George Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Right Honourable
The Lord Robertson of Port Ellen
KT GCMG FRSA FRSE PC
George Robertson.jpg
The Lord Robertson of Port Ellen at the Pentagon, June 2001.
10th Secretary General of NATO
In office
14 October 1999 – 5 January 2004
Preceded by Javier Solana
Succeeded by Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo (Acting)
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
3 May 1997 – 11 October 1999
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Michael Portillo
Succeeded by Geoff Hoon
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
21 October 1993 – 2 May 1997
Leader John Smith
Tony Blair
Preceded by Tom Clarke
Succeeded by Jacqui Lait[a]
Member of Parliament
for Hamilton South
Hamilton (1978–1997)
In office
31 May 1978 – 24 August 1999
Preceded by Alexander Wilson
Succeeded by William Tynan
Personal details
Born George Islay MacNeill Robertson
(1946-04-12) 12 April 1946 (age 68)
Port Ellen, Scotland
Political party Labour
Alma mater University of Dundee
a. ^ Office vacant from 2 May 1997 to 14 September 2001

George Islay MacNeill Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG, FRSA, FRSE, PC (born 12 April 1946) is a British Labour Party politician who was the tenth Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, between October 1999 and early January 2004; he succeeded Javier Solana in that position. He served as Defence Secretary for the United Kingdom from 1997 to 1999, before taking up his NATO position and becoming a life peer as Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, of Islay in Argyll and Bute.

Early life[edit]

Born in Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Scotland, the son of a policeman, he was educated at Dunoon Grammar School and studied Economics at the Queen's College, Dundee. When he was 15 years of age, he was involved with protests against US nuclear submarines docking in Britain.[1]

During Robertson's time at Queen's College it broke away from the University of St Andrews to become the University of Dundee, of which Robertson was one of the first graduates (MA, 1968).[2] During his time at University he played a full part in student life. Notably he wrote a column for the student newspaper Annasach, launched in 1967, and took an active role in student protests.[2][3][4] Robertson used his newspaper column to back the new University and encouraged his fellow students to take a University of Dundee degree (students who had started before 1967 could opt to take a degree from either the University of Dundee or the University of St Andrews).[4] In 1968 Robertson was one of a number of Dundee students to invade the pitch during a rugby match at St. Andrews involving a team from the Orange Free State to protest against apartheid.[5] The same year he organised a 24-hour work-in by students in the university library in opposition to proposed cuts by the government in student grants.[5]

Lord Robertson married Sandra Wallace on 1 June 1970. They are the parents of three children: Malcolm, Martin and Rachael.

Robertson survived a serious crash in January 1977 of his car with a Navy Land Rover, which was carrying 100 lb of gelignite and a box of detonators, and hit his car head-on in the Drumochter Pass, leaving him with two wrecked knees and a broken jaw. Robertson was wearing a seat belt at the time and attributes his survival to this factor.[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

Robertson first entered the House of Commons as a Labour MP in 1978, after having won the Hamilton by-election in May 1978, caused by the death of the incumbent Labour MP Alex Wilson in March of that year. He beat a strong and very well-known SNP candidate, Margo MacDonald, into second place, winning an increased majority and obtaining 51% of the overall vote. He was six times elected to Parliament, was Chairman of the Labour Party in Scotland, and was appointed to the Privy Council.[6] After Labour won the 1997 General Election, Robertson was appointed Secretary of State for Defence, a position he held until he resigned from the Cabinet in order to become Secretary General of NATO in 1999.

Quote on devolution[edit]

In 1995, Robertson said that "Devolution will kill Nationalism stone dead" while he was Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.[7] This quote was designed to assuage fears that devolution would provide a greater platform for the Scottish National Party (SNP). Robertson's quote has been frequently recalled, usually in a mocking fashion, after the SNP won Scottish Parliament elections in 2007[7][8] and 2011.[9][10]

Dunblane libel action[edit]

Robertson's three children are former pupils of the school in Dunblane where gunman Thomas Hamilton went on the rampage in 1996, murdering 16 children and their teacher. After the massacre, Mr Robertson, a long-time resident of the town, acted as a spokesman for the victims' families. He was also a key figure in the subsequent campaign that led to the ban on handguns in Great Britain.[11]

In 2003, the Sunday Herald newspaper ran an article entitled "Should the Dunblane dossier be kept secret?", a reference to documents relating to the Cullen Inquiry into the massacre which are to remain classified for 100 years. In a discussion board on the newspaper's website, anonymous contributors claimed that Robertson had signed a recommendation for a gun licence for Thomas Hamilton in his capacity as Hamilton's MP. In fact, Robertson had never been the gunman's MP, and the claims were totally unfounded. Robertson sued the Sunday Herald and the paper settled by paying him a five-figure sum plus costs. A subsequent action by Robertson, related to the terms of the newspaper's apology, was unsuccessful. The first case became an important test case as to whether publishers can be held responsible for comments posted on their websites.[12][13]

Independence referendum interventions[edit]

Lord Robertson has been issuing warnings about the consequences for the UK if Scotland votes Yes to independence.

