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Alexander Elliot Anderson "Alex" Salmond ( born 31 December 1954) is the First Minister of Scotlandmarker, heading a minority Scottish Government.

He is the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Member of Parliament for the constituency of Banff and Buchanmarker, and the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Gordon. He is currently serving his second term as leader of the SNP, having previously been leader between 1990 and 2000.

The SNP won the 2007 Scottish Parliament election with 47 seats, one seat ahead of their nearest rivals, the Scottish Labour Party. On 16 May 2007, Alex Salmond became First Minister, heading the SNP administration.

Education and career before politics

Born in Linlithgowmarker, West Lothianmarker, Scotlandmarker on 31 December 1954, Salmond is the son of Robert Fyfe Findlay Salmond and the late Mary Stewart Salmond (née Milne), both of whom were civil servants. Salmond attended Linlithgow Academy and the University of St Andrewsmarker, where he graduated with an MA in Economics and History. He was first employed as an assistant economist in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland from 1978.

In 1980, he joined the Royal Bank of Scotland, for which he worked until 1987, first as an assistant economist, then as the Oil Economist and latterly as Royal Bank 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 he devised the "Royal Bank / BBC Oil Index", which continues monthly publication to this day.

Early political career

Salmond became active in the SNP when he joined the Federation of Student Nationalists at St Andrews Universitymarker in 1973 while a student at St Andrewsmarker. As a left-winger at the time he joined, he 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 was elected Member of Parliament for Banff and Buchanmarker and later that year 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 Commonsmarker 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 increased 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 British politicians to oppose the NATOmarker bombing of Serbiamarker 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. Salmond has taken part in entertainment programmes such as Have I Got News For You and Call My Bluff. His appearances on the latter, and more specifically the fact that he held on to one of the famous 'bluff' cards that are used as props in the show as a souvenir, proved to have an unexpected significance 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.



Resignation and time in Westminster

Salmond was elected to the Scottish Parliamentmarker in 1999 and was one of its highest profile members. He stood down as SNP leader in 2000, 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 Commonsmarker.

2003 invasion of Iraq

During the prolonged parliamentary debates in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq he voiced strong opposition to Britain'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 Iraqmarker 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, Alex Salmond said that he would be a candidate in the forthcoming election for the leadership of the SNP. This came as a surprise because Salmond had previously made a Shermanesque statement 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

Having won a plurality of seats 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. Salmond became the first nationalist politician to hold the office. 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.

Personal life

Salmond's main interests outside political life are golf and horseracing. He takes an interest in Scottish cultural life, as well as watching Star Trek and listening to country and western music.

He also supports Heart of Midlothian F.C. and sometimes attends matches.

He also attended the 2008 Uefa Cup final between Rangers FC and Zenit St Petersburg.

For Children in Need in 2008, Salmond performed an impersonation of the Rikki Fulton character, the Reverend I M Jolly.

References

  1. http://www.linlithgowacademy.org/
  2. Moira Salmond: A reluctant First Wife, The Telegraph, 11 May 2007.
  3. SNP News Release 30/03/99 12:06
  4. Nato bombing 'unpardonable folly', BBC News, 29 March 1999.
  5. Salmond calls Blair's bluff, BBC News, 1 May 1999.
  6. Salmond back with threat to impeach PM, The Independent, 25 September 2004.
  7. Salmon launches leadership bid, BBC News, 15 July 2004.
  8. Salmond named as new SNP leader, BBC News, 3 September 2004.
  9. Salmon to contest Holyrood seat, BBC News, 16 January 2006.
  10. Lib Dems rule out SNP coalition, BBC News, 7 May 2007
  11. Scottish Green Party website
  12. MSPs approve new Scottish cabinet, BBC News, 17 May 2007.
  13. Salmond elected as first minister, BBC News, 16 May 2007.
  14. Robertson elected SNP's Westminster leader, The Guardian, 23 May 2007.
  15. "Take away politics and golf, and horse-racing would be my favourite pastime", The Independent, 5 January 1997
  16. In conversation with... Alex Salmond, Total Politics


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