I’m relishing being back in the fray, says Scottish secretary Carmichael

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has spoken of his “absolute delight” at being promoted to the coalition government’s cabinet.

He was this morning named as Secretary of State for Scotland, replacing Michael Moore in the  cabinet reshuffle.

The move represents a major promotion for Mr Carmichael, who had been the Liberal Democrats’ chief whip in Westminster and deputy chief whip for the coalition.Alistair  Carmichael

Speaking on Monday, Mr Carmichael said he was “absolutely delighted” to be given the job as Scottish secretary.

“It’s probably one of the key jobs in Scottish politics at the moment” he told The Shetland Times. “With the referendum coming up it takes on a completely different complexion. And after three and a half years almost in the whips’ office, doing a backroom job in many ways, I’m just relishing being back in the fray again.”

The role of chief whip for his party has not been an easy one. Convincing LibDem colleagues to vote for controversial reforms to welfare and the NHS, and for a rise in tuition fees, were serious challenges for Mr Carmichael. And the coming year in his new job is unlikely to be any easier.

“It is pretty obvious that Nick Clegg has decided that whoever else in life is going to get an easy ride, I’m not going to be one of them” he laughed. “But no, it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be easy because it matters. And frankly anybody who comes into politics for an easy time is going to be pretty soon disappointed.”

Many commentators have said that Mr Carmichael is considered a more formidable opponent for Alex Salmond in the run up to the referendum next September than his predecessor Michael Moore.

In his letter to Mr Moore on Monday, Nick Clegg wrote: “I believe we now need to draw on different experience in the final year running up to the referendum itself and I am keen that just as we have benefited from your formidable skills over the past three years that [sic] we take advantage of other experience within our ranks during this period”.

According to Mr Carmichael, the “outward-facing” part of his new job will be “engaging in the [referendum] debate, broadening it out, and then making it real, so that it stops being a debate that is somehow about abstract notions of nationhood, sovereignty and things like that, that don’t really mean an awful lot to people”. Instead, it should become “a debate about people’s livelihoods, about the strength of our economy, about the security of their jobs”.

He said it was both a “communications role” and a “campaign role”.

Mr Carmichael said: “We need to realise that if we are going to consolidate our position in this debate then there’s going to need to be a range of skills and approaches taken, and I would regard Alistair Darling from Labour, David Mundell from the Conservative party, colleagues in the Scottish parliament and colleagues in London as all being part of a team.

“In every job I have taken in politics I hope I’ve always been sensible enough to realise that one person is not going to achieve everything – that you can only achieve if you can build a team and make it work. And that’s what I’m going to be doing.”

In a statement released on Monday morning, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie said: “As we move to the next stage of the [referendum] campaign I am looking forward to working with Alistair Carmichael. His feisty style combined with his charm, wit and intelligence is just what we need for the last twelve months in our efforts to safeguard our partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom”.


Add Your Comment
  • Gordon Harmer

    • October 7th, 2013 19:36

    Congratulations Alistair Carmichael, What a positive move and a good one for Orkney and Shetland in our drive for greater autonomy.

    Alistair’s promotion is good for the independence debate as well, his no nonsense approach should be good to open up this debate.

    Maybe he can prise some answers from the GUESSNP, Guess Scotland and Guess Shetland brigade on a whole plethora of unanswered questions on independence.

  • Derick Tulloch

    • October 7th, 2013 22:13

    Getting rid of the Scotland Office is a ‘job waiting to be done’, says Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael’.

