A brief history of Alex Salmond

As Scottish first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond has been the most high-profile figure in the independence movement.

He took the SNP closer to its central aim than it had ever been, but after the "No" vote in September's referendum Mr Salmond decided to stand down.

So, how did Mr Salmond go from brash political outsider to international statesman?

In the beginning
Alex Salmond

Born on Hogmanay 1954 in the ancient burgh of Linlithgow, Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond graduated from St Andrews University and began a career in economics, working for the Scottish Office and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

He also played an increasingly active role in the Scottish National Party, having come to the conclusion that the economic case for independence was strong.

Entry to politics
Alex Salmond

Mr Salmond's rise to prominence came as the SNP fell on hard times, triggered by Margaret Thatcher's 1979 Conservative election win, which saw the number of Nationalist MPs slashed from 11 to two.

He played a prominent role in the breakaway '79 Group, which sought to sharpen the SNP's message and appeal to dissident Labour voters - a move which earned him a brief expulsion from the party in 1982.

Reflecting on the incident years later, he put it down in part to his being a "brash young man" - although the urge to cause a bit of mischief has never been far from his mind.

Despite this episode, Mr Salmond established himself as a rising star of the SNP, winning the Westminster seat of Banff and Buchan in 1987 - and notably getting himself banned from the Commons chamber for a week after interrupting the chancellor's Budget speech in protest at the introduction of the poll tax in Scotland.

SNP leadership (part one)
Alex Salmond

When the SNP leadership job came up in 1990, Mr Salmond grabbed the opportunity and, on winning the post, repositioned the party as more socially democratic and pro-European.

Scottish devolution was an opportunity for the SNP. The party failed to win the first Holyrood election in 1999, but gained enough seats to become the main opposition.

During the campaign, Mr Salmond had sparked controversy when he described Nato action in Kosovo as "an act of dubious legality, but, above all, one of unpardonable folly".

After putting in a decade as SNP leader, Mr Salmond decided to quit, standing down as an MSP and returning to Westminster.

During his time in London, Mr Salmond had a visible profile, partly from appearances on TV shows such as Question Time, Have I got News for You and Channel 4's Morning Line, where his horse racing expertise saw him offering tips and insights.

SNP leadership (the sequel)
Alex Salmond

John Swinney took over the reins as SNP leader from Mr Salmond, but stood down in 2004 following continued criticism from sections of the party and the negative publicity of a leadership challenge.

Many turned to Mr Salmond to grasp the thistle and take his old job back. He responded by quoting Union Army General William Sherman, who, on being asked to run for president following the American Civil War, declared: "If nominated I'll decline. If drafted I'll defer. And if elected I'll resign."

As the leadership contest continued, with Roseanna Cunningham regarded as a front-runner, Mr Salmond made a surprise entry into the race, explaining: "I changed my mind."

Becoming Scotland's boss
Alex Salmond

Following his leadership comeback, on a joint ticket with deputy Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Salmond led the SNP to what was then its greatest hour - victory at the 2007 Scottish election and delivery of a minority SNP government.

The newly appointed first minister, who returned to Holyrood by winning the Liberal Democrat-held Gordon seat, soon had his first of many brushes with the UK government.

The subject was the future of the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds on account of his terminal illness, in the face of huge criticism from the US and others.

In contrast, the Glasgow Airport terror attack and the foot and mouth crisis showed how willing the first minister was to work with Westminster on issues of UK importance.

Scottish government policies such as protecting NHS spending, freezing council tax and scrapping bridge tolls and prescription charges were popular with voters.

But critics questioned whether universal benefits were affordable, and accused SNP ministers of giving local authorities a raw deal.

Alex Salmond and Rupert Murdoch

As the global economic meltdown took hold, Mr Salmond blamed "spivs and speculators" for the problems which caused the takeover of HBOS, as the crisis of confidence in the financial sector hit Scotland.

He later faced criticism from political rivals who said HBOS's real problems were caused by the bank's exposure to the volatile mortgage market.

On the day Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood, Mr Salmond also reflected on a letter he previously wrote to the banker when he was running Royal Bank of Scotland, offering the Scottish government's assistance in the takeover of Dutch bank ABN-Amro - the deal which contributed to RBS needing a £45bn bailout.

Looking back, Mr Salmond said very few people could have predicted the meltdown, adding: "If we had the benefit of hindsight we'd do things differently and I am sure that is true of lots and lots of people."

