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Wendy Alexander

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Wendy Alexander

Wendy Alexander
Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament
In office
14 September 2007 – 28 June 2008
Preceded by Jack McConnell
Succeeded by Iain Gray
Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning
In office
28 November 2001 – 3 May 2002
First Minister Jack McConnell
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Iain Gray
Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning
In office
1 November 2000 – 28 November 2001
First Minister Henry McLeish
Preceded by Iain Gray
Succeeded by Office Abolished
Minister for Communities
In office
19 May 1999 – 1 November 2000
First Minister Donald Dewar
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Office Abolished
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Paisley North
In office
6 May 1999 – 22 March 2011
Preceded by Constituency Created
Succeeded by Constituency Abolished
Majority 5,113 (22.0%)
Personal details
Born (1963-06-27) 27 June 1963
Glasgow, Scotland
Nationality British
Political party Scottish Labour Party
Spouse(s) Prof Brian Kemp Ashcroft
Relations Douglas Alexander (brother)
Children 2
Alma mater University of Glasgow
University of Warwick

Wendy Alexander (born 27 June 1963, Glasgow) is a retired Scottish politician and the former Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Paisley North. She held various Scottish Government cabinet posts and was the leader of the Labour Party group in the Scottish Parliament from 2007–2008. In 2010–2011 she convened the Scotland Bill Committee on financial powers of the Scottish Parliament. She has been appointed as Vice-Principal (International) from April 2015 by the University of Dundee.[1]


  • Education 1
  • Early career 2
    • Adviser to Donald Dewar 2.1
  • Member of Scottish Parliament 3
    • Ministerial career 3.1
  • Leader of Scottish Labour 4
    • Election 4.1
    • Calman Commission 4.2
    • Scottish independence referendum 4.3
  • Resignation over foreign donation 5
  • Parliamentary career 6
  • Personal life and family 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Alexander attended Park Mains High School in Erskine and won a scholarship to Lester B. Pearson College in British Columbia before studying at the University of Glasgow, where she graduated with a First Class MA (Hons) in Economic and Modern History. She later gained a postgraduate MA in Industrial Relations from the University of Warwick, and an MBA from INSEAD. She was awarded an honorary degree from Strathclyde University in 2007.

Early career

After her MBA Alexander worked for Booz & Co., an international management consultancy, undertaking assignments in Europe, Asia, North America and Australasia.

Adviser to Donald Dewar

Following Tony Blair's election in May 1997, she was appointed Special Adviser to Donald Dewar when he became Secretary of State for Scotland. She was deeply involved in the preparation of the White Paper on devolution, the Scotland Act 1998 and preparations for the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, all matters she had published on during the 1990s.

Member of Scottish Parliament

Wendy Alexander served as a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) since its creation in 1999 until 2011.

Ministerial career

From 1999 to 2002 Wendy Alexander was a Scottish Government minister, first serving as Minister for Communities, then as Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, and subsequently as Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning.

As Communities Minister she launched the free central heating installation programme for all pensioners without a system.[2] She oversaw the creation of the first social justice report, A Scotland where everyone matters – our vision for Social Justice, setting ambitious new targets for delivering social justice and defeating child poverty in Scotland, and an Annual Scottish Social Justice Report to measure progress towards those targets.[3][4]

She set up the Homelessness Task Force, which led to radical homelessness legislation[5][6] and she championed the community ownership of housing by tenants including the removal of £1.6bn of Glasgow debt.[7][8] The tenants subsequently voted in a referendum 2:1 in favour of transfer – the largest of its kind in the UK, involving 89,000 homes.

