Sunday, 20 November 2011

Collective amnesia?

Tom Gordon

ALEX Salmond is no stranger to award ceremonies.
In the last fortnight alone he has twice been named as Politician of the Year in recognition of the SNP’s truly historic win at Holyrood in May.
But now the First Minister is under fire for boasting about yet another award - this time for his work on climate change - without revealing it was engineered by one of his own ministers.
Salmond accepted the third South Australia International Climate Change Award last month.
The gong was announced to great fanfare at the SNP conference in Inverness, with a video message from Michael Rann, South Australia’s then premier.
In a Scottish Government press release, the First Minister declared: “It is a great honour to receive this award which I accept as recognition of the fact that our legislation on climate change is truly world-leading.”
But what Salmond, the SNP and the Government media machine all curiously failed to mention was the identity of the person who proposed the First Minister -  the energy minister Fergus Ewing.
The official nomination form shows Ewing personally proposed his boss in September.
He praised the First Minister’s “ambition and leadership”, and listed a series of government figures on emissions and renewable energy.
Ewing also cited the SNP government’s Climate Challenge Fund as an example of community engagement on green issues.
It recently emerged that despite ministers claiming the £38m fund had cut carbon emissions by 700,000 tonnes, to date its completed projects have saved less than 20% of that figure.
Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader, said: “There is something a bit pathetic about a minister nominating his own boss for an international award. One of Fergus Ewing’s colleagues might like to nominate him for Private Eye’s Order of the Brown Nose award.”
Willie Rennie, leader of the Liberal Democrats, added: “Self-praise is no praise. The real challenge is for Alex Salmond to meet these targets, not spend time praising himself.”
The award has had two other winners - then Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009, and Quebec Premier Jean Charest in 2010.
Wayne Barbour, of the Sustainability and Climate Change Division of the Government of South Australia, said Salmond had been chosen from a field of four by an international panel of judges. “First Minister Salmond received the award for his local and international leadership, the impressive greenhouse gas reduction results that have already been achieved, and ambitious future targets, which are an outstanding example of the role that state and regional governments can play in tackling climate change.
“He was nominated by Scotland’s Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, Fergus Ewing. 
“Independent research undertaken during the assessment process also demonstrated that First Minister Salmond has also been an active leader internationally as well – supporting UN projects and European initiatives.”
One other previous winner was also nominated from within their adminstration, he added.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “As the First Minister said at the time, this was a welcome recognition of Scotland’s world-leading climate change legislation, awarded by a panel of international judges. The Scottish Government recognises the urgency of addressing climate change and supports initiatives which can recognise and encourage governments across the world to respond effectively to the pressing challenges of climate change.”

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