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Angus Robertson

Official portrait, 2021
Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture
Assumed office
20 May 2021
First MinisterNicola Sturgeon
Preceded byMike Russell (Constitution and External Affairs)
Fiona Hyslop (Culture)
Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party
In office
13 October 2016 – 3 February 2018
LeaderNicola Sturgeon
Preceded byStewart Hosie
Succeeded byKeith Brown
Leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons
In office
23 May 2007 – 3 May 2017
DeputyStewart Hosie
LeaderAlex Salmond
Nicola Sturgeon
Preceded byAlex Salmond
Succeeded byIan Blackford
SNP Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
10 May 2001 – 30 March 2015
LeaderAlex Salmond
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byAlex Salmond (International Affairs and Europe)
SNP Spokesperson for Defence
In office
10 May 2001 – 30 March 2015
LeaderAlex Salmond
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byBrendan O'Hara
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Edinburgh Central
Assumed office
7 May 2021
Preceded byRuth Davidson
Majority4,732 (11.3%)
Member of Parliament
for Moray
In office
7 June 2001 – 3 May 2017
Preceded byMargaret Ewing
Succeeded byDouglas Ross
Personal details
Born
Angus Struan Carolus Robertson

(1969-09-28) 28 September 1969 (age 51)
London, England
NationalityScottish
Political partyScottish National Party
Spouse(s)
Jennifer Dempsie
(m. 2016)
Alma materUniversity of Aberdeen
WebsiteOfficial website

Angus Struan Carolus Robertson (born 28 September 1969) is a Scottish politician serving as the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture since 2021. Former Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) from 2016 to 2018, he has served as the Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Edinburgh Central since 2021. Robertson previously served as a Westminster MP for Moray from 2001 to 2017, where from 2007 to 2011, he served as the Leader of the SNP in the House of Commons.

A graduate of the University of Aberdeen, Robertson previously worked as a journalist. He was first elected to the House of Commons in 2001. In 2017, he sought re-election as the MP for Moray and lost to the Scottish Conservative candidate, Douglas Ross.[1] He was succeeded as SNP Westminster Leader by Ian Blackford.

Robertson resigned as SNP Depute Leader in February 2018, before launching the pro-independence think tank Progress Scotland in 2019, alongside Mark Diffley.[2] In the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, Robertson was elected to the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Central.

Early life and career

Robertson was born in Wimbledon, London, to a Scottish father, Struan, who was an engineer, and a German mother, Anna, who was a nurse. Robertson was brought up in Edinburgh and speaks fluent German. He was educated at Broughton High School, Edinburgh and the University of Aberdeen, where he graduated in 1991 with an MA Honours degree in politics and international relations. After university he embarked on a journalistic career, and worked as a foreign and diplomatic correspondent in Central Europe for the BBC World Service.

Robertson joined the Scottish National Party in 1984, at the age of 15, after being given a leaflet about the party's youth wing by Charlie Reid of The Proclaimers. He was the European and International Affairs Adviser to the SNP Group in the Scottish Parliament.

Political career

House of Commons

Robertson was first elected to the UK House of Commons in June 2001, representing the Moray constituency. During his first parliamentary session, Robertson was Scotland's youngest MP and was rated Scotland's "hardest working MP" according to statistics from the House of Commons.[3] He was a member of the European Scrutiny Committee from 2001 to 2010, and served as the SNP's spokesman on Defence and International Relations. Robertson was well above average amongst MPs in the number of contributions he made in the House of Commons.[4] In January 2006, Robertson provided Swiss Senator Dick Marty a report containing what he calls 'a detailed report of numerous suspect movements of aircraft transiting through Scotland.[5]

Leader of the SNP in the House of Commons

Robertson's official parliamentary portrait, 2001
Robertson's official parliamentary portrait, 2001

In May 2007, he became SNP Leader in the House of Commons, following Alex Salmond's election as First Minister of Scotland.[6] Following the 2015 general election and the election of Salmond as MP for Gordon, it was confirmed that he would continue in his role as leader in the Commons. In September 2015, he was appointed to the Privy Council and as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.[7][8]

In 2007 Robertson pushed for a UK-wide referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, something that the SNP opposed because it entrenched EU control over Scottish affairs. "We'll trust the people, while Gordon Brown will not trust the people," Robertson told The Daily Record, "We are honour-bound to support a referendum."[9]

In 2018 it was revealed that Robertson had been contacted a decade ago by staff at Edinburgh Airport about the alleged behaviour of then First Minister Alex Salmond. Robertson said: "In 2009 I was called by an Edinburgh Airport manager about Alex Salmond's perceived 'inappropriateness' towards female staff at the airport. I was asked if I could informally broach the subject with Mr Salmond to make him aware of this perception. I raised the matter directly with Mr Salmond, who denied he had acted inappropriately in any way. I communicated back to the Edinburgh Airport manager that a conversation had happened. The matter being resolved, and without a formal complaint having been made, it was not reported further."[10] It was subsequently reported that Salmond had been banned from using a VIP access corridor at the airport.[11] Robertson's handling of the allegations were later investigated by the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints in 2020 and he submitted written evidence.[12]