As Communities Minister, Alexander fought hard to bring about the repeal of Section 2A (the Scottish equivalent of Section 28) to contribute to social acceptance and greater equality for the LGBT community by removing a ban on the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.[9] in the face of a sustained campaign by Stagecoach millionaire and later SNP donor Brian Souter to keep the legislation. In the end the repeal, contained in the Ethical Standards in Public Life (Scotland) Bill was passed by 99 votes to 17[10] During the final debate, Alexander said, "Repeal is not, and never has been, about the promotion of homosexuality in our schools. It is not about political correctness or, even less, about marriage. It is about building a tolerant Scotland. We know that teachers are confused about the meaning of section 2A, we know that bullying exists in our schools and elsewhere, and we know that children's organisations overwhelmingly back repeal."[11]

Alexander oversaw the Scottish Executive's response to the recommendations of the McIntosh Commission into the future of local government in Scotland,[12] introducing a package of measures for local government[13][14] including giving local authorities the lead role in developing Community Planning, creating a formal Power of Community Initiative (later known as a power of well being) and establishing the Renewing Local Democracy (Kerley) Working Party on electoral systems. Building on the work of the Best Value Taskforce, she also announced plans for a statutory duty to secure Best Value in local government services.[15]

She also published the first Equality Statement to Parliament, established the Executive's Equalities Unit,[16][17] announced the first Scottish-wide fund to tackle violence against women – the Domestic Abuse Service Development Fund[18] – and the first national loan fund,[19] administered by a new organisation – Social Investment Scotland – to invest in emerging social enterprises and "make it easier for the voluntary sector to emerge as an effective third force, alongside the traditional public and private sectors".[20][21]

As Enterprise Minister Alexander launched Smart, Successful Scotland, a widely-welcomed new economic strategy for Scotland[22] supporting high-skill, high-value investment such as that by Rolls-Royce.[23] She launched Scotland's first ever Science strategy[24] and developed a better pipeline to get ideas out of labs and into businesses, including the Proof of Concept Fund[25] and the Scottish Co-Investment Fund to stimulate private venture capital investment in emerging businesses.[26] She also championed the first broadband strategy for Scotland and took action to tackle the 'digital divide'.[27][28][29]

Alexander promoted a "learning, earning" nation including the doubling of the number of Modern Apprenticeships,[30] jointly leading the Clyde Shipyards Taskforce to help modernise shipbuilding on the Clyde through investment in skills,[31] and in the face of the global downturn in electronics hitting companies such as Motorola launched what became the PACE (Partnership for Continuing Employment) initiative to help those made redundant find work quickly. As Minister with responsibility for skills and lifelong learning she promoted higher education enterprise links and championed research, modernising management[32] and widening access to universities by those previously excluded.[33] She also extended Educational Maintenance Allowances to support pupils from low income families to complete their schooling.[34]

Alexander launched a new international economic strategy for Scotland called Global Connections realigning Scotland's international economic effort with the Smart Successful Scotland strategy,[35] bringing together Scotland's previously separate inward investment and export agencies into one organisation, Scotland Development International[36] and created the Globalscot network to develop and expand Scotland's standing in the global business community.

Alexander resigned from ministerial office on 4 May 2002. After her resignation from Jack McConnell's Cabinet she became a visiting professor at the Strathclyde Business School and became a member, and subsequently Chair of the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee. She inspired and led the Allander Series of seminars which had the aim of encouraging fresh thinking on Scotland's economic future.[37][38] The seminars brought William Baumol, Ed Glaeser and Nobel laureates James Heckman and Paul Krugman from across the spectrum of political economy to Scotland to reflect on issues such as the returns to early intervention, supporting innovation and cities as future growth engines.[39][40]

She also authored (2003)Chasing the Tartan Tiger: Lessons from a Celtic Cousin?, co-edited (with Diane Coyle and Brian Ashcroft) (2005)New Wealth for Old Nations: Scotland’s Economic Prospects,[41] edited an anthology of essays on the life of the late First Minister, Donald Dewar: (2005)Scotland’s first First Minister and wrote a non-political column for young mums in The Daily Record.

Leader of Scottish Labour


Following the [42] Other contenders ruled themselves out and she was elected unopposed by Labour MSPs on 14 September 2007.[43]

As Scottish Labour leader Alexander believed that "the people of Scotland told us loud and clear they wanted change. They didn't whisper – they shouted it. So change we must!"[44] She argued that Labour must offer radical change to regain the trust of voters, a vision spelt out in Scottish Labour New Directions: Change is what we do,[45] a publication outlining her views on the future policy direction for Scottish Labour.[46] Addressing Labour's Scottish Conference as Leader she spoke of the need for Labour to be the progressive party of Scotland. Alexander argued: "'Scotland' is not a political philosophy. 'Scotland' can just as easily be Adam Smith as it can be John Smith. The world over, politics comes down to a choice: right versus left, conservatives versus progressives, nationalists versus internationalists".[47][48]