    “Mr Carmichael said that if his party got into power there would be no Scotland Office’
    Holyrood Magazine, 26 February 2010

    How’s that going then? I am sure the salary and associated pension will make up for the disappointment of not abolishing the post

  • Douglas Young

    • October 7th, 2013 22:28

    Congratulations to our Westminster MP Alistair Carmichael, his support for the bedroom tax, the no campaign, the war with Syria and privatisation of Royal Mail
    has paid off handsomely.
    It was Alistair who wanted the post of Scottish Secretary abolished in 2010 so an interesting debate with the First Minister to look forward to

  • Sandy McMillan

    • October 7th, 2013 23:55

    Gordon, no need for Alastair Carmichael to get it out of the SNP, the SNP know exactly what they are doing, the SNP has every thing in hand to see to the needs of Scotland and Shetlands requirements, To upgrade Alastair Carmichael is just another ploy to upset the SNP apple cart, Scotland and Shetland has it all,that Westminster wants to have and keep, Alastair Carmichael is no more than a troubleshooter for Westminster.

  • David Spence

    • October 8th, 2013 6:17

    As Willie Rennie says “safeguard our partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom” seems to say it all in terms of what relationship there will be with the rest of the United Kingdom……….business as usual no doubt……..no independence and still very much a United Kingdom, regrettably.

    I cannot really see much of a debate in regards to the Lib Dems having much say if their strings are controlled and pulled by the Tories, who are vehemently against any breakup of the United Kingdom. I suspect they will used every dirty trick in the book to undermine the SNP and to, lets say, bend the rules and use more assertive means (but we will not be told about) to try and persuade the scottish people they are better under ‘ English Rule ‘.

    As long as England and this vile Tory Party rules the roost, Scotland will never ever be free of their grasp and tyranny (loosely said in regards to Tory rule lol).

  • Brian Smith

    • October 8th, 2013 7:04

    ‘The new Scottish Secretary himself said: “I’m not going to take any nonsense from anybody, and I mean absolutely anybody. You can draw your own conclusions there.”‘ (Herald)

    Utterly empty rhetoric.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • October 8th, 2013 8:39

    David Spence’s last sentence is a perfect example of the bigoted ani English views held by a large percentage of separatists.

    Which proves independence is not about a better Scotland but about hate and racist dogma.

    Douglas, give us a link to prove Alistair supports a war in Syria, I know this is a wasted question but ever hopeful.

  • jeemie smith

    • October 8th, 2013 10:40

    Tink you, is dir ony chance o’ scaar o’ reasoned debate ower dis??
    Fae what I can see, hits just a continwal shargation on what da idder side is doin’ wrang.
    Da politeeshins at least sood be comin oot wi facts and figures, and no joost slangin aff da idder side.
    Meybe I’m hoopin for ower muckle.

    Jeemie Smith

  • william smith

    • October 8th, 2013 10:40

    will he pay Shetland there 40 million pounds they said they would pay we will see hahaha

  • Bill Adams

    • October 8th, 2013 12:24

    Shades of the American “good cop / bad cop” scenario.
    Mr Nice Guy Michael Moore booted out to be replaced by Mr Nasty in the shape of Alastair Carmichael the Con-Dem Coalition’s deputy Mr Whiplash at Westminster.
    If this political thug thinks he can bully Scottish voters the way he has been enforcing discipline on Tory & LibDem MP’s down at Westminster he has another think coming.
    Vote “Yes” in the Independence Referendum next year folks to ensure that Charmichael gets his just reward – his P45 in the privatised Post .

  • Meg Simpson

    • October 8th, 2013 13:41

    Mr Carmichael did indeed vote in favour of conflict in Syria as can be seen from this link –


    He also voted for the Welfare Reforms and the dreaded Bedroom Tax which is causing untold pain and suffering to the most vulnerable right here on our door step.

  • clive munro

    • October 8th, 2013 14:46

    Gordon, it’s a matter of record that Alistair Carmichael, in parliament, supported the government’s defeated motion calling for military action in Syria if U.N. weapons inspectors found conclusive evidence that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons. I typed in Alistair Carmichael/Syria and found that information within ten seconds. Also I have to say that your claim that bigoted anti-English views are held by “a large percentage of separatists” is, by your normally exacting standards, somewhat vague. Can’t you put a more precise figure on it? I personally know quite a lot of “separatists” and can say, in all sincerity, that none of them are remotely anti-English in the sense that you imply.

