Alex Salmond

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Person.png Alex SalmondRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Salmond Sturgeon.jpg
Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, and Deputy FM, Nicola Sturgeon, at the launch of the "National Conversation" (14 August 2007)
Born31 December 1954
Alex Salmond defeated Lib-Dem candidate Christine Jardine at 2015 General Election

Alexander Elliot Anderson "Alex" Salmond is the Scottish National Party (SNP) MSP for Aberdeenshire East and served as First Minister of Scotland between 2007-2014.[1]

On 7 May 2015, Alex Salmond was elected as MP for the Gordon parliamentary constituency in Aberdeenshire when the SNP recorded an historic landslide General Election victory in Scotland, winning 56 out of 59 seats. Labour was left with just one MP north of the border, but its Scottish leader Jim Murphy, who lost his seat, said he would continue in his post. The Liberal Democrats lost 10 seats with only Alistair Carmichael holding on in Orkney and Shetland. The Conservatives held Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale - the other seat to withstand the SNP tsunami.[2]

Alex Salmond, speaking after defeating the Lib-Dem Christine Jardine in Gordon, said:

"There is a swing under way in Scotland the like of which has not been seen in recorded politics. It is an extraordinary statement of intent from the people of Scotland. The Scottish lion has roared this morning across the country."[3]

As First Minister, from 2007 to 2011, Salmond headed a minority Scottish Government, but after the 2011 Scottish Parliament election the SNP emerged with an overall majority. Politically, Salmond is one of the foremost proponents of Scottish independence, repeatedly calling for a referendum on the issue. After a two-year keenly fought campaign, the Scottish independence referendum finally took place on 18 September 2014. The referendum question, which voters answered with "Yes" or "No", was "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The "No" side won, with 2,001,926 (55.3%) voting against independence.[4]

On 19 September 2014, Alex Salmond announced his intention to stand down as First Minister and SNP leader when the Party’s Annual Conference took place in November 2014.[5] His deputy Nicola Sturgeon was elected to succeed Salmond as First Minister on 19 November 2014 and was officially sworn into the post the following day.[6]

Early life and career

Salmond was born in his parents' home at 101 Preston Road, Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland on 31 December, 1954.[7][8] He is the second of four children born to Robert Fyfe Findlay Salmond and Mary Stewart Salmond (née Milne), both of whom were Civil Servants.[9] Robert Salmond had originally worked as an electrician, and his family had been resident in Linlithgow since the mid 18th century.[10] Alex Salmond's middle names come from his family's tradition of naming their children after the local Church of Scotland minister, in this case the Reverend Gilbert Elliot Anderson of St Ninian's Craigmailen Parish Church in Linlinthgow.[11][12]

Salmond attended the local Linlithgow Academy 1966-1972. He studied at Edinburgh College of Commerce 1972-1973, gaining an HNC in Business Studies,[13] and was then accepted by the University of St Andrews, where he studied Economics and Medieval History. During his time at St Andrews, Salmond lived in St Salvator's Hall. He was elected as Vice-President (Education) of the Students' Representative Council in 1977 and was also nominated to join St Andrews Community Council that year.[14] Salmond graduated with a 2:2 Joint Honours MA in Economics and Medieval History in May 1978.[15]

In 1978 he entered the Government Economic Service as an Assistant Economist in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, part of the now defunct Scottish Office. Two years later he joined the staff of the Royal Bank of Scotland where he worked for seven years, initially as an assistant economist. In 1982 he was appointed Oil Economist, and from 1984 he worked as a bank economist as well as continuing to hold the position of Oil Economist. While with the Royal Bank, he wrote and broadcast extensively for both domestic and international outlets. He also contributed regularly to oil and energy conferences. In 1983 Salmond created a "Royal Bank/BBC oil index" that is still used.

Personal life

Salmond and his wife Moira have never had any children and the couple closely protect their private lives. Moira Salmond, formerly McGlashan, was a senior civil servant and became her future husband's boss when he joined the Scottish Office in the 1970s. The two were married in 1981.[16]

Salmond's main interests outside work and politics are golf, horse racing, football and reading.[17] He supports Scotland and Heart of Midlothian F.C.[18] and sometimes attends matches. He also attended the 2008 UEFA Cup Final between Rangers FC and Zenit St Petersburg.