Organisationally, she called for a new approach to candidate selection, including primary systems to give all Labour supporters a chance to be involved in choosing their local member. Policy initiatives included establishing a Literacy Commission with Rhona Brankin to investigate child literacy standards in Scottish schools[49] (subsequently embraced by all parties in the Parliament),[50] supporting investment in the early years, including nursery places for all vulnerable 2-year-olds, more one-on-one tuition in schools, personalised care plans for those with chronic conditions and legislation providing for a modern apprenticeship for every qualified school leaver who sought one.

Calman Commission

Alexander made a speech at the University of Edinburgh on St Andrew's Day 2007 in which she set out the case for a wide-ranging review of the devolution settlement, with a view to identifying possible areas for reform.[51] The speech laid out her proposals for "a more balanced home rule package" including greater financial accountability and new tax powers for the Scottish Parliament (a cause that she had first championed when she led the Allander Series) in order that the "Union become a more comfortable home for all its members".[52] She said "Scotland wants to see a future that allows her to walk taller within the UK without walking out" and called for a new "expert-led and independent" Scottish constitutional commission.

As Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament, she set this in motion by working with the Conservative and LibDem leaders to set up the Commission on Scottish Devolution (aka the Calman Commission) in a "bold cross-party, cross-border initiative".[53][54][55] The review was established by a vote of the Scottish Parliament.[56] The Calman Commission became a unique Scottish Parliament-UK Government joint venture which reported back to the Parliament in June 2009 proposing wide ranging changes in the financing of the Scottish Parliament.[57][58][59] Alexander wrote then "history teaches that constitutional reform has never been gifted to Scotland. It has to be fought and argued for... Calman will shape the next phase of Scotland's journey…[with] a range of common sense measures to improve relationships".[60]

On St. Andrew's Day 2010, three years to the day after Alexander's call for a Commission, the UK Government introduced a new Scotland Bill. The proposals in the bill closely followed the Commission's recommendations and proposed major new financial powers worth £12 billion,giving Holyrood control of a third of its budget. Under the legislation, Holyrood will set a Scottish income tax rate each year from 2015, applying equally to the basic, high and additional rates. The UK Government called it the "biggest transfer of fiscal powers to Scotland since the creation of the Union."[61] In December 2010 Alexander was appointed convener of the Scottish Parliament's Committee to report on the bill.

Scottish independence referendum

During a TV interview on 4 May 2008, Wendy Alexander suggested that she would be willing to support a referendum on Scottish Independence saying "Bring It On!". It was a bold move, but led to suggestions of a rift between her and the prime minister, who did not overtly back her.[62] On 7 May, at Prime Minister's Questions, Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated that she was not, in fact, offering Labour's support for an immediate referendum.[63]

During First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament, on 8 May, Alexander asked Alex Salmond to bring forward a referendum bill at the first opportunity. Alex Salmond declined the offer of Labour support for a referendum, preferring to delay by at least a further year, saying "We will stick to what was laid out in pages 8 and 15 of the SNP manifesto".[64]

Resignation over foreign donation

In 2007, a controversy developed after it emerged that Alexander's campaign team had accepted a £950 impermissible donation from Paul Green, a property magnate,[65] a matter that was investigated by the Electoral Commission and Strathclyde Police.[66] When it emerged that the donation of £950 had come from a personal account, and not a business account, the money was immediately forfeited. Further newspaper reports on 30 November indicated Alexander was aware of the identity of the donor, after having sent a personal letter of gratitude to Mr Green (at his home in Jersey) concerning the donation.[67] As Mr Green was not registered as an elector in the United Kingdom this barred him from donating to a UK-based party. However, the Electoral Commission concluded in February 2008 that Alexander had taken 'significant steps' to comply with funding regulations and decided there was no basis for further action.[68] As part of the Electoral Commission ruling, they also stated that Alexander "did not take all reasonable steps" and that "there is not sufficient evidence to establish that an offence has been committed".[69] These mixed messages have resulted in a number of people questioning the decision, including Alex Salmond the head of the Scottish Government who likened the result to a not proven verdict.[70]

