The quietly influential wife behind the former First Minister of Scotland

Moira Salmond has shunned the limelight her husband so eagerly courted, but her influence over the one-time SNP leader has been considerable

Premium
Moira Salmond arrives at court with her husband, Alex
Moira Salmond arrives at court with her husband, Alex Credit: Euan Cherry 

Alex Salmond once confided to a colleague while the most powerful man in Scotland how his wife was one of two women of whom he was truly “scared”. The other, he let slip, was Nicola Sturgeon.

Moira Salmond has been notable by her absence throughout most of her husband’s high profile career. She has only ever given one interview - and that was three decades ago. 

So her appearance at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday triggered a flurry of excitement that the 82-year-old would take the witness stand and the public would at last hear from her.

That, thought, did not transpire. We may never know how she has come to terms with her husband being charged with sexual offences or his admission in court that he had a consensual sexual encounter with one woman (“a bit of how’s your father” as his advocate put it in court).

What is clear is that Mr Salmond’s wife, 17 years his senior, has exerted considerable sway over him. In turn, he has always been fiercely protective of the woman he married 39 years ago.

The couple began dating in the 1970’s after they met while Salmond worked as an assistant economist in the Scottish Office and she, then Moira French McGlashan, was his boss. 

Many believe his youthful far-Left political outlook was tempered by his more mature wife - she was past 40 when they met and was said to be more Conservative in her views.  In the Summer of 1981, they were married (she was 43, he was 26 and had only just moved out of his parents’ home). Despite the age difference, friends insisted they were a “perfect fit”.

As he rose through the ranks of the Scottish National Party, it became clear that she shunned the limelight her husband courted so eagerly.

In the only interview she gave, she stated: “I married Alex, not politics. That’s his life and I’m happy to be in the background. I share his convictions, but one politician in the family is quite enough.” 

Mrs Salmond, the daughter of a car mechanic from Peebles, rarely appeared at public events and in turn her husband never talked about their marriage.

As well as teaching him how to drive, she also refined his image, helping to make him, and in turn the SNP, more electable. 

In that one-off interview, she said: “He hasn’t a clue about the colours of ties, shirts or socks. He just put the nearest thing to hand on. Sometimes I switch on the six o’clock news and I’m horrified by what he’s wearing.”

When he became First Minister, she did not move into Bute House, a decision she may now regret.

Instead, she stayed at the converted mill they bought in Strichen, Aberdeenshire, in 2007 that nestles on the banks of the river Ugie. She kept Muscovy ducks there and enjoyed baking her husband’s beloved oat cakes.

He has said he finds it “refreshing to come home” to her there “and let off steam to someone who isn’t in the [political] thick of it.” 

The couple never had children. In a BBC radio interview three years ago, he said he believed he would have made a good father, adding “some things are meant to be and some things aren’t meant to be.”

To understand how much of a rock she has been for him, you need only consider how when he emerged from Edinburgh Sheriff Court after the full sordid details of the sexual allegations against him came to light for the first time, he promptly took his mobile phone from his jacket pocket to telephone his wife.

In that conversation, she pledged her undying support for the man she married nearly 40 years ago.

That weekend he returned to their home in Strichen where he no doubt repeated what he had told the media: he was “innocent of any crime” and “vowed to defend” himself.

With his name now cleared, he will no doubt return to the home he shares with Moira. It is possible he will be a little scared of her as he explains that even his lawyers conceded to the jury he could have been a “better man”, despite not being guilty of sexual offences.