Alexander Carmichael

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The Right Honorable Alexander Morrison 'Alistair' Carmichael PC (b. 15 July 1965, Islay) is a former solicitor, deputy Procurator Fiscal and the current Member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland, having first been elected in 2001.

As of the 2015 General Election, he is the only Scottish MP representing the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons.

During the Coalition Government, Carmichael became the first Orkney and Shetland MP to hold a Cabinet post, and the second to hold a Ministerial Post.

Early life

He was born on Islay, and attended Port Ellen Primary School and Islay High School. He worked between 1984–89 as a hotel manager, before beginning study at the University of Glasgow. There, he was a member of the Students' Representative Council and President of the Liberal Club, however he left his course early. He returned to education at the University of Aberdeen, where he gained an LLB in 1992, qualifying as a solicitor in 1993. From 1993 to 1996, he was a Procurator Fiscal Depute for Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and from 1996 to 2001 he was a solicitor with Aberdeen and Macduff.

Political career

Carmichael first stood for Parliament at Paisley South in 1987, being defeated by the Labour incumbent Norman Buchan. He was later elected to represent Orkney and Shetland in the 2001 general election, the constituency previously held by Jim Wallace and Jo Grimond. He was appointed Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland and Scotland Spokesman by Sir Menzies Campbell in July 2007, but resigned in March 2008 to vote in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. He was reappointed to the position by Nick Clegg in October 2008. He had also briefly served as the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman, following the resignation of Mark Oaten.

In June 2009, Carmichael was involved in a successful campaign against the book by Max Scratchmann, Chucking it All: How Downsizing to a Windswept Scottish Island Did Absolutely Nothing to Improve My Life, an irreverent account of the author's experience downshifting from Manchester to Orkney, which Carmichael said was "hurtful and vindictive", and attacked a number of "clearly identifiable" residents of the islands. Carmichael's complaints to the publisher led them to cancel publication.

At the beginning of the Liberal Democrat - Conservative coalition government in May 2010, Carmichael was appointed Deputy Chief Whip and Comptroller of the Household. In 2011, Carmichael was elected Honorary President of the Scottish Liberal Democrats youth wing, Liberal Youth Scotland.

Secretary of State for Scotland

Carmichael took over from Jo Swinson as Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats on 23 September 2012 at the Annual Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton. In October 2013 he was promoted by Nick Clegg to the position of Secretary of State for Scotland in the UK Cabinet, replacing Michael Moore.

2015 General Election

Carmichael kept his seat in the 2015 general election, the only Liberal Democrat in Scotland out of 11 MPs elected in 2010 to do so. The Liberal Democrats also lost the majority of their seats in the rest of the UK and Carmichael was one of only eight Liberal Democrat MPs returned to parliament.

Following the resignation of Nick Clegg, Alistair Carmichael took temporary charge of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons, under the de facto leadership of Party President Sal Brinton.

'Frenchgate' memo leak

On 4 April 2015, Alistair Carmichael was involved in what became known as 'Frenchgate': the leaking of a memo from the Scotland Office about comments allegedly made by the French ambassador Sylvie Bermann about Nicola Sturgeon, claiming that Sturgeon had privately stated she would "rather see David Cameron remain as PM", in contrast to her publicly stated opposition to a Conservative government.[15] The veracity of the memo was quickly denied by the French ambassador, French consul general and Sturgeon.

At the time of the leak Carmichael denied all knowledge of the leaking of the memo in a television interview with Channel 4 News. After the election Carmichael accepted the contents of the memo were incorrect, and admitted that he had lied, and that he had authorised the leaking of the inaccurate memo to the media. This was after a Cabinet Office enquiry identified Carmichael's role in the leak. The enquiry found phone records that proved Euan Roddin, Carmichael's Special Adviser, contacted the Telegraph on 1 April, two days before the story appeared.[18] Carmichael apologised and accepted that had he still been a government minister, this was a matter that would have "required [his] resignation".

Four electors from Orkney and Shetland lodged an election petition on 29 May 2015, the last date possible to do this following the 7 May general election, attempting to unseat Carmichael and force a by-election. Then on 2 June, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner launched an investigation into his conduct, under sections 10, 14 and 16 of the Code of Conduct. On 9 December it was decided that although he had told a "blatant lie" in a TV interview, it had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he had committed an "illegal practice" and he was allowed to retain his seat. In February 2016 his application for costs was rejected, leaving him £150,000 out of pocket. Party leader Willie Rennie contributed £750 towards his costs. Carmichael was awarded £50,000 towards the costs from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

Personal life

He married Kathryn Eastham in 1987. They have two sons and live in Orkney. He speaks both French and German. He lists his interests as listening to music, theatre and cooking. He is an elder in the Church of Scotland.

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jim Wallace
Member of Parliament for
Orkney and Shetland

Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
MPs Robert Honyman (1801-1806) • Robert Honyman (1806-1807) • Malcolm Laing (1807-1812) • Richard Honyman (1812-1818) • George Dundas (1818-1820) • John Balfour (1820-1826) • George Dundas (1826-1830) • George Traill (1830-1835) • Thomas Balfour (1835-1837) • Frederick Dundas (1837-1847) • Arthur Anderson (1847-1852) • Frederick Dundas (1852-1873) • Samuel Laing (1873-1885) • Leonard Lyell (1885-1900) • Cathcart Wason (1900-1921) • Malcolm Smith (1921-1922) • Robert Hamilton (1922-1935) • Basil Neven-Spence (1935-1950) • Jo Grimond (1950-1983) • Jim Wallace (1983-2001) • Alistair Carmichael (2001-present)