The Dalai Lama yesterday insisted he was not offended by Alex Salmond's apparent decision to "snub" his visit to Scotland – saying he was only interested in spreading a message of harmony.
The Tibetan spiritual leader is in Scotland for a three-day visit yet no Scottish Government minister is scheduled to meet him during his time in the country.
This has led to claims from the SNP's opponents that Mr Salmond and his ministers have deliberately dodged all meetings in an attempt to stay on good terms with China.
Mr Salmond has made several trips to China in the last few years to help promote Scottish trade and cultural links. The Chinese Government responded by allowing two Giant Pandas to be sent to Edinburgh Zoo last year. This has led to speculation that Mr Salmond is not prepared to antagonise the Chinese authorities by meeting the Dalai Lama – who has lived in exile from Tibet in northern India since 1959.
But yesterday the Buddhist spiritual leader insisted he was in Scotland to spread a message of harmony and not to get involved in spats between governments. He said: "Wherever I go meeting the public... spreading a message of human values, spreading a message of harmony is the most important thing.
"I think governments can't do much. Of course, if there is an opportunity of meeting (members of the government), then I am happy."
The Dalai Lama also made an oblique reference to Scottish independence when he declared: "Scotland belongs to Scottish people, not these (political) parties."
His visit to Scotland is part of a nine-day tour of the UK, which has already seen him visit Leeds, Manchester and London.
He will be in Inverness this evening in the constituency of Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Mr Alexander put more pressure on the SNP Government yesterday by pointing out that, when the Dalai Lama was in Britain in May, he met the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister – yet he had not met Mr Salmond or his deputy on his visit to Scotland.