On Tuesday 21 April, former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond received an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow.
Addressing an audience in Bute Hall, Salmond spoke about the right balance between morality and self-interest. Salmond, who studied economics and medieval history at St. Andrews University, claimed that Adam Smith’s teachings had often been taken out of context.
Salmond stated: “Adam Smith needs to be rescued, or reclaimed from those who cite his work in a moral vacuum.”
He went on to say that Adam Smith’s philosophy provided a great foundation for modern politics as long as The Theory of Moral Sentiments is read alongside The Wealth of Nations. The contradictory works complement each other, Salmond claimed.
“The moral philosophy of the first, and the science of economics of the second are what gives us the balanced outlook to meet the challenges of today,” Salmond said.
The political connection to the modern world was an easy one to make for the former First Minister, saying that the SNP was the only party that really offered an alternative to austerity, not simply ‘lighter’ versions of the same concept. He referred to several other SNP policies as well, such as striving for “progressive politics” and change at Westminster.
He said: “The United Kingdom is one of the least-able societies for economic co-operation and development.”
“Scotland fares slightly better. Just slightly. But far too many people in Scotland suffer the consequences of inequality.”
“The toleration of inequality demonstrates the empathy gap.” On top of being unjust, Salmond said that these inequalities hinder economic development.
He also made reference to a recent editorial by the Financial Times, which questioned the UK government’s policy on public expenditure cuts. Salmond later said that it was a curious situation when a right wing economic publication was more left wing than the Labour party, indicating that Labour are not a proper alternative to the Conservatives.
Salmond, who spoke in a relaxed and lively manner, also dropped occasional jokes, to which the audience responded with clapping and cheering.
He also joked that he regrets not delivering on his promise of free ice cream for everyone, which apparently had been one of his earliest political promises made during a mock election campaign when Mr Salmond was at primary school in Linlithgow.
The University will be awarding a similar degree to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown later this month.