In January 2016, Robertson said that British Prime Minister David Cameron should admit to British involvement in Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen: "Isn't it time for the Prime Minister to admit that Britain is effectively taking part in a war in Yemen that is costing thousands of civilians lives and he has not sought parliamentary approval to do this?"[13]

Depute Leader of the SNP

Robertson in 2016
Robertson in 2016

On 13 October 2016, he was elected Depute Leader of the SNP, replacing Stewart Hosie. Robertson received 52.5% of the votes, defeating Tommy Sheppard (25.5%), Alyn Smith (18.6%) and Chris McEleny (3.3%) in the election.[1] He resigned in February 2018.[14]

During the 2017 general election Robertson told the media that "Tory is a four letter word in Scotland", but amid a backlash to Nicola Sturgeon's decision to call for a second independence referendum,[15] he lost his Moray seat to Douglas Ross of the Scottish Conservatives.[16] In a profile of the seat for The Guardian after the election, journalist Severin Carrell summarised the result: "Moray had been an SNP seat for 30 years but... using Brexit as the basis for a second independence vote so soon after 2014 crystallised an irritation with the party brewing for several years. The Tory cry that Sturgeon needed “to get on with the day job” resonated."[17]

After losing his seat, Robertson resigned as a Depute Leader of the SNP and established Progress Scotland, a pro-independence think-tank.[16]

Scottish Parliament

In February 2020, Robertson announced his intention to contest the Edinburgh Central constituency in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.[16] He won selection ahead of Marco Biagi, a former MSP for the area.[18] Robertson won the seat with 39% of the vote, beating out the Scottish Conservative candidate by 4,732 votes.[19]

Constitution Secretary

In May 2021, following the SNP's victory, he was appointed Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.[20] Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Scottish Liberal Democrats said his party could not support the role, filled by Robertson. He stated "not one minute" of ministerial or civil service time should given to the "tired, old arguments about currency and about borders". However, his amendment to a Scottish Government motion appointing new ministers was rejected by 70 votes to four, with 51 abstentions. [21]

Controversies

In 2014 Robertson – and three of his SNP colleagues – missed a vote on repealing the bedroom tax, despite the SNP making opposition to the policy a central part of its campaign for a yes vote in that year's independence referendum. Labour said: “Far from standing up for Scotland, the SNP have stayed at home and let Scotland down.”[22]

Ahead of the selection contest for the seat of Edinburgh Central, the SNP National Executive Committee announced that any MP chosen as a candidate for Holyrood would be obliged to resign from Westminster ahead of the election to the Scottish Parliament.[23] Some considered the rule change a deliberate "stitch up" by the SNP establishment to stop MP Joanna Cherry, a critic of the party leadership, from winning the party's nomination for the seat and boost the candidacy of Angus Robertson, a leadership loyalist.[24] Cherry dropped out of the contest, citing an unwillingness to make her staff unemployed in a pandemic, and Robertson won the party's nomination.[25]

In 2020 Robertson wrote that a rise in support for independence in opinion polls could be attributed to, "55,000 predominantly No supporting older voters passing away every year... Since 2014, this has added around 330,000 voters to the electorate, with a likely net gain of over 100,000 for independence.”[26] His remarks were condemned as tasteless by opposition parties and his successor as MP for Moray, Douglas Ross, described them as, "Disgraceful and deeply disappointing comments from Angus Robertson, suggesting that the most vulnerable age group, who have been hardest hit through the tragic loss of so many lives throughout the pandemic, are a boost to his independence obsession. A new low for the SNP.” Robertson said his analysis was "simple statistical facts".[27]

Expenses claims

In 2015, The Daily Telegraph reported that Robertson's second home expenses had included a television costing £1,119, a £400 home cinema system, £500 for a bed, £20 for a corkscrew and £2,324 for a sofa bed.[28] The home cinema system was initially denied by the expenses office; however, Robertson appealed this decision and it was subsequently awarded.

In 2017 it was reported in several newspapers that Robertson had sold his second home in London, the mortgage on which was paid on expenses, as part of his divorce settlement. Robertson had previously pledged to repay the value of the expenses on the property and donate any profit to charity.[29] The flat was disposed of in the run up to Mr Robertson’s divorce and he did not profit from the sale of the flat. Its furniture and contents were distributed to Moray based charities.