  • David Spence

    • October 8th, 2013 17:10

    I find it rather disturbingly hypocritical that certain countries in the west celebrated the breakup of what was the Soviet Union, and praised the freedom the new countries that were formally under soviet rule, and yet when it comes to Scotland wanting to become independent from the rule of England (lets face it, the only reason there is an United Kingdom is because of english oppression and dominance by force (military and political) over Scotland, Wales and Ireland) certain people (predominantly Tory supporters I suspect) are totally against one countries right, yes right, to self determination and have greater autonomy in its own affairs in all aspects.

    Why do certain people support the right of independence for other countries but deny it for Scotland, Wales and the unification of Ireland?
    Why should 1 Parliament rule over 4 countries………yes, I did say countries.

    Why should there be an United Kingdom in this day and age when certain people supporting an United Kingdom are the same people who supported the breakup of the Soviet Union and celebrated the independence of the new countries created thereafter?

    Why do those same people supporting an United Kingdom, but go to war because some ruler they supported in the past (Saddam Hussien – Kuwait) invaded another sovereign state, but they themselves illegally invaded 2 other countries and nothing is done about it (Iraq and Afghanistan)?

    Questions, Hypocrisy, Questions, Double-Standards, Questions, 1 rule for them another rule for us…………..and on it goes.

  • John Tulloch

    • October 8th, 2013 17:49


    Thank you for introducing us to the true history of why Scotland is part of the UK.

    I had always been under the impression that it came about because a line of Scottish monarchs inherited the English Crown and the last of their line, Queen Anne, presided over the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 which was agreed to by the Scottish Parliament, an alleged act condemned in the Burns poem oft-recited by SNP activists, “A Parcel of Roques in a Nation”.

    And that Scotland is ruled by England today in a similar way as the satellite nations of the Soviet Union were governed by the Russians. I hadn’t really picked up on that until you said it just now.

  • Douglas Young

    • October 8th, 2013 18:30

    Thank you Meg, I thought everyone knew what our politician voted for.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • October 8th, 2013 19:03

    Clive, Mr Carmichael supported military action in principal, he did not support outright war with Syria as Douglas wrongly claims. An agreement in principle is an agreement that makes the major terms clear, laying the groundwork for action to be taken. This type of agreement can be confusing because it may make it seem as though everything is agreed when this is not actually the case. Splitting hairs I know, but when someone makes an accusation against another they should get it right, especially when trying to score political points.

    Clive, you found what you found about Mr Carmichael by going onto the internet, if you do the same you will find hundreds of bigoted anti English views from separatists. In fact just go on Yes Scotland’s facebook page, and for that matter Better Together’s facebook page and you will find hundreds of them. There are hundreds of cyber Natz and YESNP Trolls who pollute independence blogs with their racist vitriol and bile, go seek and you will find. Oh and I said a large percentage of separatists, not all, there are many Nats who can debate this subject without stepping in the gutter.

  • Michael Inkster

    • October 8th, 2013 22:34

    Well done Mr Carmichael, M Inkster

  • John Jamieson

    • October 9th, 2013 8:22

    Has nobody noticed that the UK fishing minister Richard Benyon has been replaced by Cornish Tory MP George Eustice.
    In view of the significance of fishing to Shetland and Orkney the constituency is far more likely to be affected by the choice of fishing minister than Scottish Secretary, unless of course he manages to get the UK Government to pay off Shetland’s £40 million oil housing debt.

  • clive munro

    • October 9th, 2013 11:50

    Ian Bell has an excellent article on the subject of Mr. Carmichael’s promotion in today’s Glasgow Herald. I’ve no idea how to create a link to it but it’s in the Comment section and is called “Crass Sacking Betrays No Camp’s Lack Of Confidence”. Worth a read, in my opinion.

  • John Tulloch

    • October 9th, 2013 17:11


    When I heard about Alastair Carmichael’s promotion the first thing I thought was that it would send a shudder of trepidation through the nationalist cohorts of Holyrood.

