Key Political Figures

Here is a summary of the key players in the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future, either during or since the referendum.

David Cameron. UK prime minister from 2010-16, he accepted that the SNP’s victory in the 2011 Scottish election gave the SNP a moral right to hold an independence referendum, even though he wanted Scotland to remain in the UK. He thus eventually agreed that the Scottish Parliament should be given the necessary legislative authority to hold an independence referendum. Afterwards he not only backed the establishment of the Smith commission on more powers for the Scottish Parliament, but also instigated moves to introduce further devolution to the Welsh Assembly and moves towards introducing ‘English Votes for English Laws’ in the House of Commons.

Dennis Canavan. First elected as a Labour MP in 1974, Canavan was twice elected as an Independent MSP when his party declined to nominate him at the first Scottish election in 1999. A long standing advocate of devolution, Canavan backed independence as Chair of the Yes Scotland campaign.

Lord (Alistair) Darling. Former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer and subsequently a backbench Labour MP until retiring as an MP in 2015. In 2012 Darling became Chair of the cross-party Better Together campaign arguing for a vote against independence. Ruth Davidson. Elected Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party in 2011, just months after first becoming an MSP, after stating she was opposed to more devolution. But she subsequently did a volte face and backed more tax powers for the Scottish Parliament. However, in a successful Scottish Parliament election campaign in 2016 she argued that (the now devolved) income tax rates in Scotland should remain at the same level as in England.

Kezia Dugdale. Elected Leader of the Scottish Labour party in August 2015 after the party lost all but one of its Westminster seats in the 2015 UK general election. Argued in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election campaign that the devolved income tax powers in Scotland should be used to increase income tax by a penny in the piund.

Colin Fox. Fox was a Scottish Socialist Party MSP between 2003 and 2007 and is now the party’s national spokesperson. Although the party no longer has any representation in the Scottish Parliament, it was part of the umbrella Yes Scotland campaign.

Lady (Annabel) Goldie. Conservative MSP 1999 until 2016 and leader of the Scottish Parliament Conservatives between 2005 and 2011, Goldie was the Conservatives’ representative on the Better Together Campaign.

Patrick Harvie. First elected as an MSP in 2003, he became co-convener of the Scottish Green Party in 2008. The Greens back independence and were members of the umbrella Yes Scotland campaign.

Blair Jenkins. Former head of news and current affairs at both STV and BBC Scotland, he was Chief executive of the umbrella Yes Scotland campaign.

Johann Lamont. Leader of the Scottish Labour Party from 201 to 2014, she was also chair of her party’s commission that before the referendum ballot was held investigated the possibility of more devolution within the framework of the Union. Resigned shortly after the referendum because she felt Scottish Labour had too little autonomy vis-à-vis the UK Labour party.

Blair McDougall. A special adviser to ministers in the last UK Labour government, he was the Campaign Director of the unionist Better Together campaign.

Michael Moore. As Secretary of State for Scotland between 2010 and 2013, Moore, a Liberal Democrat MP had responsibility for Scottish constitutional matters in the UK government at the time that the negotiations between the UK and Scottish governments that paved the way for the independence referendum took place.

David Mundell. Scotland’s sole Conservative MP since 2005, Mundell became Secretary of State for Scotland after the 2015 election and was responsible for the parliamentary passage of the 2016 Scotland Act that devolves further taxation and some welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament.

George Osborne. Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK government between 2010 and 2016, Osborne was chair of the Cabinet Committee that co-ordinated the UK government’s referendum strategy, much of the analysis for which was undertaken by the Treasury. During the campaign, he insisted that the UK would not allow an independent Scotland to share the pound as part of a monetary union. Osborne also became the principal protagonist in government for greater devolution within England, promoting the idea as the creation of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

Willie Rennie. A Liberal Democrat MP from 2006 to 2010, Rennie became leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats on first being elected an MSP in 2011. His party is in favour of Scotland remaining part of the UK, but has also long advocated ‘Home Rule’ for Scotland. Argued in the 2016 Scottish election that the Scottish Parliament’s new tax powers should be used to increase income tax by a penny in the pound.

Michael Russell. A former Chief Executive of the SNP, Russell was Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education from 2009 to 2014. Restored to office by Nicola Sturgeon in August 2016 as Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, with a remit to represent the Scottish Government in consultations between the UK government and the devolved administrations about the terms of UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Alex Salmond. Leader of the SNP from 1990 to 2000 and again from 2004 to 2014, he was Scotland’s First Minister between 2007 and 2014, resigning shortly after the referendum result was announced. One of the most charismatic politicians in the UK, he was the principal advocate for the Yes campaign. Now an MP, he is currently the party’s foreign affairs spokesperson in the House of Commons.

Anas Sarwar. Was Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party between 2011 and 2014 and was co-coordinator of its own separate pro-union referendum campaign, ‘United with Labour’. After losing his Westminster seat in 2015, secured election as a Labour MSP in 2016.

Lord (Robert) Smith. A successful businessman who first came to wider public notice as Chair of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games organising committee, Smith was appointed the politically neutral chair of the all-party Scottish Devolution Commission that was established immediately after the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. The Commission’s proposals formed the basis of the 2016 Scotland Act which, inter alia, extended the Scottish Parliament’s taxation powers and gave it some responsibilities for welfare.

Nicola Sturgeon. Deputy First Minister from 2007 to 2014 and First Minister since 2014. From Sept 2012 until the referendum she had responsibility for the Scottish Government’s preparations for independence. As First Minister she now has to decide whether to call a second independence referendum in the wake of the UK-wide vote to leave the European Union.

John Swinney. A MP from 1997 to 2001 and an MSP ever since 1999, Swinney had an unhappy period as SNP leader between 2000 and 2004, but has been a key member of the SNP government as its Finance Secretary between 2007 and 2016, Deputy First Minister since 2014 and now as Education Secretary.