In a separate development, a few days earlier in February 2008, the Scottish Parliament standards watchdog reported Alexander to the procurator fiscal for failing to declare as gifts the donations that were made to the fund for her campaign for the Scottish Labour Party leadership.[71] Alexander had been told by the parliamentary authorities that there was no need to declare these donations as gifts. In previous leadership campaigns, campaign donations were not treated as gifts. Again the subsequent investigation led to a decision by the Crown Office to take no further action.[72]

Despite this ruling, on 26 June 2008, on the eve of the Parliamentary summer recess, the SNP-led Standards Committee of the Parliament voted 4 to 3 to propose a one-day ban from the Scottish Parliament[73] as a sanction for not declaring leadership campaign donations as gifts on the Parliament's register of interests. Alexander had followed the advice of parliamentary authorities which stated that there was no need to declare the donations as gifts,[73] The proposed ban was overwhelmingly rejected by the Parliament in a subsequent vote in September 2008.[74][75] However, with Holyrood going into summer recess at the time, Ms Alexander would have had to wait until September for all MSPs to vote on the recommendation. So, rather than having the issue hanging over her – and her party – Ms Alexander announced her resignation as leader on 28 June 2008.[76] She subsequently stated it had been a mistake for her to take on the leadership of Scottish Labour while her children were so young.[77]

Parliamentary career

From 2008–2011 Alexander served as a member of the Scottish Parliament's Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee. She was also convenor of the Scotland Bill Committee, which produced the report for the Scottish Parliament and UK Government in March 2011 proposing new powers for the Scottish Parliament.[78] Many of these proposals recommend greater fiscal autonomy for Scotland,[79] including improved borrowing powers, the ability to issue bonds and further tax devolution.[80] Despite the Scottish Government's initial opposition to the bill they supported the Scotland Bill Committee's recommendations, with parliament voting 121:3 in favour. In her valedictory speech on the Scotland Bill, Alexander said: "This initiative has from beginning to end been cross-party, consensual and co-operative among the participating parties. [...] The bill will deliver the most far-reaching transfer of financial powers from London since the creation of the union. [...] In the future, all Scottish political parties will have to make decisions about raising money as well as about spending it. [...] The bill serves Scotland better [...] It is, quite simply, in the national interest."[81]

She stood down from Parliament in May 2011 to seek a new life outside active politics.[77][82]

Alexander also serves as a member of the Social Market Foundation's Advisory Board and Reform Scotland's Political Advisory Board.

Personal life and family

Wendy Alexander is married to Professor Brian Ashcroft and has two twin children.

Alexander's brother Douglas, was the Labour Member of Parliament for Paisley and Renfrewshire South and was previously Secretary of State for International Development and Secretary of State for Scotland. He served as Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband.