    Bell clearly felt a shiver, too, however he skates around it with unnecessary sophistry trying desperately to find something positive to take from it – he concludes that Westminster is nervous and he could be right about that.

    The fact is, however, he’s too busy wishing David Cameron might be sucked into the debate to notice the growing elephant in the nationalists’ room, the island councils’ campaign for greater autonomy. Or perhaps he hopes it will disappear if he pinches himself hard enough before opening his eyes?

    Reality Check: The Westminster MP for Orkney and Shetland is now Scottish Secretary, a UK Cabinet minister.

    Westminster are simply placing their cannons in the best place to defend their oil fields and strategic maritime interests in the north of the UK. If and when the “YES” campaign look anywhere near winning the referendum the autonomy auction bidding will begin in earnest.

    The island councils’ can afford to set their sights higher than they have, hitherto.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • October 10th, 2013 6:18

    Here we have a positive appointment which has the potential to be great for Shetland and Shetlanders especially in our bid for greater autonomy.

    Look back over the above comments and see who are putting a dampener on this life changing opportunity, the negative Yes brigade with negative comments.

    Oh and Clive my above comment about agreement in principal is not as I said splitting hairs it is actually a strong statement that has stood up in court many times.

  • Johan Adamson

    • October 10th, 2013 9:03

    How could we see this as a positive appointment – someone who supports the war in Syria, takes a job he said should not exist and loves windmills?

  • clive munro

    • October 10th, 2013 9:16

    John and Gordon, I hope your faith in Mr. Carmichael proves well founded. As a lifelong resident I naturally welcome any development which genuinely improves the islands’prospects. Unfortunately I’m not entirely convinced that Mr. Carmichael, as a member of a political party whose attitude towards principles seems remarkably similar to the late,great Groucho Marx’s, will be as effective in promoting our interests as you both, understandably, hope.

  • John Tulloch

    • October 10th, 2013 11:10

    I don’t have faith in Alistair Carmichael or anyone else however I do have faith in political expediency and given that the Orkney and Shetland MP depends on islanders’ votes, Carmichael’s appointment is positive for the island Councils’ aspirations and simultaneously very negative for the “YES” campaign.

  • Ted Knight

    • October 10th, 2013 11:15


  • John Tulloch

    • October 10th, 2013 11:43


    Alastair Carmichael’s quixotic views on so-called “renewable energy” will make no difference unless the Scottish government can persuade the appeal judiciary to reinstate their “railroad-style” granting of planning permission.

    I wasn’t aware that Carmichael “supported the war in Syria”, I had thought he voted in favour of attacking Syrian government forces who had gassed thousands of people. In any case the outcome of the posturing is that Syria has surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons to the UN for destruction – was that a bad thing?

    This coalition government is likely to be Carmichael’s “five minutes of fame” and what better way to make the history books than to be the last Scottish Secretary who helped to bring about its end?

    I’m unsure, actually, in the absence of a “YES” vote why there shouldn’t always be a Scottish Office in the London government, albeit reduced in scale and power appropriately in response to further devolution of powers.

    One thing is certain, if the Scottish Office didn’t exist Salmond and the SNP would be crowing that its absence was evidence of neglect of Scottish concerns by London.

    As I said above, expediency rules.

  • David Spence

    • October 11th, 2013 13:51

    John T, correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the Scottish Office recently turn down the offer of providing financial help towards an Interconnector cable from north/west Scotland to the Hebrides because it was going to cost too much, around £760 million I believe?

    As well as this fact, the distance involve was about 1/3rd of the distance between Shetland and mainland Scotland. I cannot see how the Scottish Office is going to finance such a cable for the VEP, despite Mr Carmichael’s new appointment and Alex Salmond’s enthusiasm to use Scotland as a leading country in the new and alternative energy technologies, if such a high cost is involved in getting the VEP off the ground, if it ever does.


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