In an article in the Washington Post, he warned: "The residual United Kingdom would still be a major player in the world, but upon losing a third of its land mass, 5 million of its population and a huge amount of credibility, its global standing would inevitably diminish."[14]

In a speech to the Brookings Institution on 8 April 2014 he said: "The loudest cheers for the break-up of Britain would be from our adversaries and from our enemies.For the second military power in the west to shatter this year would be cataclysmic in geo-political terms."[15] Baron Robertson of Port Ellen also likened the efforts of Unionists to keep Scotland tied to the UK with those of Abraham Lincoln when he stated, "they might look more relevantly at the Civil War where hundreds of thousands of Americans perished in a war to keep the new Union together. To Lincoln and his compatriots the Union was so precious, so important, and its integrity so valuable that rivers of blood would be split to keep it together." [16]

After NATO[edit]

Robertson has received numerous honours (including a total of 12 Honorary doctorates from various universities). Currently he holds directorships of several notable companies in the UK, including the Weir Group,[17] and Cable and Wireless.

In addition, Lord Robertson is a Senior Counsellor at The Cohen Group, a consulting firm in Washington D.C. that provides advice and assistance in marketing and regulatory affairs.

Career[edit]

Other former or present posts[edit]

Honours and awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Future of NATO - C-SPAN Video Library
  2. ^ a b "General Election Special 2". Archives Records and Artefacts at the University of Dundee. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Making Contact. 12 decades of staff and student magazines". Contact: 27. June 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Baxter, Kenneth, Rolfe, Mervyn and Swinfen, David (2007). A Dundee Celebration. Dundee: University of Dundee. p. 34. 
  5. ^ a b Baxter, Kenneth, Rolfe, Mervyn and Swinfen, David (2007). A Dundee Celebration. Dundee: University of Dundee. p. 35. 
  6. ^ NATO (6 January 2004). "NATO Secretary General (1999–2003) The Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen". Who is who at NATO?. NATO. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  7. ^ a b Warner, Gerald (6 May 2007). "How Bulldog Brown could call Braveheart Salmond's bluff". Scotland on Sunday. Johnston Press. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  8. ^ Devine, Tom (11 May 2008). "Old Scotland took the high road. New Scotland is upwardly mobile". The Independent (London). Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  9. ^ Watt, Nicholas (6 May 2011). "Tony Blair's Scottish nightmare comes true as Alex Salmond trounces Labour". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "Q&A: Scottish independence referendum". BBC News (BBC). 29 May 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2011. "The 2011 result has blown out of the water the claim once made by Labour veteran Lord Robertson that devolution would "kill nationalism stone dead" - ironically, Labour, the party which set up devolution - has never managed to gain the overall majority achieved by the SNP." 
  11. ^ BBC profile, 1999
  12. ^ McDougall, Dan (October 2005). "Robertson sues over Dunblane killer allegations". The Dunbane Shootings and Gun Law. Martin Frost. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  13. ^ Thompson, Bill (10 September 2004). "Be careful what you say on the net". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  14. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/scotland-secession-could-lead-to-re-balkanization-of-europe/2014/01/05/df076e94-578e-11e3-8304-caf30787c0a9_story.html
  15. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-26933998
  16. ^ http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brookings-now/posts/2014/04/lord-george-robertson-forces-of-darkness-love-scottish-split-from-united-kingdom
  17. ^ http://www.weir.co.uk/Group/home.nsf/luPages/profiledirectors
  18. ^ Borger, Julian (8 September 2009). "Nuclear-free world ultimate aim of new cross-party pressure group". The Guardian (London). 
  19. ^ (in Estonian) EESTI TÄNAB 1995-2009

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alexander Wilson
Member of Parliament for Hamilton
19781997
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Hamilton South
19971999
Succeeded by
William Tynan
Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Portillo
Secretary of State for Defence
1997–1999
Succeeded by
Geoff Hoon
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Javier Solana
Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
1999–2004
Succeeded by
Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo
Acting