. It alone is to be replaced with regions. In the vanguard of this expunging of England is the Scot, Lord David Steel.

    The United Kingdom has been an unmitigated disaster for the English, not least now with the RBS (Robbed By Scotland) bailout. Scots have a history of bankrupting nations, not only Darien and RBS, but also John Law’s involvement in France during the revolution there.

    I saw, I messed up, I scurried off.

  • Stephen Gash

    Scots are particularly adept at self-promotion. It is their main talent. That and filling the workplace with fellow Scots when achieving a position of management, which is of course a form of self-promotion. This has been the case with the banks since the bailout, judging by the accounts of some English people who lost their jobs.

  • Stephen Gash

    Flodden Field is in England. Only Scots could compose a durge to comemorate the annihilation of an invading army, in order to make that invading army appear the victims.

  • Stephen Gash

    With typically Clan Macakeneatit devo-max?

  • Stephen Gash

    You’re the exception that proves the rule then. England is full of Irish pubs that close their doors to Englishmen as midnight approaches so that the Irish regulars can sing Irish rebel songs. Fields of Anthery blah blah.