Alistair Carmichael

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The Right Honourable
Alistair Carmichael
Alistair Carmichael at Glasgow 2014.jpg
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
7 October 2013 – 8 May 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Michael Moore
Succeeded by David Mundell
Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Assumed office
23 September 2012
Leader Willie Rennie
Preceded by Jo Swinson
Government Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Comptroller of the Household
In office
11 May 2010 – 7 October 2013
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by John Spellar
Succeeded by Don Foster
Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland and Scotland Spokesman
In office
October 2008 – 11 May 2010
Leader Nick Clegg
Preceded by Michael Moore
Succeeded by Position abolished
In office
July 2007 – March 2008
Leader Menzies Campbell
Preceded by Lembit Öpik (Northern Ireland)
Jo Swinson (Scotland)
Succeeded by Michael Moore
Member of Parliament
for Orkney and Shetland
Assumed office
7 June 2001
Preceded by Jim Wallace
Majority 817 (3.6%)
Personal details
Born (1965-07-15) 15 July 1965 (age 49)
Islay, Scotland
Political party Liberal Democrats
Spouse(s) Kate Carmichael
Children 2 sons
Alma mater University of Aberdeen
Religion Presbyterianism
Website Official website

Alexander Morrison "Alistair" Carmichael PC [1] (born 15 July 1965) is a Liberal Democrat politician and the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Scottish seat of Orkney and Shetland since the 2001 general election.

He is the Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and, from 7 October 2013 to 8 May 2015 was the Secretary of State for Scotland in the coalition government. He is currently the only Scottish MP representing the Liberal Democrat Party in the House of Commons.

Early life[edit]

He was born on Islay, and attended Port Ellen Primary School and Islay High School.[2] He worked between 1984-89 as a hotel manager, before beginning study at the University of Glasgow. There, he was a member of the Students' Representative Council[3] and President of the Liberal Club,[4] however he left his course early. He later returned to education at the University of Aberdeen, where he gained an LLB in 1992, qualifying as a solicitor in 1993.[2] From 1993 to 1996, he was a Procurator Fiscal Depute for Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and from 1996 to 2001 he was a solicitor with Aberdeen and Macduff.[2]

Political career[edit]

Carmichael first stood for Parliament at Paisley South in 1987, being defeated by the Labour incumbent Norman Buchan. He was later elected to represent Orkney and Shetland in the 2001 general election, the constituency previously held by Jim Wallace and Jo Grimond. He was appointed Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland and Scotland Spokesman by Sir Menzies Campbell in July 2007,[5] but resigned in March 2008 to vote in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.[6] He was reappointed to the position by Nick Clegg in October 2008. He had also briefly served as the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman, following the resignation of Mark Oaten.

He has campaigned to simplify the forms for claiming child tax credit, saying many are not claiming the benefit due to being put off by the application process.[7]

In June 2009, Carmichael was involved in a successful campaign against the book by Max Scratchmann, "Chucking it All: How Downsizing To A Windswept Scottish Island Did Absolutely Nothing to Improve My Life", an irreverent account of the author's experience downshifting from Manchester to Orkney, which Carmichael said was "hurtful and vindictive", and attacked a number of "clearly identifiable" residents of the Islands. Carmichael's complaints to the publisher led them to cancel publication.[8][9]

At the beginning of the Liberal Democrat - Conservative coalition government in May 2010, Carmichael was appointed Deputy Chief Whip and Comptroller of the Household.

In 2011, Carmichael was elected Honorary President of the Scottish Liberal Democrats youth wing, Liberal Youth Scotland.[10]

Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats & Secretary of State for Scotland[edit]

Carmichael took over from Jo Swinson as Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats on 23 September 2012 at the Annual Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton.[11]

In October 2013 he was promoted to Scottish Secretary replacing Michael Moore.[12]

2015 General Election[edit]

Carmichael was notable for keeping his seat in the 2015 general election, the only Liberal Democrat in Scotland out of 11 MPs elected in 2010 to do so. The Liberal Democrats also lost the majority of their seats in the rest of the UK and Carmichael was one of only eight Liberal Democrat MPs returned to parliament.