The first minister has faced opposition accusations of close links with big businessmen, including the Stagecoach boss Brian Soutar, US tycoon Donald Trump - who later turned on Mr Salmond over his government's pro-wind farm policy - and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Salmond always insisted relations with such figures were about promoting jobs for Scotland.

Conservative dawn
David Cameron and Alex Salmond

Mr Salmond's hopes of increasing the number of SNP MPs in a hung UK parliament in 2010 with the purpose of "making Westminster dance to a Scottish jig" didn't quite come off.

With a resurgent Tory party on course for victory, Scots voters came out in their droves to back Labour, during a campaign which saw the SNP unsuccessfully take the BBC to court, after it was decided Mr Salmond couldn't debate with Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron on TV.

Despite the result, the first minister came to regard a Tory-led Westminster government as a key argument for independence, by invoking memories of Thatcher (and poking fun at the Conservatives' single Scottish MP).

Breaking the system
Alex Salmond

It seemed Labour was on course to win the 2011 Scottish election, but Mr Salmond - never to be underestimated - launched into the contest with a positive campaign.

When he came up against Labour's negative, attacking style, Scots voters decided there was no contest - and the SNP was returned with a jaw-dropping landslide win.

Holyrood's part-proportional representation/part-constituency system was essentially designed to keep any one party (ie the SNP) from winning an overall majority - but the nationalists' victory brought about a generational shift in Scottish politics, which had seen Labour as the dominant force for 50 years.

The Salmond Administration V2.0 continued as Scotland's devolved government, pledging to resist Westminster cuts and protect cherished universal benefits, while claiming achievements such as cutting crime to a 30-year low.

Opposition parties regularly argued the first minister was becoming so obsessed with his dream of independence that he'd taken his eye off the ball when it came to Scotland's needs.

Mr Salmond's critics also claimed falling teacher and nursing numbers, and housing shortages, were examples of a lax attitude.

The vote
Alex Salmond

Mr Salmond didn't bring forward his government's promised Referendum Bill in its first term because it lacked the necessary votes in Holyrood - possibly a blessing in disguise, given the polls were indicating a "No" outcome at the time.

The 2011 election result made the independence referendum a certainty - and it was time for Mr Salmond to put his money (and North Sea oil reserves) where his mouth was.

The first minister, along with his government and the wider independence movement, set out a vision of Scotland's as one of the world's richest small nations - with opponents arguing he was willing to say anything to win a "Yes" vote.

But on the night it wasn't to be, as voters rejected independence by 55% to 45% in the 18 September vote.

The following day, Mr Salmond announced he was standing down as first minister and SNP leader - but not before delivering a warning to his opponents to make good on their promise to increase the powers of the devolved Scottish Parliament.

Alex Salmond

Despite his public profile, Mr Salmond and wife Moira, closely protect their private lives.

He is also known for his fondness for singing, horse racing and (like many Scots) curries.

As to the future - watch this space.

His suggestion that he may decide to stand for Westminster in the 2015 election was a heavy hint that the world has not seen the last of Alex Salmond.

More Scotland politics stories


Scotland Live

    10:11: The jury's out

    Duns Sheriff Court is sitting for the final time before joining the list of sites being closed across Scotland in a nationwide shake-up of the service.

    Duns Sheriff Court

    Its business will be transferred to Jedburgh Sheriff Court, about 30 miles away.

    Peebles Sheriff Court closed last week, with business now being taken in Selkirk.

    Concerns have been raised about the impact of the extra business on other courts and travel distances involved.

    However, the Scottish government said the changes were "justified" and compatible with wider justice reforms.

    Text 80295 Vouchers for pregnant smokers - Your views

    Lesley: My mum smoked all the way through three pregnancies, these babies all born healthy, now being almost 50, 48 and 47, with no serious health problems. Stop spending taxpayers' money, yet again, on predominantly non-taxpayers. Funny how so many of these people can smoke and drink alcohol but can't afford to eat - get your priorities right!!!

    Kate, Aberdeenshire: Surely alcohol and substance misuse has a far bigger impact on the developing foetus. An incentive to stop using legal highs etc would be money better spent. And yes I smoked during my first pregnancy (it was twins) and my children have not suffered any adverse effects from it.

    Wilma, Dundee: Smokers put in £12.5bn to the tax take each year so if some of this is going to try to help young women to stop then why not. Pity they could not do the same for pregnant women who drink and leave the baby with life-long problems.

