The ‘giant of modern Scottish politics’ who was always devoted to his constituents

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Former First Minister Alex Salmond was today described as “the giant of modern Scottish politics” by Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon was speaking about her “friend and mentor” after he lost to the Tories in the Aberdeenshire seat of Gordon – after winning nine elections.

Elected as MP for Banff and Buchan in 1987, Mr Salmond went on to rise through the ranks of the SNP, becoming leader in 1990.

He remained at the centre of party until 1997 when the SNP increased its tally of MPs to six.

This played a key part in the successful campaign for a new Scottish Parliament.

During the first Holyrood election in 1999, Mr Salmond became MSP for Banff and Buchan.

In 2000 he stood down as SNP leader and left the Scottish Parliament the following year.

At the time he said he would not return to the job, saying: “If nominated, I’ll decline; if drafted, I’ll defer; and if elected, I’ll resign”. He then stood on a joint ticket with Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr Salmond, 62, then went on to make history, becoming first minister in a majority Scottish Government – putting an independence referendum on the table.

Speaking after Mr Salmond lost his seat, Scotland’s First Minister said: “I want to also make particular mention of Alex Salmond, my friend and mentor for almost 30 years, and without a shadow of a doubt the giant of modern Scottish politics – someone who has devoted his life to serving this country.”

Although a bid for independence failed at the ballots, the results were closer than anyone expected.

Elected as MP to the Gordon seat in 2015, Mr Salmond ended decades of Liberal Democrat rule by deputy party leader Sir Malcolm Bruce, who stood down ahead of the election.

In the past, Mr Salmond has suggested his legacy is bringing thousands of new people into politics.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said: “There is no easy way to sum up the impact of what Alex has done, not only for the North-east, but in his role as First Minister.

“He put Scotland on the map on a global scale and for that we will forever be grateful.

“He has worked tirelessly for the people of this region – notably the approval of multiple infrastructure projects, including the AWPR, which will benefit this area for years to come.”

She added: “While his loss will be keenly felt, I have no doubt he will be back fighting harder than ever before, for the people of the North-east and Scotland.”

He gained prominence in politics when he was suspended for a week for disrupting the chancellor’s budget speech in 1988.

The incident, he said, took him from “total nonentity to notoriety” after business in the Commons was suspended while Mr Salmond was expelled from the chamber.

MPs voted to expel the SNP by 400 votes to 23. After the incident he came out to a media scrum.

Councillor Richard Thomson, leader of the SNP party at Aberdeenshire Council, said the election results are “particularly sore” in the North-east and that, although the party was “down locally, it is certainly not out”.

He added: “Our traditional strength in the area didn’t come about by accident and nor has it ever been taken for granted.

“Over the years, this has given the party’s representatives a platform to not only keep the North-east in the spotlight.

“No-one epitomised that better than Alex Salmond himself. First elected as part of a group of only 3 SNP MPs, he quickly rose to prominence.

“Yet whatever national responsibilities came his way, he never lost sight of the fact that he was first and foremost a local representative, always regarding it the most enormous privilege to have the chance to represent his constituents.”