Following the resignation of Nick Clegg, Alistair Carmichael took temporary charge of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons,[13] under the de facto leadership of Party President Sal Brinton.[14]


He was involved in the highly controversial publication of a memo from the Scottish Office about comments allegedly made by the French ambassador about Nicola Sturgeon's attitude to a Conservative government. Having told voters that she wanted to "lock out" David Cameron from No 10 and help put Ed Miliband into No 10, the memo alleged that she was in fact a hypocrite because, in private, she was saying the complete opposite. However, the memo was later discredited.[15] The scandal of the leak to the The Daily Telegraph became known as 'Frenchgate'.[16][17]

At the time of the leak Carmichael said of the memo in an television interview with Channel 4 that, "The first I became aware of this was when I received a phone call on Friday afternoon from a journalist making me aware of it." Asked in the same interview if the leak was embarrassing for him and for the Scotland Office, he replied: "No, look this is the middle of an election campaign, these things happen."[18] Sturgeon responded to Carmichael's comments with, "I think Alistair Carmichael really needs to question his whole approach to politics if he thinks dirty tricks and smear campaigns are just how things are done in elections."[19]

After the election Carmichael accepted the contents of the memo were incorrect, and also admitted that effectively he had lied, and in contradiction to his previous denials that he had indeed authorised the fabricated Frenchgate memo leak to the media. This was after a Cabinet Office enquiry costing £1.4m identified Carmichael's role in the leak. Carmichael apologised and accepted that had he still been a government minister, this was a matter that would have "required [his] resignation".[20] In response, Sturgeon called for Carmichael to resign as an MP.[21]

Personal life[edit]

He married Kathryn Jane Eastham in 1987. They have two sons (born 1997 and 2001) and live in Orkney. He speaks both French and German. He lists his interests as listening to music, theatre and cooking. He is an elder in the Church of Scotland.[22]


  1. ^ Full name is given as "CARMICHAEL, Alexander Morrison, commonly known as Alistair Carmichael" in the returning officer's 2010 general election declaration[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c "CARMICHAEL, Alexander Morrison, (Alistair)". Who's Who online edition. Oxford University Press. December 2008. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  3. ^ Alistair Carmichael (1 March 2008). "Speech to the Scottish Liberal Democrat spring conference in Aviemore". Scottish Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  4. ^ "Alistair Carmichael MP: I am excited and inspired by the idea of having Ming as our leader". 13 February 2006. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  5. ^ Summers, Deborah (3 July 2007). "Campbell reshuffles frontbench". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  6. ^ Lib Dem trio quit in referendum revolt - The Independent, 05/03/2006
  7. ^ Beating Poverty: A simple Solution - Daily Record
  8. ^ "Orkney satire makes for pulp friction". Scotland on Sunday. 21 June 2009. Archived from the original on 25 June 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2009. 
  9. ^ Green, Chris (22 June 2009). "Shelved, the book that outraged the Orkneys". The Independent (London). Archived from the original on 24 June 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
  10. ^ "Alistair Carmichael". 
  11. ^ "BBC News - Alistair Carmichael new deputy leader of Scottish Lib Dems". 2012-09-23. Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  12. ^ Andrew Sparrow. "Government and Labour reshuffle: Politics live blog | Politics". Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  13. ^ "John Bercow to continue as Commons Speaker". BBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Buchanan, Rose Troup. "Every major British political party – except the Conservatives – currently led by a woman". Independent Group. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Settle, Michael. "Carmichael caught in his own tangled web of deceit". Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  16. ^ Freeman, Jeane. "Frenchgate memo spat casts our politicians in a bad light". The National. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  17. ^ Rodger, Hannah. "Sturgeon's Frenchgate: It's like a bad game of Cluedo". Glasgow Evening Times. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  18. ^ Video of Alistair Carmichael interview by Channel 4
  19. ^ "Sturgeon: Carmichael 'should question his whole approach to politics'". STV. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  20. ^ Tim Reid (22 May 2015). "Alistair Carmichael admits Nicola Sturgeon memo leak". BBC. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  21. ^ Sparrow, Andrew; Brooks, Libby. "Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael admits responsibility for anti-Sturgeon leak". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  22. ^ "The Liberal Democrats - Official Website". Retrieved 2013-10-07. [dead link]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jim Wallace
Member of Parliament
for Orkney and Shetland

Party political offices
Preceded by
Paul Burstow
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Don Foster
Political offices
Preceded by
John Spellar
Government Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Don Foster
Comptroller of the Household
Preceded by
Michael Moore
Secretary of State for Scotland
Succeeded by
David Mundell