Leading article: Beware the curse of the political panda

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The Independent Online

Alex Salmond has always been renowned as a formidable political operator. Then suddenly, with pandas on the scene, Scotland's First Minister trips over his own feet with an ad describing them as a "gift" and an embarrassing rebuke from the advertising watchdog.

It is not hard to see Mr Salmond's point. What better way to trumpet his success in courting the world's fastest-growing economy? And where giant pandas lead, who knows what trade deals may follow. Except that Tian Tian and Yan Guang were hardly a present, given that Scotland is sending £640,000 to China every year for the next 10 in return.

Mr Salmond can only hope his panda-related problems end here. After all, when China's ursine diplomacy was at its height, an alarming number of recipients – not least Richard Nixon and Edward Heath – fell from power soon after. Better cross your fingers, Mr Salmond.