Willie Rennie says Salmond should meet Dalai Lama

First Minister Alex Salmond loves to meet international dignitaries and world leaders. Every chance he gets, he’s off playing a larger than life role on the international stage. Just last weekend, he was in Los Angeles promoting Scottish business and schmoozing with celebrities at  a film premiere.  It’s all the more surprising, then, that he can’t find a space in his diary to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits Scotland this week. This is in stark contrast to the reception the exiled Tibetan Spiritual Leader received in 2004 when he addressed the Parliament and met the then First Minister and other party leaders. Just today, the Dalai Lama has addressed a meeting in the Westminster Parliament. David Cameron and Nick Clegg are away at the G20 and Rio+20 but they met him last month and just put up with the inevitable strop from the Chinese Government.

Could it be that Salmond’s discourtesy has something to do with a visit he  received at Bute House two weeks ago from the Chinese Consul-General as reported in The Times (£). We know from reports in the Independent and the Courier  that the Chinese authorities have been visiting local councils from Leeds to Inverness  to discuss their involvement in the Dalai Lama’s visit. Only SNP-run Dundee City Council and the First Minister seem to have taken any notice of them. The Lord Provost has apparently suffered a bereavement and is unable to attend the Dalai Lama’s event, but the Council has thus far failed to provide a replacement speaker.

Liberal Democrat stalwart and former Scottish Chief Executive Andy Myles described Salmond’s decision as cynical realpolitik and political cowardice, adding:

On behalf of Scotland, I want my First Minister to offer honour and succour and support to a man who leads his people, in exile, through a very real and terrible destruction of their way of life by a supposed neighbour nation. He does it, also, by advocating non-violence. He should be respected and supported by the SNP, as much, if not more than, anybody else. He is a true fighter for freedom. So why the cold shoulder?

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has urged Alex Salmond and Dundee City Council to meet the Dalai Lama and not to pander to the Chinese authorities.

This is a missed opportunity. By failing to meet with the globally respected spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate the First Minister may leave the impression that he is more concerned with pandering to the diktat of the Chinese government than promoting human rights. We ignore China’s human rights record at our peril. I appreciate that China would be sensitive about such a meeting but the First Minister should stand up for what’s important.

Last week we saw the First Minister continue to defend Mr Murdoch’s Empire. This week we are seeing his obsession with powerful people continue.

Dundee City Council need to speak at and fully support the event or we will conclude they have been nobbled by the Chinese government. The SNP have put their interests above human rights.

Amnesty Scotland have said that ” it seems that economics trump human rights when it comes to Scotland’s growing relationship with the world’s second largest economy.”

A Facebook page has been set up for those who want to urge the Scottish Government to officially welcome the Dalai Lama and you can also tweet your views using the hashtag #dontpandatoChina which refers to the two pandas currently on loan to Edinburgh Zoo from China.

It seems strange that Alex Salmond, who will be in Scotland while the Dalai Lama is visiting, cannot find the time to meet him. Scotland prides itself on being country committed to democracy and human rights and we expect our First Minister to reflect those values.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Perhaps, unlike Willie Rennie, Alex Salmond has seen the Penn and Teller show about the Dalai Lama…


    My party membership card says some stuff on it about freedom from poverty, ignorance and conformity. Maybe Willie Rennie’s says something different or he would not be supporting a return to theocratic serfdom in Tibet. Does Willie support the punishment eye gougings, pulling out tongues and disembowlings that reportedly happened in Tibet under the Dalai Lama’s repressive theocratic regime?

    Communism is evil but replacing one system of repression with another does not make the world more liberal.

    Instead we should applaud Alex Salmond’s stand for Scotland’s liberal traditions against Willie Rennie’s opportunist desire to see Tibet face enslavement under a theocratic regime.

  • @AI
    “Instead we should applaud Alex Salmond’s stand for Scotland’s liberal traditions against Willie Rennie’s opportunist desire to see Tibet face enslavement under a theocratic regime.”

    Sorry which bit about sucking up to the PRC, with their ‘outstanding’ record on human rights shows Salmond making that stand for liberal traditions…..

  • Gregor Murray 21st Jun '12 - 7:47am

    “The Lord Provost has apparently suffered a bereavement”

    I can’t read this article any further than those words.

    You’re questioning the authenticity of a close bereavement? REALLY?

    This is not what I’m in politics for.

  • Nick Russell 21st Jun '12 - 9:33am

    “. . . supporting a return to theocratic serfdom in Tibet.” What makes you think that that is the prospective alternative to totalitarian apartheid currently meted out to the Tibetan people?

    Yes, Tibet was a theocracy before it opened to the west. That would be when women in Britain didn’t have the vote, divorce and homosexuality were illegal, Britain’s second chamber was hereditary and mixed marriages were almost unheard of. And Britain was still more enlightened than many other western countries. Don’t judge other eras solely by the benchmarks of today.

    HH the 14th Dalai Lama has sought to democratise Tibet all his life – as well as encouraging his religion to adapt to incorporate our understanding of science (how many religious leaders can say that?). The PRC shrewdly invaded when he was 14 in order to exploit the weakness of the Regency. His Holiness has introduced a fully democratic government for Tibetans in exile, voted for by Tibetans everywhere, and has explicitly passed all political power to that Central Tibetan Administration.

    Meanwhile, the PRC has flooded Tibet with Han Chinese, much as England moved Protestants to Ulster in the 1600s. Consequently, the Tibetan language and culture are being smothered and all the best and most powerful jobs are being given to the immigrants from thousands of kilometres away, and the locals are their serfs doing the manual jobs with no human rights at all – certainly not freedom of religion.

    What was it you said about serfdom, AI?

  • I am pretty certain that the Dalai Lama gave up temporal power over Tibet for himself and future Dalai Lamas [theoretically his own reincarnations] a year or two back. This is to be replaced by a democratically elected government.

    I think he spoke about it during the Piers Morgan interview .


  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st Jun '12 - 4:37pm

    Nobody is doubting the authenticity of the bereavement – it’s the fact that Dundee City Council have failed to provide a replacement speaker for the event.

  • Ah the LibDems editing out comments they don’t like!

    So I will ask the question again- if Caron was not doubting the authenticity of the bereavement why did she put “apparently” in her blog.

    And why are the LibDems in Scotland running with this as an issue and not in England where the DL is also not meeting the PM?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 22nd Jun '12 - 10:25am


    No, just comments that don’t meet with our comments policy (see below).

    Caron has answered your first point above, and you might wish to read it before hitting the ‘send’ key in future – you do look a mite foolish asking a question which has already been answered.

    For the record, the Dalai Lama came to Westminster and met with senior Coalition figures whilst the Prime Minister was returning from the G20 meeting in Mexico. And Alex Salmond’s excuse was, once again?

    I know that the cyberNats are always alert to any suggestion that their people don’t walk on water, but really, can’t you do any better than artificial outrage?

  • Has anyone considered the possibility that the Dalai Lama might be perfectly content with the prospect of not meeting Alex Salmond?

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