Alex Salmond: Politician who led rise of the SNP

The former first minister of Scotland, who served as an MP and MSP, was twice at the helm of the party.

Alex Salmond

Before entering politics, Alex Salmond worked as an economist both for the Government and in the banking sector.

He graduated with a degree in economics and history from the University of St Andrews, having previously attended Linlithgow Academy in his home town in West Lothian.

University was where he first joined the SNP and following his graduation he worked as an economist for both the Government Economic Service and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

He married his wife Moira in 1981.

Alex Salmond MP Parliament Square

Alex Salmond in 1988, after being elected to Westminster the previous year (PA)

Salmond’s involvement in the breakaway SNP faction known as the 79 Group, who called on the party to take a more left-wing stance and were briefly expelled for their efforts, did not hamper his long-term advancement and he was elected party leader in 1990.

That came three years after he had first been elected as an MP, representing Banff and Buchan.

With the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, he went on to serve as leader of the opposition at Holyrood, while retaining his seat at Westminster.

He stood down as SNP leader in 2000 and left the Scottish Parliament in 2001.

Returning as leader in 2004, he guided his party to a narrow Scottish election win in 2007 and then led a minority Government as he became Scotland’s first SNP first minister.

New Scottish government

Celebrating a landslide election victory outside the Scottish Parliament in 2011 (Danny Lawson/PA)

Flash-points during his time in the post included the keen golfer’s handling of planning for Donald Trump’s first Scottish golf course, his dealings with newspaper boss Rupert Murdoch, the details of his expenses and a row over EU legal advice and then-justice secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

His political acumen and popular policies such as free university tuition, free prescriptions and a freeze on council tax helped to assure electoral success.

Salmond led his party to an emphatic win in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, enabling the formation of a majority Government and paving the way for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

Alex Salmond and wife Moira

Alex Salmond and his wife Moira in 2014 (Tim Ireland/PA)

The result – a 55% to 45% vote to remain in the UK – led to his resignation, with his deputy Nicola Sturgeon taking the helm as SNP leader and First Minister.

He returned to Westminster in 2015, when he was elected as MP for Gordon, standing down as an MSP at the 2016 Scottish election.

Appointed the party’s foreign affairs spokesman, he had a weekly radio phone-in show on LBC.

Alex Salmond's fringe show

His show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was titled Alex Salmond Unleashed (Lesley Martin/PA)

Salmond lost his seat in the 2017 general election and carved out a career in the media, controversially hosting his own talk show on RT, formerly known as Russia Today, and staging a sold-out chat show during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

He resigned from the SNP in August 2018, days after sexual harassment allegations against him were first made public, saying he wanted to avoid divisions in the party.

The former first minister won a civil case in January 2019 over how the sexual harassment allegations were dealt with by the Scottish Government, and was arrested later the same month.

On Monday, he was acquitted of 13 charges including attempted rape following an 11-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

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