Alistair Carmichael

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The Right Honourable
Alistair Carmichael
Alistair Carmichael at Glasgow 2014.jpg
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson
Assumed office
29 July 2015
Leader Tim Farron
Preceded by Lynne Featherstone
Deputy Leader of Scottish Liberal Democrats
Assumed office
23 September 2012
Leader Willie Rennie
Preceded by Jo Swinson
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
7 October 2013 – 8 May 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Michael Moore
Succeeded by David Mundell
Government Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Comptroller of the Household
In office
11 May 2010 – 7 October 2013
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by John Spellar
Succeeded by Don Foster
Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland and Scotland Spokesman
In office
October 2008 – 11 May 2010
Leader Nick Clegg
Preceded by Michael Moore
Succeeded by Position abolished
In office
July 2007 – March 2008
Leader Menzies Campbell
Preceded by Lembit Öpik (Northern Ireland)
Jo Swinson (Scotland)
Succeeded by Michael Moore
Member of Parliament
for Orkney and Shetland
Assumed office
7 June 2001
Preceded by Jim Wallace
Majority 817 (3.6%)
Personal details
Born (1965-07-15) 15 July 1965 (age 51)
Islay, Scotland
Political party Liberal Democrats
Spouse(s) Kate Carmichael
Children 2 sons
Alma mater University of Aberdeen
Religion Presbyterianism
Website Official website

Alexander Morrison "Alistair" Carmichael PC [1] (born 15 July 1965) is a Liberal Democrat politician and the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Scottish seat of Orkney and Shetland since the 2001 general election. He is the only Scottish MP representing the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons.

He is the Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and, from 7 October 2013 to 8 May 2015, was the Secretary of State for Scotland in the UK coalition government.

Early life[edit]

He was born on Islay, and attended Port Ellen Primary School and Islay High School.[2] He worked between 1984–89 as a hotel manager, after 2 years of study at the University of Glasgow. There, he was a member of the Students' Representative Council[3] and President of the Liberal Club,[4] 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.[2] 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.[2]

Political career[edit]

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,[5] but resigned in March 2008 to vote in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.[6] 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.[7][8]

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.[9]

Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Secretary of State for Scotland[edit]

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.[10]

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.[11]

2015 General Election[edit]

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,[12] under the de facto leadership of Party President Sal Brinton.[13]

'Frenchgate' memo leak[edit]

On 4 April 2015, Alistair Carmichael was involved in what became known as 'Frenchgate':[14] 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.[16]

At the time of the leak Carmichael denied all knowledge of the leaking of the memo in a television interview with Channel 4 News.[17] 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".[19]

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.[20][21] On 2 June 2015, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner launched an investigation into his conduct, under sections 10, 14 and 16 of the Code of Conduct,[22] but this investigation was dropped because Carmichael became aware of the memo via the Scottish Office and not in his capacity as an MP.[23] 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"[24] and he was allowed to retain his seat.[25] In February 2016 his application for costs was rejected, leaving him £150,000 out of pocket.[26] Party leader Willie Rennie contributed £750 towards his costs.[27] Carmichael was awarded £50,000 towards the costs from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.[28]

Personal life[edit]

He married Kathryn Jane Eastham in 1987. They have two sons (born 1997 and 2001) 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.[29]


  1. ^ Full name is given as "CARMICHAEL, Alexander Morrison, commonly known as Alistair Carmichael" in the returning officer's 2010 general election declaration[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c "CARMICHAEL, Alexander Morrison, (Alistair)". Who's Who online edition. Oxford University Press. December 2008. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  3. ^ Alistair Carmichael (1 March 2008). "Speech to the Scottish Liberal Democrat spring conference in Aviemore". Scottish Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  4. ^ "Alistair Carmichael MP: I am excited and inspired by the idea of having Ming as our leader". 13 February 2006. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  5. ^ Summers, Deborah (3 July 2007). "Campbell reshuffles frontbench". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  6. ^ Lib Dem trio quit in referendum revolt – The Independent, 5 March 2006
  7. ^ "Orkney satire makes for pulp friction". Scotland on Sunday. 21 June 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2009. 
  8. ^ Green, Chris (22 June 2009). "Shelved, the book that outraged the Orkneys". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 24 June 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
  9. ^ "Alistair Carmichael". 
  10. ^ "BBC News – Alistair Carmichael new deputy leader of Scottish Lib Dems". 23 September 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Andrew Sparrow. "Government and Labour reshuffle: Politics live blog | Politics". Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "John Bercow to continue as Commons Speaker". BBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Buchanan, Rose Troup. "Every major British political party – except the Conservatives – currently led by a woman". Independent Group. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Mundell criticised for refusing to say what he knew of 'Frenchgate' memo, accessed 10 November 2015
  15. ^ John, Simon (3 April 2015). "Nicola Sturgeon secretly backs David Cameron". Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  16. ^ Settle, Michael. "Carmichael caught in his own tangled web of deceit". Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  17. ^ Video of Alistair Carmichael interview by Channel 4
  18. ^ "Carmichael faces ethics inquiry as demands grow for him to quit as MP", Herald Scotland, 24 May 2015
  19. ^ Tim Reid (22 May 2015). "Alistair Carmichael admits Nicola Sturgeon memo leak". BBC. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  20. ^ Carmichael facing legal challenge as campaigners raise £43,000 the Herald, 29 May 2015
  21. ^ "Alistair Carmichael legal campaign reaches £60,000 target". BBC News. 9 June 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  22. ^ Standards watchdog to investigate Carmichael memo leak BBC News 2 June 2015
  23. ^ "Carmichael probe dropped over Frenchgate remit issue". Scottish Legal News. Retrieved 15 August 2016. ]
  24. ^ "Alistair Carmichael case: Legal bid to oust Lib Dem MP fails". BBC News. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  25. ^ "Alistair Carmichael: election court throws out attempt to unseat MP". The Guardian. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  26. ^ "Alistair Carmichael faces £150,000 bill after attempt to oust him". The Guardian. 8 February 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  27. ^ "Willie Rennie: 'I gave money to Alistair Carmichael's legal fund'". Herald Scotland. 3 April 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2016. 
  28. ^ Russell, Greg (26 March 2016). "'They should donate money to the people of Orkney and Shetland - not a self-confessed liar'". The National. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  29. ^ "The Liberal Democrats – Official Website". Archived from the original on 20 February 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 

External links[edit]

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

Party political offices
Preceded by
Paul Burstow
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Don Foster
Political offices
Preceded by
John Spellar
Government Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Don Foster
Comptroller of the Household
Preceded by
Michael Moore
Secretary of State for Scotland
Succeeded by
David Mundell