He takes an interest in Scottish cultural life, as well as watching Star Trek and listening to country and western music.[19] For 'Children in Need' in 2008, Salmond performed an impersonation of the Rikki Fulton character, the Reverend I M Jolly.[20]

He has also been a Visiting Professor of Economics at Strathclyde University. He and his wife Moira live in a converted mill in the village of Strichen in Aberdeenshire.

Early career in politics

Salmond became active in the SNP when he joined the Federation of Student Nationalists at the University of St Andrews in 1973. His conversion is generally credited to his then girlfriend, Debbie Horton, an English student from London, who was secretary of the St Andrews University Labour club. After an argument in December 1973, she told him: "If you feel like that, go and join the bloody SNP". The next day Salmond did. The following day he and a friend attended the sparsely-populated AGM of the university branch of the Federation of Student Nationalists. Being the only two fully paid-up members of the SNP at the university, they were duly elected president and treasurer. Although a left-winger at the time he joined, Salmond had considerable doubts as to whether or not the Labour Government would legislate for a devolved Scottish Assembly.

Salmond started his political life as a committed left-winger inside the SNP and was a leading member of the socialist republican organisation within it, the '79 Group'. He was, along with other group leaders, suspended from membership of the SNP when the '79 Group' was banned within the larger party. In 1981, he married Moira French McGlashan,[21] then a senior civil servant with the Scottish Office.

Following the SNP's National Council narrowly voting to uphold the expulsion, Salmond and the others were allowed back into the party a month later, and in 1985 he was elected as the SNP's Vice Convener for Publicity. In 1987 he stood for Parliament in Banff and Buchan and defeated the incumbent Conservative MP, Albert McQuarrie. Later that year Salmond became Senior Vice Convener (Deputy Leader) of the SNP. He was at this time still viewed as being firmly on the left of the party and had become a key ally of Jim Sillars, who joined him in the British House of Commons when he won a by-election for the seat of Glasgow Govan in 1988. Salmond served as a member of the House of Commons Energy Select Committee from 1987 to 1992.

First time as SNP leader

When Gordon Wilson stood down as SNP leader in 1990, Salmond decided to contest the leadership. His only opponent was Margaret Ewing, whom Sillars decided to support. This caused considerable consternation amongst the SNP left as the two main left leaders were opposing each other in the contest. Salmond went on to win the leadership election by 486 votes to Ewing's 146.[22]

His first test as leader was the general election in 1992, with the SNP having high hopes of making an electoral breakthrough. Whilst considerably increasing its share of the vote, it failed to win a large number of seats. Sillars lost his, causing him to describe the Scottish people as '90-minute patriots'. This comment ended the political friendship between Salmond and Sillars, and Sillars would soon become a vocal critic of Salmond's style of leadership.

The SNP increased its number of MPs from four to six in the 1997 general election, which saw a landslide victory for the Labour Party. After election, Labour legislated for a devolved Scottish parliament in Edinburgh. Although still committed to a fully independent Scotland, Salmond signed the SNP up to supporting the campaign for devolution, and, along with Scottish Labour leader Donald Dewar and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace, played an active part in securing the victory for devolution in the Scotland referendum of 1997. However, many hard line fundamentalists in the SNP objected to committing the party to devolution, as it was short of full political Scottish independence.

Salmond's first spell as leader was characterised by a moderation of his earlier left-wing views and by his firmly placing the SNP into a gradualist, but still pro-independence, strategy. Salmond was one of the few politicians in the UK to oppose the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999.[23] He was opposed to the conflict because it was not authorised by a United Nations Security Council resolution, which was a controversial subject at the time. Despite this, Salmond was heavily criticised in the media for describing Tony Blair's decision to intervene militarily as an "unpardonable folly".[24]

Several years as party leader earned Salmond an unusually high profile for an SNP politician in the London-based media. In 1998, Salmond won the Spectator Award for Political strategist of the Year. Following an appearance on the entertainment programme Call My Bluff, Salmond used one of the 'bluff' cards that are used as props in the show in the run-up to the first elections to the Scottish Parliament. To counter his frustration at having to sit in silence through what he claimed was an inappropriately political speech by Tony Blair at a charity lunch, he held up the bluff card as the Prime Minister began querying Scotland's economic prospects should independence occur.[25] Throughout his time in politics, Salmond has maintained his interest in horse racing, writing a weekly column for The Scotsman and appearing a number of times on Channel 4's The Morning Line.