Personal life

Robertson's wife, Jennifer Dempsie, is a former advisor to Alex Salmond. She campaigned to inherit Salmond's Scottish Parliament seat in Aberdeenshire East[30] but withdrew to focus on her business career.[31]

Outside politics Robertson is a music fan, and particularly likes Metallica and Belle and Sebastian.[32] He is a supporter of the Heart of Midlothian football team.[33]

On 29 May 2021, he announced the birth of his second child.[34]

Honours

In August 2016, he was awarded the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Austrian Republic.[35]

Positions held

Party
  • Member, National Executive, Young Scottish Nationalists (1986)
  • National organiser, Federation of Student Nationalists (1988)
  • Member, SNP International Bureau
  • Depute SNP spokesperson for Constitutional and External Affairs (1998–1999)
  • European policy adviser, SNP Group, Scottish Parliament
Parliamentary
  • Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs & Culture (2021-Present)
  • SNP Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and for Defence (2001–2017)
  • SNP Spokesperson for Europe and for Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2005–07)
  • SNP Westminster Group Deputy Leader (2005–07)
  • SNP Westminster Group Leader (2007–2017)

Bibliography

References

  1. ^ a b "Angus Robertson named as SNP deputy leader". BBC News. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  2. ^ "Marianne Taylor: The moral case for independence is clear, but it's a hard sell economically". HeraldScotland.
  3. ^ [1] Archived 6 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Angus Robertson MP, Moray". TheyWorkForYou.com. 27 May 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  5. ^ "European governments 'knew of' CIA flights | US news". Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Robertson elected SNP's Westminster leader | Politics | The Guardian". Politics.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Westminster SNP leader appointed Privy Council". snp.org. 9 September 2015. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  8. ^ "SNP's Angus Robertson to become member of House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee". The Herald. 9 September 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  9. ^ "SNP To Push For EU Treaty Referendum". Daily Record. 26 October 2007.
  10. ^ "Female airport staff complained of Salmond 'inappropriateness', says ex-SNP deputy leader". Sky News.
  11. ^ Macaskill, Mark. "Harassment row cost Alex Salmond VIP access at airport" – via www.thetimes.co.uk.
  12. ^ Ross, Calum. "Salmond inquiry: Angus Robertson spoke to ex-SNP leader about 'inappropriateness' concern".
  13. ^ Stone, Jon (20 January 2016). "David Cameron accused of silently taking Britain into Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen". The Independent.
  14. ^ "Robertson quits as SNP deputy leader". 3 February 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  15. ^ "General election 2017: Sturgeon says Indyref2 'a factor' in SNP losses". 9 June 2017 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  16. ^ a b c "Former SNP MP Angus Robertson to run for Holyrood in 2021". BBC News. BBC. 18 February 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  17. ^ Carrell, Severin (27 June 2017). "Moray: 'We are fed up with the SNP. It's as simple as that'".
  18. ^ "SNP select former MP Angus Robertson for Edinburgh Central seat". BBC News. BBC. 7 November 2020. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Edinburgh Central – Scottish Parliament constituency – BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  20. ^ Pooran, Neil (19 May 2021). "Angus Robertson returns to frontline politics with key role in Scottish Cabinet". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  21. ^ "Lib Dem bid to oppose appointment of new Constitution Secretary rejected". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  22. ^ "SNP slammed over MPs no-show at bedroom tax vote". www.scotsman.com.
  23. ^ "SNP at war over ruling body's Holyrood candidate 'stitch up'". 2 August 2020 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  24. ^ https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18617440.backlash-grows-snp-leaderships-holyrood-stitch-up-plan/
  25. ^ https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-53607198
  26. ^ Peterkin, Tom. "SNP's Angus Robertson condemned for 'disgraceful' comments suggesting elderly deaths were leading to independence 'gain'".
  27. ^ Johnson, Simon (20 September 2020). "Nicola Sturgeon ally Angus Robertson criticised for saying elderly deaths a 'gain' for independence" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  28. ^ Watt, Holly (4 May 2015). "SNP's Angus Robertson claims £80,000 for second home: MPs' expenses". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  29. ^ "Robertson denies any wrongdoing over London flat". Inside Moray. 7 May 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  30. ^ Gordon, Tom (21 June 2015). "Salmond's former special adviser set to inherit his seat". The Herald.
  31. ^ Whitaker, Andrew (15 September 2015). "Fiona Hyslop to appear before MSPs over TITP funding". The Scotsman.
  32. ^ "Angus Robertson Interview: SNP Westminster Leader On Devolution, Independence, Greece...and Metallica". huffingtonpost.co.uk. 10 July 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  33. ^ Robertson, Angus (21 May 2016). "Congrats to @HibsOfficial for a well deserved victory. Like many other Hearts fans I'm delighted for all Hibs supporters. #ScottishCupFinal".
  34. ^ Fitzpatrick, Tara (29 May 2021). "SNP's Angus Robertson announces birth of second child with arrival of baby girl". Daily Record. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  35. ^ Russell, Greg (18 August 2016). "SNP's Angus Robertson receives honour for fostering links with Austria". The National. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
Scottish Parliament Preceded byRuth Davidson Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Central2021–present Incumbent Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byMargaret Ewing Member of Parliamentfor Moray2001–2017 Succeeded byDouglas Ross Party political offices Preceded byAlex Salmond Leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons2007–2017 Succeeded byIan Blackford Preceded byStewart Hosie Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party2016–2018 Succeeded byKeith Brown Political offices Preceded byMike Russellas Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture2021–present Incumbent Preceded byFiona Hyslopas Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture