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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.

  • Stephen Gash

    How pathetic. The Scots must be the only people in history “to run the empire and UK while busily inventing the moon and other baubles” as they constantly remind the universe, while simultaneously be oppressed by English tyranny.

    Which is it? God’s gift to mankind or wee oppressed victims?

  • Stephen Gash

    Alex Salmond wasn’t spilled over the red carpet at this year’s Oscar ceremonies for one thing.

  • Stephen Gash

    The Church of England promotes the regionalisation of England despite hostility to regions from the English people. It also attemted to replace St George with regional saints like St Albans, St Edmund and St Cuthbert. It tried to remove the Cross of St George from its churches and many of its cathedrals and churches have banned the hymn “Jerusalem”. All this under the leadership of a Welshman appointed by a Scot.

  • Stephen Gash

    The British insult everybody. Not least the English, who by the way are as proud as any Scot.

  • Stephen Gash

    I’m 59 years old this year. All my life I have endured English-hating Scottish yack and behaviour under the guise of friendly banter. Andrew Murray and Gavin Hastings, two iconic Scottish sportsmen, showed their true colours when donning shirts of teams opposing England. Anglophobia is ingrained in the Scottish psyche. A Scottish holiday company offered a prize of a holiday “anywhere but England” during the world cup. Even a Scottish clergyman said, “It couldn’t happen to a nicer people” just after England had suffered devastating floods.

    Now we have England denied many benefits that Scotland enjoys, arguably at England’s largesse, but leave that for now. What matters is that Scots tell us the reason they have prescriptions, tuition fees and care for the elderly all free, is because “they are more compassionate” than the English. As if that is not insulting and anti-English.

    Tell me. What’s there to like about Scots? Or better still, just to show that you’re not anti-English, name me one GOOD thing we English are better at than Scots. We know all about how much better Scots are than everybody else because you keep reminding us ad nauseum. 

  • Stephen Gash

    The only people who are stupid and hoodwinked are British politicians who take any notice of Alex Salmond.

    They should tell the SNP to get a majority of Scottish MPs at Westminster, that is 30 out of 59, before any referendum on Scotland’s independence.

    Scottish nationalists make much of the Tories only having half as many MPs in Scotland as pandas, while conveniently ignoring they only have six times as many MPs as Tories do. That is SIX.

    As an Englishman, I see no Scottish independence mandate. The Holyrood result was only Scottish navel-gazing. I fail to see why the rest of the UK should be forced to gawp at Scotland’s belly button too.

  • Stephen Gash

    Steel signed the Scottish Claim of Right.

  • Stephen Gash

    Why should it? You know what? I’m fed up with holier-than-thou people demanding others be shut up because they don’t agree with the the holier-than-thouers.

    I’m an English nationalist, and certainly no fan of David Steel, but I say good on the Catholic Herald for publishing this. At least people are able to let off steam instead of being forced to bottle it up like holier-than-thouers order them to.

    If people are not allowed to air their views then worse always follows.

  • Stephen Gash

    Exactly, I’m fed up with the tartan tail wagging the English bulldog. I couldn’t care less if Scotland separates from the UK. I’m just angry at never being included in the debate. Indeed English opinion and aspirations are stifled.

    If Scotland separates and becomes the richest country in the world, I wouldn’t care a jot, other than they would be constantly sneering at the English.

    If Scotland separates and becomes the poorest country in the world, I wouldn’t care a jot, other than they would be constantly blaming the English.

    Actually, I wouldn’t be bothered either way because either scenario would be worth it, just as long as the English nation is reestablished and free.

  • EditorCT

    You speak for yourself, Stephen Gash. I spent twenty very happy years in England and I have great respect for the English people.  I can’t stand the phony nationalism that is abroad (excuse pun) right now.  Instead of wasting energy on daft nationalism, why not direct your enthusiasm to making the streets of Scotland safe for us all to walk. Right now, the rottweillers go around in pairs.

  • Stephen Gash

    I’m English so why would I want to make Scottish streets safe, other than to protect the English who, according to Scottish parliament figures, suffer the second highest number of racist attacks in Scotland?

    I don’t want England to be in a union with Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

  • EditorCT

    I misread your post – have now caught up with you and realise that you are English – the first English person I’ve “met” who is apparently so full of venom about  Scotland.  Doesn’t change my opinion at all, though, about England, Dowry of Mary.  Beautiful country, lovely people.   indeed I understand your position which does have some merit. 

