By Duncan Harley.
It has been just over a year since the Dalai Lama visited Edinburgh, Dundee and Inverness.
The good folk of Dundee welcomed him with open arms and presented Tibet’s spiritual leader with a meditation stool and some very loud applause.
Some children from the city’s deaf school sang a song to him and several Dundee politicians refused to meet him. Seemingly, the Chinese Consul General to Scotland had met council leaders from all three cities scheduled for the tour.
The issue was raised during First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, where opposition parties claimed China had put pressure on the SNP government over the visit.
First Minister Alex Salmond had visited China in December 2011 to strengthen trade, arts and cultural links following the arrival of two giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo. One of the pandas may now be pregnant.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned parties not to politicise what was a ‘pastoral’ visit, saying that no UK government ministers were meeting the Dalai Lama during his trip.
A UK government source later pointed out that both Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, met the Dalai Lama in May.
Ms Sturgeon – standing in for Mr Salmond, who had been on a US trade visit – said, ‘There has been no discussion or contact whatsoever between the Scottish government and Dundee City Council about the visit of the Dalai Lama.’
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie claimed Mr Salmond had displayed an ‘ambiguous attitude’ to the issue of China’s human rights record.
He urged Ms Sturgeon to condemn practices in the country, which he said included the detention of 500000 people without trial, and forcing women to have abortions.
The Dalai Lama, one of the world’s most revered leaders, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and was awarded the £1.1m Templeton Prize at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2012 for his engagement with science and people beyond his religious traditions.
He has lived in exile in Dharamsala in northern India since 1959.
He’s an awfully nice man. The folk of Inverness, Embra and Dundee agree.
When he came to Inverness he was shown the usual tourist places. When asked about local politics he said, ‘I like my cats but hate what they do’.
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