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He's just a regular Joe

As I was saying to Joe Stiglitz the other day … this column is still basking in the glory of an evening in the company with the great economist, whose RSA Angus Millar Lecture it was Agenda's honour to introduce.

So what was he like?

Apart from being a great Scotophile (see previous page), the jovial great man, adviser to presidents and sworn opponent of American financial industry villainy has an unself-conscious humility and curiosity rare in the few really big cheeses we have previously encountered.

He is also delightfully ready to spill the beans on the great financial sages of the age: Alan Greenspan (vindictive and political) and Larry Summers (good academic turned Wall Street sycophant). Also enjoyable were his close-up insights into Barack Obama, who he says is a great campaigner but hopeless governor, bored of a job in which he is an effective lame duck, and "spends all his time playing golf".

Having attended several convivial Scottish trade events at UK embassies in the Middle East and Far East, Agenda is perplexed by the claim by Business For Scotland's Sandy Adam that the mandarins of the Foreign Office are anti-Scottish.

This criticism was later refined to refer to a charge levied on quango Scottish Development International (SDI) for whisky-promoting events. Leaving aside the fact that a disproportionate number of the Foreign Office's mandarins are Scottish, there is also the fact that only about 17% of Scotch whisky companies are of that nationality.

The truth? Yes, SDI has to cough up for the champagne and which prospective foreign clients are plied, but so does its partner body, UK Trade & Investment, which pays fees to itself under the Overseas Markets Introduction Scheme.

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