    I totally abhor the anti-English behaviour which the stats you cite represent. There is no doubt about it, there is a very nasty side to Scotland that the tourist board don’t advertise.  Personally, I cringe when I see/hear very many, if not the majority, of Scots on TV or radio. Beginning at the minus-bottom of the pile with the horrendous Billy Connelly and working my way up to less well known Scots, I wish all those who speak other than with a standard English accent, would decline all invitations to broadcast.  Connelly’s phony “Kelvinside” accent (a euphemism for jumped up snobs in Glasgow) is a joke and only makes his crudities sound even more ridiculous.

    Please be aware, Stephen Gash, that not all Scots are anti-English. I, for one, am certainly not – far from it. In principle, I am usually in favour of nations ruling themselves, but I am by no means persuaded to vote for Scottish independence. SNP used to stand for Scotland No Popery, I believe, or something along those lines  (not officially, of course, but you’ll get my drift…)

    So, I’m sorry you are so angry about Scotland and the Scots because, despite all the historical animosity and Hadrian’s Wall, I like you lot, loads!

  • Anonymous

    Robbie Burns would have viewed Alec Salmond as a sort of Walter MacMitty. Burns believed in the Union as the best way forward for all the people of Britain. He hated corruption and the domination of politics by the aristocracy, both Scottish and English, and would perhaps have been pleased that the aristocracy at least no longer played much of a role in British politics.

  • Dan4540

     Oh yes the old Scotland no popery one,good grief I hadn’t heard that for years.While the other side would claim that “home rule was Rome rule” as the SNP planned to let the Vatican have a say in how Scotland was governed.
    I take it you are aware that the orange order in Scotland has regularly instructed its members not to vote SNP.
    I’ve been in the SNP nearly 50 years now and been a Catholic even longer and have never came across any bigotry within the party.

  • EditorCT

    What, you think the Poet Burns would have liked the corrupt politicians of every hue that have led us into moral chaos?  Really?  Maybe. I’ve never been a Burns fan, so can’t really say.  But I can’t recall any monarch ever suggesting that we kill babies, both inside and outside the womb, for no other reason than that they’re unwanted, a social inconvenience. Contemporary monarchs will sign anything put to them by these professional conmen (and I don’t JUST mean Conservative MPs – I mean the lot of them) but in days of yore, I doubt it, Big time. I’d sooner be ruled by someone who inherited the job and had a modicom of a sense of duty and care for the people than by a bunch of millionaires out to fleece even more money out of me. Any time. I’d make a good Queen of Scotland, if they’d have me.  I really would… 

  • EndTimes101

    I have only been reading the Catholic Herald about a month but so far im thoroughly unimpressed by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith. My first introduction to his ‘issues’ was a glowing endorsement of the BBC’s series on the Crusades, which surprise surprise, turned out to be the usual anti Catholic hit piece. Now he has moved through the gears and moved on to praising ‘Lord’ Steel. A man who was instrumental in introducing the Satanic sacrament of child sacrifice to this country, to the tune of 200,000 precious children per year. The fact he seems to be almost fawning over this agent of hell actually makes me feel sick……

  • EditorCT

    This priest is a fully paid up member of the modern Church, a child of the Second Vatican Catastrophe, as one of our top Scots journalists describes it.  The Faith of our Fathers is as foreign to them as it is to the likes of David Steel – hence everyone and anyone is inside the fold except those who adhere to the Traditional Catholic Faith. I just can’t wait for him to post an article on the SSPX !  All the tolerance and forbearance flies out of the window when the “liberal” clergy get their teeth into them!

  • EditorCT

    Well, if you are in any doubt about Cardinal KP O’Brien’s views on anything, just check the bandwagons.  He’s always on at least one.

  • EditorCT

    Yes, bigotry’s like that – it’s never YOU they mean…

    I’m not saying that everyone in the SNP Is bigoted. Frankly, I don’t think they care enough. Right now I am sick to the back teeth of change, change and more change, always either for the sake of change or to fill the pockets of bankers and politicians.  If it ain’t broke, leave it alone, I say.