Salmond was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and was one of its highest profile members. He stood down as SNP leader in 2000, facing internal criticism after a series of high profile fall-outs with party members,[26] and was replaced by his preferred successor John Swinney, who defeated Alex Neil for the post. He left the Scottish Parliament in 2001 to lead the SNP group in the House of Commons.

During the prolonged parliamentary debates in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq he voiced strong opposition to the UK's participation. In the aftermath of the war, he lent support to the attempt of Adam Price, a Plaid Cymru MP, to impeach Tony Blair over the Iraq issue. Salmond has gone further than many anti-war politicians in claiming that Blair's statements on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were consciously intended to deceive the public. He has also claimed that Blair had made a pact with George W. Bush "to go to war come what may".[27]

Return as leader

On 15 July 2004, Alex Salmond said that he would be a candidate in the forthcoming election for the leadership of the SNP.[28] This came as a surprise because Salmond had previously declared that he would definitely not be a leadership candidate. In the postal ballot of all members he went on to receive over 75% of the votes cast, placing him well ahead of his nearest rival Roseanna Cunningham.[29] Although he was re-elected in the 2005 general election, he made clear his intention to return to the Scottish Parliament at the 2007 Scottish parliamentary election in an attempt to win power for the first time.

In that election, Salmond stood as a candidate for the Gordon constituency, which had been represented since 1999 by the Liberal Democrat Nora Radcliffe.[30] Salmond won the seat with 41% of the vote, and a majority of 2,062, returning to the Scottish Parliament after six years' absence. In the election the SNP emerged as the largest party, winning 47 seats to Labour's 46.

First Minister of Scotland

Having won more seats than any other party in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, the SNP initially approached the Scottish Liberal Democrats to form a coalition, but they declined to take part in negotiations.[31] This left the SNP without any possibility to form a coalition with an overall majority. The Scottish Green Party agreed to support an SNP minority administration on a confidence and supply basis.[32] Salmond was elected by the Scottish Parliament as First Minister on 16 May 2007, and was sworn in on 17 May after receiving the Royal Warrant from the Queen and taking the official oath of allegiance before judges at the Court of Session.[33] Under section 45(7) of the Scotland Act 1998 he became Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland at the same time.[34] Salmond is the first nationalist politician to hold the office of First Minister.[35] He reduced the size of the Cabinet from nine members to six, and said he would seek to govern on a "policy by policy" basis. In order to concentrate on his new role as First Minister, Salmond stood down as the SNP group leader at Westminster and was replaced by Angus Robertson.[36]

The Guardian reported in November 2007 that Salmond believed Scotland would be independent within "the next decade".[37]

In November 2007, Salmond received the The Spectator's Parliamentarian of the Year award for his "brilliant campaign" and "extraordinary victory" in the Scottish Parliament elections, thereby ending eight years of Labour rule.[38]

UK general election debates

Salmond said it would be "unacceptable"[39] for the SNP to be excluded from the 2010 UK election televised debate and has sought "guarantees of inclusion from the broadcasters, given their inescapable duty to ensure fairness and impartiality in election-related coverage in Scotland" in the build up to the 2010 UK general election. The party used the Freedom of Information Act to see if the BBC could have broken its own rules. Salmond said it was entirely unacceptable to Scotland as well as to the SNP for the broadcasters to exclude the party that forms the Scottish Government and leading in Westminster election polls. He emphasised, however, that he was not trying to stop any debates from being broadcast.[40] After having failed to change the BBC's decision to not include the SNP in the final British debate, in line with the decision by ITV and Sky News, the SNP mounted a legal challenge to the BBC at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. Despite earlier reassurances by the SNP that it was not trying to stop the broadcast, it sought an 'interim interdict' to prevent the debate being broadcast without the participation of the SNP. However, the Court of Session dismissed the SNP's complaint, and refused to ban the BBC from broadcasting the third debate in Scotland, on the grounds that the SNP had left the bringing of the case "far too late", had not contested the broadcasting of the first two debates by ITV and Sky Television, and that the third debate would in any case be broadcast by Sky on satellite across Britain, which a Scottish court had no power to block. The judge, Lady Smith, further ordered the SNP to pay the BBC's legal expenses. The SNP's political opponents described the SNP's contesting of the case as a "stunt".[41]

