Salmond: Against the Odds
Alex Salmond is well known in Scotland, the UK and beyond as the leader of the Scottish National Party and Scotland's First Minister, but relatively little is understood about Salmond as a human being, what makes him a Nationalist, what shaped his political views, and what sort of country he believes an independent Scotland can be. In this first biography, with which close colleagues and friends have co-operated, the acclaimed political biographer David Torrance turns his attention to perhaps one of the most capable and interesting politicians Scotland has produced in the last few decades. Utilizing a raft of published and unpublished material, Torrance charts the life and career of Alex Salmond from his schooldays, his political activism at St Andrews University, his early career at the Royal Bank of Scotland, his election as the MP for Banff and Buchan and, in greater depth than ever before, his two spells as leader of the SNP and, from 2007, as First Minister of Scotland.
mixed economy. That said, there are still vestiges of the left-wing radical in Salmond, not least when it comes to war, nuclear power and the public sector. This has often come into conflict with the free market aspect of his character, a respect for moneymen and ingenious financial models that first took hold when he worked for the Royal Bank of Scotland at the height of Thatcherism. He is also, in the opinion of Professor John Haldane, ‘something of a social conservative’41 when it comes to
B66161). 54 Scottish Standard 13/4/2005. 55 Herald 3/6/1993. 56 Scotsman 16/5/1998. 57 Scottish Sunday Express 3/4/2011. 58 Peter Brunskill to the author, 3/3/2010. 59 Scotsman 30/7/2005. By ‘west’ Salmond meant Ireland. 60 Scotsman 6/7/2004. 61 Sunday Herald 25/7/1999. 62 Scotsman 8/2/2003. 63 Herald 5/5/1995. 64 Scotsman 20/10/2001. 65 Scotsman 15/12/2001. 66 Racing Post 30/7/2000. 67 Scotland on Sunday 25/4/1999. 68 Scotsman 2/8/2009. 69 Interview with Mary Salmond. 70 Peter
trio of Sunday newspapers.6 This polling, taken together, allowed focus group expert Mark Cuthbert (who had worked for the party for more than a decade) to tell the party what he had discovered about the public’s attitude towards the Scottish Government and Alex Salmond as First Minister. It gave a sense of ‘where people were’ and revealed, for example, that voters generally recognised the SNP’s ‘team’ but not Labour’s, while voting intentions changed depending on the question.Asked who they
of how people vote.’ Or, as another senior party figure put it: ‘None of what happened at the end of last year reached the public.’ Indeed, Labour advisers now concede that given their party’s impregnable poll lead, at this point they ‘were maybe over-confident’. They were certain of an easy victory in May and, as one (now former) Labour MSP put it to colleagues:‘It’s like we’re walking across a highly polished ballroom floor carrying a priceless Ming Dynasty vase.’This produced a certain
putting the work in, he will tell you’),27 otherwise he had no complaints, while others began to get all nostalgic for the days of Gordon Wilson’s unflashy yet capable leadership. Wilson was even pressed to stand for re-election to the NEC, while Margaret Ewing received calls urging her to challenge Salmond at the 1991 conference. To be fair to Salmond, some of these problems were not of his making – favourable news coverage of his election had been quickly overtaken by the Gulf War and Mrs