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Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond (English pronunciation: /ˈsamənd/; born 31 December 1954) is a Scottish politician who served as the fourth First Minister of Scotland from 2007 to 2014. He was the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) for over twenty years, having served for two terms, firstly from 1990 to 2000 and subsequently from 2004 to 2014.
He has been the Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Aberdeenshire East since 2007 (known as Gordon from 2007 to 2011), having previously served as the MSP for Banff and Buchan from 1999 to 2001. From 1987 to 2010 he served as Member of Parliament for Banff and Buchan in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
Following the establishment of the devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999, he simultaneously represented Banff and Buchan as both Member of Parliament (MP) and MSP for three years. Salmond resigned as SNP leader in 2000 and did not seek re-election to the Scottish Parliament. He did however retain his Westminster seat in the 2001 general election. Salmond was once again elected SNP leader in 2004 and the following year held his Banff and Buchan seat in the 2005 general election. In 2006 he announced his intention to contest Gordon in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, an election in which Salmond defeated the incumbent MSP and in which nationally, the SNP emerged as the largest single party. After the SNP secured confidence and supply support from the Scottish Green Party, Salmond was voted First Minister by the Scottish Parliament on 16 May 2007. During his first term, he headed a minority Scottish Government. At the 2011 Scottish Parliament election the SNP won with an overall majority, a feat initially thought impossible under the additional member system used in elections for the Scottish Parliament.
Politically, Salmond is one of the foremost proponents of Scottish independence, repeatedly calling for a referendum on the issue. Salmond has campaigned on global warming and in government has committed Scotland to legislation on emission reduction and the generation of renewable energy. The day after the 2014 independence referendum, at which a majority of the Scottish people voted to remain as part of the United Kingdom, Salmond announced his intention not to stand for re-election as leader of the SNP at the SNP National Conference in November, and to resign as First Minister thereafter. He was succeeded as SNP leader by his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, as she was the only candidate to stand for the leadership election. He submitted his resignation as First Minister on 18 November, and was succeeded by Sturgeon the following day.
- 1 Early life and career
- 2 Personal life
- 3 Political career
- 4 Sporting interests
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
Early life and career
Salmond was born in his parents' home at 101 Preston Road, Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland, on 31 December 1954. He is the second of four children born to Robert Fyfe Findlay Salmond, born 1921, and Mary Stewart Salmond (née Milne; 1922–2003), both of whom were civil servants. Robert Salmond, who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, had originally worked as an electrician, and his family had been resident in Linlithgow since the mid–18th century. 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.
Salmond attended the local Linlithgow Academy from 1966–1972. He studied at Edinburgh College of Commerce from 1972–73, gaining an HNC in Business Studies, 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. Salmond graduated with a 2:2 Joint Honours MA in Economics and Medieval History in May 1978.
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.
Salmond married Moira McGlashan in 1981. Moira was a senior civil servant 17 years Alex' senior, and became her future husband's boss when he joined the Scottish Office in the 1970s The couple have no children. The Salmonds closely protect their private lives.
He takes an interest in Scottish cultural life, as well as watching Star Trek and listening to country and western music. For Children in Need in 2008, Salmond performed an impersonation of the Rikki Fulton character, the Reverend I M Jolly.
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, 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 (Depute 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.
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 hardline 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. 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".
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. 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, 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".
Return as leader
On 15 July 2004, Salmond said that he would be a candidate in the forthcoming election for the leadership of the SNP. This came as a surprise because he 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. Under section 45(7) of the Scotland Act 1998 he became Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland at the same time. Salmond is the first nationalist politician to hold the office of First Minister. 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.
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.
A newspaper investigation in 2009 revealed that Salmond had claimed as expenses from the UK parliament "up to £400 per month in food without producing receipts, even after becoming First Minister and spending little time at Westminster". In the same year, he stated that he would repay more than £700 that he had received in moving expenses when he left a London flat in 2007, but the Commons auditor stated the following year that there were "no issues" for Salmond to address regarding the expenses claim.
A white paper for an independence referendum, 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 further devolution or full independence. The SNP failed to obtain support from other parties and withdrew the draft bill.
UK general election debates
Salmond said it would be "unacceptable" for the SNP to be excluded from the 2010 UK election televised debate and 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 whether the BBC could have broken its own rules. Salmond said it was unacceptable to Scotland as well as to the SNP for the broadcasters to exclude the party that formed the Scottish Government and was leading in Westminster election polls. He emphasised, however, that he was not trying to stop any debates from being broadcast. 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. 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 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".
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.
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".
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.
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.
Before the 2011 Scottish election, the SNP again pledged to hold an independence referendum if it won another term. The Westminster Labour government had initially designed the additional member system to make it impossible for one party to win an outright majority, but the SNP won enough seats from the other parties to take 69 seats, a majority of four.
With an overall majority, Salmond now had the ability to call a referendum on Scottish independence. On 10 January 2012, the Scottish Government announced that they intended to hold the referendum in late 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, and on 21 March 2013 the SNP government announced that the referendum would be held on 18 September 2014. Scotland's Future, a white paper setting out the Scottish Government's vision for an independent Scotland, was published on 26 November 2013.
In December 2011, Salmond spent £260 on a pair of trews that he wore to a ball in China. He refunded the taxpayer more than a year later, after a newspaper had submitted a freedom of information request. The sequence in which these events occurred was acknowledged by the Scottish Government after 7 months, during which they initially maintained that they had no record of when Salmond had repaid the money.
In September 2012 he stayed with his wife at a five-star hotel in Chicago while attending a golf tournament; the £3,000 for four nights was paid for by the taxpayer and supported a VisitScotland delegation that spent £468,580. Salmond refused for six months to respond to a freedom of information request for information on his spending, and referred to it as "ridiculous frippery".
On 7 November 2012, Salmond became the longest-serving First Minister of Scotland, when he surpassed the 2001-day term of his predecessor, Jack McConnell.
In 2012, Salmond indicated in a television interview that he had sought the advice of his law officers on whether an independent Scotland would be part of the European Union. The following year, it was revealed that the Scottish Government had spent almost £20,000 to prevent the disclosure of the content of the alleged legal advice, even though no such advice existed.
On 19 September 2014, following the results of the independence referendum which confirmed a majority of the Scottish people had voted against independence, Salmond announced that he would be resigning as First Minister in November 2014. On 15 October, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was the only candidate to stand for the leadership, and formally succeeded Salmond as SNP leader following the party's national conference in Perth on 14 November. Salmond submitted his resignation as First Minister to the Scottish Parliament and to the Queen on 18 November, and the formal selection of Sturgeon as his successor by the Scottish Parliament took place the following day.
Salmond is renowned for his interest in horseracing. 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.
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Ale x [sic] Salmond has predicted that Scotland will win independence from the UK within the next decade ... "It would be much easier if we had the full powers of an independent country," he said. "Therefore I was anticipating being in that position by 2017."
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- Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) (Scottish.parliament.uk)
- First Minister (Scotland.gov.uk)
- Official biography (www.snp.org)
- Guardian profile, Electoral history and profile (guardian.co.uk)
- Voting Record — Alex Salmond MP, Banff & Buchan (10525) (The Public Whip)
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Banff and Buchan
|Member of the Scottish Parliament for Banff and Buchan
|Member of the Scottish Parliament for Gordon
|Member of the Scottish Parliament for Aberdeenshire East
|First Minister of Scotland
|Party political offices|
|Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party
|Leader of the Scottish National Party
|Leader of the Scottish National Party