There were Scottish debates dealing with specifically devolved issues which Salmond had accepted the invitation to attend along the other parties within the Scottish Parliament on Sky TV. Salmond declined to attend those held on the BBC and ITV, and Angus Robertson agreed to take his place in these debates.[42]

Renewable energy

Alex Salmond in his 2010 New Year message highlighted the importance of sustainable development and renewable energy in Scotland and the required increase in powers of the Scottish Parliament needed to help harness Scotland's green energy potential and therefore take full advantage of the "renewable revolution".[43]

Earlier in December 2009, he campaigned for climate change legislation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to promote Scotland's role in tackling and mitigating climate change. This included signing a Partnership Agreement with the Maldives, one of the most exposed countries to the consequences of rising sea levels.[44][45]

Although energy is mostly a matter reserved to Westminster, administrative devolution of Sections 36 & 37 of the Electricity Act (1989) coupled with fully devolved planning powers enabled the Scottish Government to establish Scotland as a leader in renewable energy developments.

Secret Lockerbie talks

Alex Salmond meeting Hillary Clinton in Washington for secret Lockerbie talks
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi wrongly convicted, Bernt Carlsson callously targeted

When First Minister Alex Salmond met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington DC on 23 February 2009, did they discuss the Lockerbie bombing and the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from prison in Scotland? According to the Mail on Sunday of 22 February 2009:

1. SNP government officials have been involved in secret talks between the UK Foreign Office and Libyan officials. These talks could lead to al-Megrahi being sent back to Libya.
2. Scotland's Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, instructed his top official, Robert Gordon, to play a key role in the negotiations.
3. The UK and US governments are keen to see al-Megrahi apply for a Prisoner Transfer Agreement. This would mean that al-Megrahi would serve the rest of his sentence in Libya. It is the SNP's Kenny MacAskill who would be responsible for organising a prisoner transfer of al-Megrahi. A Prisoner Transfer Agreement between the UK and Libya is expected to be ratified in April 2009. (The UK and US governments would like al-Megrahi to abandon his appeal against his conviction. An appeal could reveal evidence of CIA involvement in the Lockerbie bombing and could reveal that the CIA and the Scottish police faked evidence in the Lockerbie trial.)
4. Al Megrahi's appeal against his conviction is due to start in April 2009. Al Megrahi wants the appeal to go ahead so that he can clear his name.
5. "Sources close to the Libyan delegation... said Mr Gordon had given them every encouragement to push for a transfer. "One said: 'He told them in fairly plain language that if an application came it would be granted.'"
6. According to the Mail on Sunday: "The planned appeal has the potential to humiliate the Crown Office and to expose conspiracy and dirty tricks involving UK and US intelligence agents and the Scottish police."[46]

In December 2010, these three Lockerbie questions were put to Messrs Salmond and MacAskill:

  1. Will you open an independent inquiry into the 2001 Camp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988 as called for by the petitioner and for the reasons given in petition PE1370?
  2. If not, will you provide a detailed explanation why not, specifying whether there is any legislation which would prevent you from holding such an inquiry, what this legislation is and how it prevents?
  3. Who would have the power to undertake an inquiry in the terms proposed in the petition?

The petitioners still await answers![47]

2011 Scottish election

In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, the Scottish National Party won by a landslide and emerged with an overall majority. As a result of this Salmond now has the ability to call a referendum on Scottish independence. On 9 January 2011 he announced that the Scottish independence referendum would be held in Autumn 2014. The Scottish National Party (SNP) became the minority government of the devolved Scottish Parliament after winning a plurality of seats in the 2007 Scottish election. A white paper for the bill, setting out four possible options ranging from no change to full independence, was published by the Scottish Government on 30 November 2009. A draft bill for public consultation was published on 25 February 2010, setting out a two question yes/no referendum, proposing both further devolution or full independence. The SNP failed to obtain support from other parties and withdrew the draft bill.