    @BBCDouglasF Raising the Barr Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

    Irn Bru maker AG Barr: 5% sales lift Oct-Dec, better than tough-going soft drink market: #Glasgow2014 Games sponsorship helped + cost cuts.

    Email: newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk Your pictures - Get involved

    Michelle Bogue says this squirrel is a daily visitor to her garden in Montrose.


    Email us your pictures and we will use the best.

    09:53: Inverness striker on the move?

    Billy McKay, a key player for Inverness CT this season, could be on his way to Wigan.

    In a statement on the club's website, Inverness chairman Kenny Cameron says: "Billy has never hidden his ambition to compete at the highest possible level and has always conducted himself in a professional manner in this regard.

    Inverness CT striker Billy McKay

    "We are grateful to Wigan Athletic FC for the courtesy shown in speaking to us before opening their discussions with the player."

    09:45: Scrap yard fire 'suspicious'

    Detectives investigating a large fire at a car scrap yard in Fife are treating it as suspicious.

    A joint police and fire inquiry was begun after the fire swept through Nobles yard in Kirkcaldy.

    The alarm was raised about 22:30 and, at its height, the blaze was attended by more than 16 fire appliances.

    The road around the industrial estate was closed as a precautionary measure and no-one was hurt.

    @edinburghpaper Reekie noir Edinburgh Evening News

    The Danish director who masterminded the hit crime show The Killing has spent four months in Scotland secretly filming his first British drama ­series.

    Locations across Edinburgh and the Lothians have been used for Birger Larsen's three-part series Murder, due to be aired on BBC2 later this year.

    09:34: Lifeboats' rescue record

    Scotland's lifeboat crews rescued a record number of people last year, according to new figures from the RNLI.

    buckie lifeboat

    Volunteer crews went to the aid of nearly 1,200 people around the coast in 2014, compared to just over 1,000 the previous year.

    Broughty Ferry was Scotland's busiest station with more than 70 call outs.

    @BBCTravelScot Snow shower BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    A9 around Blair Atholl - heavy snow shower affecting visibility.

    Text 80295 Your favourite nicknames

    Louise White is asking Morning Call listeners for the best nicknames they have earned/heard/used and the stories behind them.

    Brian, Motherwell: We used to call a mate The Blacksmith because he used to make a Bolt for the door when it was his round.

    Bob, Gartocharn: A teacher in the 70s at Aberdeen Grammar School named William Williams was known to us as Bill Squared.

    Nina Shanks: My husband's surname is Shanks and at school he was known as Flush.

    Grant: Jim Hoy from Blairgowrie known as Shipper, hence Shipperhoy.

    Jim: I am a retired firefighter, nicknames were rife in the service. MINTY - we started day shift at 08:00 and this guy was never on time. He arrived for work "after eight!"

    @BBCKheredine Murray watch Kheredine Idessane BBC Scotland

    A fan's eye view of @andy_murray as he rewards those on Margaret Court who watched his practice with some autographs.

    Andy Murray at the Australian Open
    09:06: Job creation drive

    The Scottish Labour Party will today publish a bill at Westminster calling for the immediate transfer to Holyrood of job creation powers.

    Shadow Business Minister Ian Murray's bill would devolve responsibility for the work programme ahead of the general election.

    Labour says it may force a Commons vote on the issue next month.

    The UK government says Labour's proposal is flawed and insists the powers will be devolved as part of further devolution legislation by whoever is in power after May's general election.

    Email: newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk Your pictures - Get involved

    Gill Williamson took this picture at the Up Helly Aa festival while on a break with friends in Shetland.

    up helly aa

    Email us your pictures from around the country for our photo gallery and we'll use the best.

    08:44: Oil and gas taskforce

    A taskforce which aims to support jobs across the energy sector will meet for the first time in Aberdeen.

    oil rig

    The new Energy Jobs Taskforce, which was established by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, will focus initially on the oil and gas industry.

    It includes figures from the oil and gas sector, enterprise bodies, local and central government and unions.

    The taskforce will be chaired by Scottish Enterprise chief executive Lena Wilson.

    It will report to the Scottish Energy Advisory Board.

    @BBCKheredine Tennis defeat Kheredine Idessane BBC Scotland

    Disappointment for Scotland's @GordonReid91 - knocked out of the Australian Open singles 6-2, 6-4 by his doubles partner here, Gustavo Fernandez, Arg.