    And another key point.  Alex Salmond is widely regarded as such a good politician that when he “retired” they couldn’t find anyone fit enough to replace him. He had to be brought out of retirement to take up the reins of governing his party and now the country, again.  What, is he going to live forever?????

  • Lee

    Returnal to normal HAHAHAHA. That is really funny considering the that normality has not been a resident of Scotland since the Reformation and since so many Scots took up residence down South to make a killing in Finance and earlier when Britain had an empire, imperial outposts that helped Scotland directly as well as Scottish landowners and business owners !

  • Lee

    Finally, someone opens up the fact of how darn well Scotland done out of the Empire because of Britain but more so, the fact that capital from England and Ireland was pooled into what was a largely Scottish, English or Irish affairs in certain colonies!

  • Anonymous

     You still don’t get it – or deliberately do not want to get it. These are Westminster politicians. They’d sign their granny away. My post pointed out the gap between their avowed politics – and their behaviour. Called hypocrisy in plain English.

    As in previous exchanges – stop scapegoating the Scots. Address the real issue – the rotten system of government which is Westminster, It fails to deliver for all. the Scottish-English friction is merely a symptom of the main malaise.

  • Anonymous

     Nicola Sturgeon is both very competent and well liked, better ratings than Salmond.

  • Anonymous

    When even the BBC, that staunch Unionist propaganda machine, has Neil Oliver presenting a documentry clearly shoing that the Union was created by a mix of bribery and threat – then it is pretty conclusive that consensus is that the Union was a stitch up. Never accepted or approved of by the ordinary people of Scotland. In England they had public celebrations in every city. 

  • Stephen Gash

    I’ve said many times that the only reason Westminster MPs oppose an English parliament is to preserve their jobs, not the Union. An English parliament would make them as pointless in England as the Scottish parliament has done in Scotland.

    Nevertheless there is a fundamental difference in attitude between Anglo-Brits and Scottish-Brits and the Scottish Claim of Rights highlights that difference. All Scottish politicians unionist or nationalist put Scotland first and gleefully mention Scotland and the Scottish at every given opportunity. Very few politicians in these islands even says English, and only say England in a pejorative way such as Little Englander. This is amply demonstrated in Westminster debates. Most of the legislation is made for England only, but England is never said.

    Having said that, few if any Scottish politicians suggested what a raw deal England is getting from devolution. Far from it, the conversation is always about Scotland getting more, or how much more caring and compassionate Scots are. It’s a pity some of that compassion didn’t travel into England with those politicians when they found themselves in senior governmental positions managing English affairs.

    I read Scottish newspapers online and the hostility to England and the English  is palpable in comments sections.

  • Anonymous

    The population has been fed generations of conditioning to think that Scotland is “too poor, too weak, too stupid”  to be independence. it takes time to restore self confidence and self esteem in a whole population, but we are getting there. Shame on a Union that so damaged the morale and blighted so many millions of lives.

    DevoLite/Plus/Max is potentially the mid  way choice of a majority. It deserves a vote. Personally my view is that there is zero chance of Westminster ever agreeing – so we will end up with self government, anyway. Some people need their wishful thinking demolished by the process revealing just what kind of dirty  dealers are hanging on to power at Westminster.

    Rage is waste energy Stephen – turn it into constructive suggestions for EWNI’s future better government – with all that passion, you could end up PM!

  • Gratian

    Where does this thing about England being ‘Mary’s dowry’ come from? I have to say, it sounds totally made up.

  • Anonymous

     Stephen, you still do not take the point I made.I will try again because you are a sincere patriot, misdirecting energies and not maximising a real political opportunity for reform in England, or EWNI.

     if English people/politicians are not representing and asserting England’s/their constituents’ interests (and I accept that they do not) then the target of your energies is surely to rev up those English defaulters – scapegoating the Scots is wasting effort on a side issue distraction.

    Your persistence in doing so suggests that you are using anti-Scottish posts as dog-whistle politics to rouse prejudices and get some political action in England. That is short termism and self-defeating. Cheap ‘hates’ peter out quickly – far better to put up a platform of political proposals and persistently present them, as the SNP has done. It is slower, grindingly hard, but it builds constructive politics and a solid support base. (Yes I read you have stood for election. I tip my hat to you)

    ‘We are hard done to by the Scots’ plays to the cheap seats and will never get the reform moving going in England that you so earnestly desire and which I entirely support. Political movements are motivated by settled convictions, not passing moods.