The SNP again pledged to hold an independence referendum and won an overall majority in the 2011 Scottish election. On 10 January 2012, the Scottish Government announced that they intended to hold the referendum in the autumn of 2014. An agreement was signed on 15 October 2012 by David Cameron and Salmond which provided a legal framework for the referendum to be held. The principal issues in the referendum were economic policy, defence arrangements, continued relations with the UK and membership of supranational organisations, particularly the European Union.

On 7 November 2012, Alex Salmond became the longest serving First Minister of Scotland serving 2002 days, 1 day more than his predecessor Jack McConnell.

Sporting interests

Salmond is renowned for his interest in horse racing and for his support of Heart of Midlothian F.C.[48] He was made a patron of Aberdeen University Shinty Club in 2011 after attending their 150th anniversary celebrations at the Sutherland Cup final. This was Salmond's first ever shinty game.[49]

Further reading



  • Rosemary Goring, "Scotland, the autobiography: 2,000 years of Scottish history by those who saw it happen", Viking, 2007, pages 432–4, ISBN 978-0-670-91657-3
  • Peter Lynch, "SNP: the history of the Scottish National Party", Welsh Academic Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1-86057-003-2

External links


  1. "Alex Salmond on Twitter"
  2. "Election 2015: SNP wins 56 of 59 seats in Scots landslide"
  3. "Gordon Parliamentary constituency - results"
  4. "2014 Scottish independence referendum"
  5. "Statement from First Minister Alex Salmond"
  6. "BBC News - The transition from Alex Salmond to Nicola Sturgeon". BBC News. Retrieved 19 November 2014.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "plain text").
  7. "BBC News - A profile of SNP leader Alex Salmond"
  8. David Torrance, Salmond: Against The Odds (Birlinn, 2010), p. 12
  9. "Alex Salmond: The new king of Scotland"
  10. Torrance, Salmond: Against The Odds, p. 12
  11. "Reverend Gilbert Elliot Anderson of St Ninian's Craigmailen Parish Church"
  12. "First Minister speeches"
  13. Torrance, Salmond: Against The Odds, p. 23
  14. David Torrance, "Salmond: Against The Odds", p. 29
  15. "Alex Salmond MSP", Scottish National Party, Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  16. "Moira Salmond: A reluctant First Wife"
  17. "5 days in the life of: Alex Salmond"
  18. "First Minister Alex Salmond hails all Edinburgh cup final classic"
  19. "In conversation with... Alex Salmond"
  20. "Salmond is Jolly for 'the Weans'"
  21. "Moira Salmond: A reluctant First Wife"
  22. "Devolution in the United Kingdom"
  23. "SNP News Release 30/03/99"
  24. "Nato bombing 'unpardonable folly'", BBC News, 29 March 1999.
  25. "Salmond calls Blair's bluff", BBC News, 1 May 1999.
  26. "Scramble to lead SNP as Salmond quits"
  27. "Salmond back with threat to impeach PM" The Independent, 25 September 2004.
  28. "Salmond launches leadership bid", BBC News, 15 July 2004.
  29. "Salmond named as new SNP leader", BBC News, 3 September 2004.
  30. "Salmond to contest Holyrood seat", BBC News, 16 January 2006.
  31. "Lib Dems rule out SNP coalition", BBC News, 7 May 2007
  32. "Scottish Green Party website"
  33. "MSPs approve new Scottish cabinet", BBC News, 17 May 2007.
  34. Scotland Act 1998, section 45(7)
  35. "Salmond elected as first minister", BBC News, 16 May 2007.
  36. "Robertson elected SNP's Westminster leader", The Guardian, 23 May 2007.
  37. "Scotland in 2017 - independent and flush with oil, says Salmond"
  38. "Salmond 'is top parliamentarian'"
  39. "Salmond in SNP debate inclusion call"
  40. "Legal threats to election debate"
  41. "'Too late' Alex Salmond loses battle with the BBC over debate"
  42. "Salmond happy with Sky TV debate"
  43. "Scotland's top politicians outline aims for 2010"
  44. "We can help climate fight: Salmond"
  45. "Alex Salmond: Our small country can play a big role in climate change fight"
  46. "Clinton, Salmond and Lockerbie"
  47. "Three Lockerbie Questions"
  48. "Alex Salmond wades into Craig Thomson scandal, saying Hearts took too long to suspend him"
  49. "First Minister accepts Aberdeen Uni Shinty Club Patron Role"
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