    08:37: 'Cut whisky tax'

    The Scotch Whisky Association has backed research which shows our national drink is worth £5bn to the UK economy and urged Chancellor George Osborne to do more to help producers.

    Chief executive David Frost told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I think the government took a great decision last year in abolishing the duty escalator and freezing duty on spirits and Scotch whisky.

    "We would like them to follow the logic of that decision this year, to stop taxing a sector that is so successful. Follow the logic and cut duty by 2% this year at the Budget."

    @bbcweather Cold snap BBC Weather Latest

    Today gets colder, and for a few...snowier! Weather warnings: http://bbc.in/1yMuS9C Here's you day in pictures

    Weather map
    Text 80295 Vouchers for pregnant smokers - Your views

    John Ross, Edinburgh: Research in other areas has shown that such financial incentives will only lead to an increase in smoking among pregnant women so that more women can claim reward for apparently stopping smoking later.

    Stephen Mather: Shame that some are more interested in health of their purse than health of their child.

    08:17: Vouchers for pregnant smokers

    One of the lead authors, Professor David Tappin, hopes the scheme will be rolled out across the UK.

    "It (the voucher) was £400 split into four points during pregnancy," he told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland. "The first point was if they engaged with the pregnancy cessation services, and set a quit date, they got £50.


    "Then, if they were quit four weeks later they got a second £50 voucher and if they had still quit after 12 weeks then they got a £100 voucher.

    "And, if they had quit towards the end of their pregnancy, they got a final £200 voucher.

    "When women are young, and the time they're having babies, if you stop them smoking at that point, their probably going to get the same life expectancy and health outcomes as a non-smoker.

    "This study has only been done in Glasgow and needs to be done in other places around the UK with different rates of smoking.

    "If that future study shows that it is cost effective, then I think National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) would recommend it."

    @trafficscotland Here we snow again

    Traffic Scotland tweets: #Snow now showing on the #A82 at Altnafeadh (East of Glencoe)-Take extra care, visibility will be reduced. #StaySafe

    snow on A82
    @bbcscotlandnews Vouchers for pregnant smokers - Your views

    Iain Dick tweets: I guess having a healthy full term baby isn't enough incentive!

    Louise Agnew: You would think their health and the health of their unborn baby would be incentive enough.

    Culag Park: Bonkers. Surely the incentive is to have a healthy baby? Why not give £400 vouchers to those who don't smoke as a thank you?

    @BBCTravelScot Snow on the way... BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    Snow in the air - across the #M80- can't see it lying but be aware in case it affects visibility.

    07:55: Monte Carlo Rally starts in Paisley

    Thousands of people are expected to gather in Paisley later for the UK start of the Monte Carlo Classic Rally.

    Monte Carlo Classic Rally

    About 70 classic cars - including Porsches, Mini Coopers and Linwood-built Hillman Imps - will set off from Paisley Abbey at about 18:45.

    They will join competing cars from the other start cities of Barcelona, Turin, Copenhagen and Reims on the 1,670-mile (2,688km) route to the French Riviera.

    The rally is expected to generate more than £1m for the Renfrewshire economy.

    Text 80295 Vouchers for pregnant smokers - Your views

    M: If a woman can't stop smoking for the health of her child then I don't think a financial incentive will do it. If that's what'll do it, then I think it's a sad state of affairs for their unborn child!

    07:42: What the papers say

    The Scottish Daily Mail claims an exclusive with a report that defence officials are secretly drawing up plans to move Britain's nuclear-armed submarines from Scotland to Wales.

    Scotland's newspapers

    The Scotsman leads with figures showing that almost half of all pupils taking Highers will sit the old exam rather than the new qualification.

    The Times focuses on the review of the spiralling costs of the new V&A project in Dundee.

    Read our full review of today's papers here.

    @BBCJamesCook Intelligence gathering... James Cook Scotland Correspondent, BBC News

    What do Scotland's councils and GCHQ have in common? bbc.in/1z1wxIO by @marceellison #BigBrother

    07:34: Councils' spying missions Marc Ellison Data journalist, BBC Scotland

    Scottish councils used covert surveillance on hundreds of occasions over the last three years, according to data obtained by BBC Scotland.


    Local authorities authorised 460 clandestine investigations into issues ranging from drugs and prostitution to dog fouling and underage sunbed use.

