Scotland was not an oppressed nation says Alex Salmond, when asked why nationalists there were never violent

Alex Salmond arriving for the funeral of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry. Thursday March 23, 2017. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Alex Salmond arriving for the funeral of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry. Thursday March 23, 2017. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Alex Salmond has talked about some of the similarities and differences between Irish and Scottish nationalism and why the latter was never violent.

The News Letter spoke to Scotland’s former first minister after the funeral of Martin McGuinness at St Columba’s Church Long Tower in Londonderry.

We asked the one-time Scottish National Party leader and now Westminster MP about the different heritage with Irish republicanism and why there had never even been a trace of violence in Scottish nationalism.

Mr Salmond replied: “Different traditions. Scotland was never oppressed, or at least not all of Scotland. There were parts of Scotland obviously had a rough time within the Union, the highland clearances. But Scotland wasn’t an oppressed nation.

“It was a partner in Union as opposed to being colonised or planted so it is a different history and different experience. And Scotland always had, and has, a ballot box opportunity, and that is difference as well, but of course the Union in Scotland is much more recent.

“Times were relatively more civilised. Relatively more. So, for all these reasons, it is different experience but there are common threads.”

We also asked Mr Salmond why in Scotland nationalism if anything was a Protestant tradition and was once not so well supported among people who had Irish Catholic ancestry.

“Well it is interesting that is one of the things I changed of course in my time in politics,” said Mr Salmond, whose father is a Presbyterian elder and grandfather was a senior elder.

“I changed the nature how all communities in Scotland vote for it. Independence has gone ecumenical in Scotland which is a good thing,” he said. “In fact there were people who were very influential in doing that, the late Cardinal Winning in particular [former Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow].”

Mr Salmond said he had first got to know Mr McGuinness in 2007 when he was Scottish first minister and the Sinn Fein MLA became deputy first minister of Northern Ireland. He had known the DUP leader and first minister Ian Paisley for long before that, when they had both been MPs after Mr Salmond was first elected to Westminster in 1987.
He said: “One of the reasons that I got on so well with Martin and Ian is that obviously they recognised in me both traditions that they represented.”

We also asked Mr Salmond about the row over an SNP politician’s comments about the IRA murder of three Scottish soldiers in 1971 in Belfast.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised to relatives of the trio after John Mason, a SNP member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), declined to back fundraising for a private case against the IRA suspects in the murders.

Mr Mason said: “...you say Irish murderers. Others say Irish freedom fighters. I support Scottish soldiers if they do good but not if they do bad”.

He later apologised.

Mr Salmond said it was a row “to do with remarks as attributed to one MSP in Scotland”.

“I mean you’ve got to differentiate between what becomes a Twitter storm because somebody has said something that could be interpreted as giving offence ... that sort of stuff is not the substance of politics.

“The SNP has managed rightly to have a dialogue with the traditions in Northern Ireland and we try to be helpful in terms of this process.”

The News Letter is backing the private prosecution of IRA suspects in the soldier murders. Cheques to: ‘The Three Scottish Soldiers Fund’ c/o McCue & Partners LLP, 158 Buckingham Palace Rd, London, SW1W 9TR or visit www.crowdjustice.org/case/three-scottish-soldiers