    Here is a link to Salmond’s recent economics speech for some starter ideas.
    I’d suggest thta the public mood is ripe for a serious campaign to reform Westminster and get the out of control finance world back into being a service to the public – not its master.

  • EditorCT

    Oh dear.  Maybe we should pray that Scotland does NOT gain independence. How will you folk manage without us to keep you right?

  • Parasum

    You took the words out of my mouth. Dr. Oddie calls a (non-Catholic) head of state an “enemy of the Church” for being unopposed to abortion – & the author of the present article  thinks that a British politician who promoted abortion, is someone to admire. Both writers can’t be right in their moral judgements.

    Sorry, but this is very confusing. The Union needs a better champion than a man who, if he were a U.S. politician & a Catholic, would almost certainly be refused the Eucharist; as some have been. The confusion this displays speaks for itself.

  • Parasum

    On a a tangential matter – how is Cardinal O’Brien (interestingly enough an Irishman born on March 17, of all days) “Premier Catholic in the UK” ? The Press uses the expression, of course, but almost always of the Abp. of Westminster. Is it because O’Brien is a Cardinal & Nichols is not ?

  • Parasum

    Does”Jerusalem” count as a real hymn, or as the English equivalent of “The Battle-Hymn of the Republic” ? Jerusalem has no theological substance – unlike most hymns in the “English Hymnal”  or “Hymns Ancient & Modern”; or most modern hymns.

  • Parasum

    It’s not made up – it goes back before the Reformation, and was one of the reasons the English bishops instituted prayers for the conversion of England:

    Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Compassion:

    “(2) The Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Compassion for the Return of England to the Catholic Faith, founded at Saint-Sulpice, Paris, by Brief of Leo XIII “Compertum est” (22 Aug., 1897). Jean-Jacques Olier had always been zealous for the conversion of England; and the ministry of his congregation was favourable to the spreading of this confraternity. The Brief exhorts the faithful everywhere to join this confraternity, and authorizes its directors to unite with all other similar confraternities, and communicate to them its indulgences. The “Statutes” were published, 30 Aug., 1897, by Decree of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars. The solemn inauguration took place, 17 Oct., 1897, by the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, in the presence of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. About 1000 confraternities, in France, England, Italy, Belgium, Australia, and elsewhere, have become united with the archconfraternity. By Apostolic Letter of 2 Feb., 1911, Pius X extended the scope of the prayers of the archconfraternity from Great Britain to the whole of the English-speaking world….”

    “This year (1993) sees the centenary of a very remarkable and largely unknown event. On the feast of Sts Peter and Paul, 1893, the bishops of England and Wales, in response to the wishes of
    the Pope, consecrated England to the Mother of God and St Peter in the Oratory Church in London [1]. The action was a direct result of an audience with Pope Leo
    XIII in which he recalled that this country had long been known as Our Lady’s Dowry, thereby giving papal approval
    to what had been a hallowed tradition and instigating an act not without significance for our own time.

    The Pope spoke of “the ‘wonderful
    filial love which burnt within the hearts of your forefathers towards the get Mother of God… to whose service
    they consecrated themselves with such abundant proofs of devotion, that the Kingdom itself acquired the singular
    title of Mary’s Dowry.” He also recalled the
    special devotion paid to St Peter as the principal patron of the country. He desired that this devotion to these
    “two patrons of the faith” and ‘guardians of all virtue” be revived and a new consecration
    made by a solemn rite. He foresaw it bringing great benefit on the people at that time which marked a new beginning
    for the Catholic Faith in England….”

    How does it sound made up ?

  • Edmund Burke

    Both sound very “fishy”!

  • Gratian

    “While the phrase “Dowry of Mary” is well known, the meaning and origin of it are
    less so”, i.e. it’s made up. Look, if you’re going to use the logic that England is ‘Mary’s Dowry’ because the English had a great devotion to Our Lady then Spain, Italy and France must be her dowries too, surely?

  • Gratian

    Well, I wasn’t really making a political point but, now that you mention it, how will the Scots maintain their status as the only nation in the world to strike oil and get poorer without the help of the rest of the UK. Worrying times for all of us.

