The Right Honorable Alex Salmond, First Minister of the Scottish Government in Edinburgh, will speak on “The Wealth and Well-Being of Nations,” this Saturday April 6, at 4 p.m., in Room 101 of the Friend Center on the Princeton University Campus.
Born in Scotland in 1954, Mr. Salmond is the leader of the Scottish National Party and is a graduate of St Andrew’s University. Trained as an economist, he is a passionate champion of Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.
In May 2007, Mr. Salmond made political history when he became the first Scottish Nationalist to be elected First Minister of Scotland, the equivalent of Prime Minister in Britain. He is the fourth in the position, which was created with Scottish Devolution and the creation of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in 1999.
Mr. Salmond comes to Princeton at the invitation of fellow Scot Will Storrar, director of the Center of Theological Inquiry (CTI) on Stockton Street. “I’ve known Alex Salmond since the 1980s and he is a wonderful speaker,” said Mr. Storrar. “Princeton has a long-standing connection with Scotland going back to John Witherspoon, the first president of The College of New Jersey.” John Witherspoon (1723-1794) was among those who signed the Declaration of Independence. He is credited with transforming the curriculum of what would become Princeton University by broadening its scope and introducing the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment: ideas that inspired the likes of James Madison, Aaron Burr, and numerous other American Revolutionaries.
In 2006, Mr. Storrar invited Mr. Salmond’s predecessor Jack McConnell to Princeton for a successful event that focused on contemporary Scotland and developments there that are of deep interest to Princeton residents.
According to Mr. Storrar, Mr. Salmond is expected to discuss “the Scottish government’s vision for wealth and well-being, linking green growth in the global economy to climate justice for the world’s poorest nations, already experiencing the impact of climate change.”
As First Minister, from 2007 to 2011, Mr. Salmond headed a minority Scottish Government, but after the May 2011 election, the Scottish Nationalist Party became the majority. Mr. Salmond was re-elected unopposed for a second term as First Minister.
With that landslide victory, Mr. Salmond was able to set a date for a referendum on Scottish Independence, planned for sometime in the Fall of 2014. He had repeatedly called for a referendum on the issue, which remains one of enormous controversy, raising questions about economic policy, defense arrangements, and the future of relations between an independent Scotland and the European Union and the United Kingdom. The exact wording of the referendum question is still the subject of heated debate.
Last October, British Prime Minister David Cameron signed an agreement with Mr. Salmond that provides a legal framework for the referendum.
Besides an independent Scotland, Mr. Salmond has campaigned for legislation to ameliorate global warming via emission reduction and sustainable energy programs. In the past, he has served as an assistant in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland
First elected as MP for the Scottish constituency of Banff & Buchan in 1987, Mr. Salmond was elected as National Convener for the Scottish National Party in 1990 and served as leader of the opposition in the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
The title of Mr. Salmond’s talk, “The Wealth and Well-Being of Nations,” alludes to An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the influential study by the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. Originally published in 1776, the book is a considered a classic of economic theory with insights on the division of labor, productivity, free markets, and wealth.
Past, Present and Future
For those curious about political change in Scotland over the last decade or so, there are several not-to-be-misssed public events being held in conjunction with Mr. Salmond’s visit. The Center of Theological Inquiry at 50 Stockton Street presents a festival of authors on Thursday April 4, with Nicholas Phillipson discussing his book Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life at 2 p.m.; Andrew Hook on his book Francis Jeffrey’s American Journal at 3 p.m.; and Christopher Harvie on his portrait of society and identity in industrial Britain, A Floating Commonwealth, at 4:30 p.m.
On Friday April 5 and Saturday April 6, the Center will hosts a symposium on “The Wealth & Well-being of Nations,” with leading scholars from Princeton University and several Scottish universities exploring the relationship between economics and ethics, economic development, and human well-being in the thought of Adam Smith and in the world today.
Mr. Salmond’s talk at the Friend Center on Saturday is co-sponsored by Princeton University’s Program in Law and Public Affairs and the Center of Theological Inquiry. It is free and open to the public. For more information, visit: www.lapa.princeton.edu. For more on the Center of Theological Inquiry’s author event, call (609) 683-4797, or visit: www.ctinquiry.org.