    The figures show an overall decline in the use of the powers.

    But campaigners said they were being used to investigate "less serious" crimes than originally planned.

    07:27: 'Shark attack' on killer whale

    A shark has been suspected of biting a chunk out of the tail fluke of a killer whale well-known to whale and dolphin watchers in Scotland.

    Tail of orca called John Coe
    Killer whale John Coe

    Nicknamed John Coe, the male orca can be identified by a notch on its dorsal fin.

    The injury to its tail was spotted during a survey by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT).

    The trust said consultations with experts suggested that it was "almost certainly" caused by a shark.

    John Coe is one of a small community of orcas regularly seen off Scotland's west coast.

    Text 80295 Fracking - Your views

    Peter: You do know there was a vote at Westminster this week regarding fracking? And guess what? Scottish Labour MPs abstained and Jim Murphy couldn't be bothered to even turn up.

    Lynn, Forfar: I hope you will point out that Jim Murphy didn't even attend Westminster for the fracking vote while he was telling us up here that is against fracking.

    07:20: Whisky jobs galore

    Scotch whisky contributes almost £5bn to the UK economy and supports more than 40,000 jobs, according to research commissioned by the industry.

    scotch whisky

    The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said the sector now accounted for 25% of total UK food and drink exports.

    Its report also suggests that the industry's direct economic impact had grown by 21% since 2008, to £3.3bn.

    It found it added more value to the economy than shipbuilding, iron and steel, textiles or computing.

    07:15: Call for fracking ban

    Labour has urged Scottish ministers to take further steps to thwart the prospect of fracking for shale gas in Scotland.


    Energy Minister Fergus Ewing will make a statement on the issue at Holyrood today.

    Labour says he should use the opportunity to place a series of obstacles in the path of unconventional gas extraction.

    However, the Tories are warning that banning fracking could jeopardise Scottish jobs.

    @bbcscotlandnews Vouchers for pregnant smokers - Your views

    Fiona Shields tweets: Shopping vouchers for pregnant women who give up smoking?? What about those of us who didn't smoke? Where's my £400?

    @BBCGaryR Coming up... Gary Robertson BBC Radio Scotland

    Scottish space industry doubles its turnover in three years & employs over 5000 people. @macdonke looks at its prospects #bbcgms 0720

    Good Morning Scotland

    Listen live to the programme here.

    Text 80295 Vouchers for pregnant smokers - Your views

    John, Edinburgh: Unfortunately, research in other areas has shown that such financial incentives will only lead to an increase in smoking among pregnant women so that more women can claim reward for apparently stopping smoking later.

    Anon: Paying pregnant women to stop smoking: outrageous, ridiculous and an embarrassing waste of taxpayers' money, seeing as there was still an 80% failure rate. Surely if smoking in public places is banned due to the harm it causes people, then smoking whilst pregnant should be banned due to the harm it causes the poor unborn children?!

    07:06: Vouchers 'help pregnant smokers quit'

    Offering shopping vouchers worth £400 to pregnant smokers makes them more likely to quit the habit, say researchers.

    pregnant smoker

    They have published the results of a trial involving 600 women from Glasgow in the British Medical Journal.

    More than 20% of the women offered vouchers stopped smoking, compared with 9% given normal NHS support alone.

    The Royal College of Midwives said incentivising healthy behaviours using money was "not ideal" - and expensive.

    @BBCScotWeather Wintry weather warning BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    Met Office issues yellow 'be aware' warning for snow showers across Scotland. Valid from 8am today & lasting all day Thurs.

    Snow warning
    07:01: Snow on the way...

    Yellow "be aware" warnings have been issued by the Met Office for frequent snow showers across Scotland.

    The warnings are in place across the entire country from 08:00 on Wednesday to 23:55 on Thursday.

    About 5-10cm (1-3in) is expected at lower levels with 10cm (5in) over higher ground.

    Weather map

    BBC Weather's Chris Blanchett said: "By [this] morning, there will be snow across the northwest Highlands.

    "During the day that snow level will come down, and we'll see snow showers across central and southern Scotland as well."

    07:00: Rise and shine Thomas McGuigan BBC Scotland News

    Good morning and a wintry welcome form the Scotland Live team. Any snow where you are yet?

    Stay with us until 19:00 as we bring you news, sport, travel and weather from across the country.



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