  • andrew

    How dare you.My relatives ALSO died in the great wars,one was a distinguished war hero.Saving  lives of both Scots and English in Flodden .Another was in DD landing, Swords beach(he was called up in England   and fought beside them)My family has a long military history of serving their country as well as yours .How dare you insult myself and relatives memory in public.They actually call this paper “Catholic”for Catholic readers….I seen more charity from an atheist for my fallen heroes than I have from so called Catholics here.  

  • Gratian

    ‘…Scotland did out of the Empire…’. You may be English but you can’t write English.

  • Lesrob_mcq

    I note you do not dispute that your more ancient relatives fought for the autocratic Stuarts’ attempts to become absolute rulers of Britain, not “feedom”. Nor do you dispute that most of the government forces at Culloden were Scots. I am sick to death of stupid, over-emotional dissemblers like you, who use their own twisted view of history to perpetuate unwanted and destructive animosity. Britain cannot afford to be disunited in these dangerous times. And it is not for Scots alone to decide the fate of the Union. Unfortunately, more English want rid of Scotland than vice versa. What do you all want? The Balkanisation of these islands? We are all British. We hang together or we hang severally.

  • Lesrob_mcq

    How in the name of God can you claim to know the minds of “ordinary” Scots? I think the vast numbers of Scots who have flocked into England to improve their lives since unification support a view contrary to yours. There are more Scots and people of Scottish descent in England than there are in Scotland. Since WWI we have had more Scottish PMs than English.

  • Lesrob_mcq

    Two independent political scientists who examined both the SNP and Plaid Cwmry described them as being nationalist-socialist (that’s nazi to you). Salmond is a little Hitler,

  • Peter A Bell

    “… 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.”

    Remind us! What democratic mandate does Steel have to speak for anyone?

  • Anonymous

    I am English.  I went to university in Scotland and worked there for 13 years.  I am marrried to a Scot, and have 2 Scottish kids, both of whom went back to Scotland to study at university (we paid the fees, of course).  I work in the caring professions and am now back down in England.  That is my background.  

    I am heartily puzzled by what the problem is and why people get so hot under the collar.  So are my Scottish kith and kin.  People on this blog site, and on blog sites like this in other newspapers, are continually harking back hundred’s of years to people who are long dead (some thankfully so) and events that might be good for basing a film on but for little else today.  

    If the average Scot sitting in Aberdeen is today a citizen of the UK, and tomorrow becomes a citizen of Scotland, it will probably make little genuine difference to him or her, except it will probably cost a lot of money to engineer the split.  What you will get after that is instead of one PM and one government, you will get two of each, and whether you are a Scot or non-Scot we will be picking up the tab for paying for the whole thing.

    Whatever one is labelled personally as – Scot, English, British etc. – is such a trivial issue in itself and is purely down to what piece of earth on which you entered the world or (in some cases) where your parents entered the world. So what?

    For some off reason people are getting so hot under the collar over this, as if it really mattered.  Why not worry about something important, such as world peace or global terrorism, rather than obsessing over which tribe you and your great-great-great-great to the power of 20 grandad belonged to.  

    Honestly I despair….

  • andrew

     And your on the SSPX….

  • EditorCT

    Beats the Green one, the Ecumenical one, the Sikh one, the “Gay” one  ….

    you’ll get my drift, Sugar Plum…

  • FG Strathclyde

    Father, I fear you are seriously misguided.
    David Steel was the father of the Abortion Act. Look where we are now. Abortion according to the sex of the unborn child. How debased we are as a society!
    On the night of the passage of the Abortion Act in the House of Commons, Quinton Hogg, latterly Lord Hailsham, aghast at the passage of the act, stood up and asked “Where are all the Romans now?”
    A good question!!!

  • P Stewart

    Father, so you agree with Trident??? Voting for Scottish Independence is the only was for trident to be removed from u.k soil, suerly an educated man like yourself knows this? ALL Catholics in the u.k must hope and pray for a yes vote in the referendum!

  • Gt105

    Lord Steel is of no consequence, his piffle regarding the effects of the Abortion Act show him to be uninteligent or worse untruthful.

  • Anonymous

    Nothing but a self-publicist.

  • Alan

    This is a silly point.  We can support some things a politician says, and oppose others.  The fact that Steel is pro-abortion does not make him an untouchable on other issues.  Whether he would be an effective opponent of Salmond is a matter of judgement.