See also


  1. ^ Dundee appoints Vice-Principal to head global drive, University of Dundee 24 February 2015
  2. ^ Fuel poverty pledge to elderly BBC, 18 September 2000
  3. ^ Executive poverty pledges BBC, 22 November 1999
  4. ^ A Scotland where everyone matters – our vision for social justice Scottish Executive, 22 November 1999
  5. ^ Homeless review launched BBC, 17 June 1999
  6. ^ Task force homes in on homelessness BBC, 25 August 1999
  7. ^ Minister wants tenants in charge BBC, 16 September 2000
  8. ^ Housing transfer moves forward BBC 10 April 2000
  9. ^ Scottish Parliament repeals Section 28Independent 22 June 2000
  10. ^ Official Report, 21 June 2000 Scottish Parliament
  11. ^ Official Report, 21 June 2000 Scottish Parliament
  12. ^ PR for Scottish council electionsBBC, 22 June 1999
  13. ^ Report of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament-The Scottish Executive's Response Scottish Executive
  14. ^ Official Report, 2 July 1999 Scottish Parliament
  15. ^ Helping councils lead their communities Scottish Executive, 8 June 2000
  16. ^ Equality Strategy: Working together for Equality Scottish Executive
  17. ^ Pledge to put equality of opportunity at heart of policy makingScottish Executive, 28 September 1999
  18. ^ Official Report, 27 October 1999Scottish Parliament
  19. ^ £10 million fund to boost community projects Scottish Executive, 3 November 1999
  20. ^ £13 million to help communities help themselves Scottish Executive, 13 March 2000
  21. ^ Wendy Alexander Announces Extra £1.2 Million For Voluntary Network Across Scotland Scottish Executive, 4 October 2000
  22. ^ Firms told to go upmarket BBC, 24 February 2002
  23. ^ Rolls-Royce plans £85m factory BBC, 22 April 2002
  24. ^ Executive makes science centre-stage BBC, 27 August 2001
  25. ^ More cash for innovators BBC, 10 September 2001
  26. ^ Scottish Co-investment FundScottish Executive, 30 March 2003
  27. ^ Minister's net push help plea BBC, 7 February 2001
  28. ^ Poor lag behind IT revolution BBC, 4 February 2000
  29. ^ Libraries book a place on the internet BBC, 7 February 2001
  30. ^ Wendy Alexander announces action plan to get every Scot job ready Scottish Executive, 30 November 2000
  31. ^ Tide turning for Clyde shipbuilding BBC, 4 February 2002
  32. ^ Polishing the Scottish jewel Times Higher Education, 19 October 2001
  33. ^ Minister targets university elitism BBC, 19 November 2000
  34. ^ Cash for learning scheme widened BBC, 26 March 2001
  35. ^ Plan to 'globalise' Scotland's economyBBC, 4 October 2001
  36. ^ Wendy Alexander: Putting the enterprise into higher education Scotsman, 15 February 2002
  37. ^ Overseas threat to economy BBC 2 October 2003
  38. ^ Single city call for central belt BBC 10 February 2004
  39. ^ Seeds of Allander have fallen on fertile ground Herald, 29 June 2004
  40. ^ Positive ideas for Scotland Scotsman, 29 June 2004
  41. ^ Strength in numbers Scotland on Sunday, 22 May 2005
  42. ^ Candidate Launch Speech
  43. ^ Alexander leads Scottish labour, BBC News Online, 14 September 2007
  44. ^ A look at former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander
  45. ^
  46. ^ Labour must show radical change BBC, 23 March 2008
  47. ^ Alexander says fightback begins BBC, 29 March 2008
  48. ^ Speech to Scottish Conference by Wendy Alexander BBC, 29 March 2008
  49. ^ Rebus creator turns government inspector Guardian, 24 June 2008
  50. ^ Fifth of Scots have poor literacy BBC, 4 December 2009
  51. ^ Wendy Alexander presents A New Agenda for ScotlandInstitute of Governance
  52. ^ Alexander calls for tax powers to replace the Barnett formula Herald, 1 December 2007
  53. ^ Parties join forces to bulldoze SNP Scotsman, 7 December 2007
  54. ^ Its all part of the process Herald, 7 December 2007
  55. ^ Devolution body to take evidence BBC
  56. ^ MSPs back devolution review body
  57. ^ Serving Scotland BetterCommission on Scottish Devolution, June 2009
  58. ^ Serving Scotland Better Executive SummaryCommission on Scottish Devolution, June 2009
  59. ^ Digesting the Calman report calls BBC
  60. ^ Wendy Alexander: Blueprint for the future of Scotland Scotland on Sunday, 14 June 2009
  61. ^ Holyrood to get new budget powers under Scotland Bill
  62. ^ A look a former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander
  63. ^ Labour implodes over independence voteThe Scotsman, 8 May 2008
  64. ^ Official Report, 8 May 2008Scottish Parliament
  65. ^ Q&A: Wendy Alexander donations row , BBC, 1 December 2007
  66. ^ Alexander wrote to illegal donor, BBC News Online, 30 November 2007
  67. ^ Bombshell for Labour on illegal donations, The Scotsman, 1 December 2007
  68. ^ Alexander in clear over donations, BBC News Online, 7 February 2008
  69. ^ Statement by the Electoral Commission, Electoral Commission, 7 February 2008
  70. ^ Alexander in clear over donation, BBC News Online, 7 February 2008
  71. ^ Alexander reported over donations, BBC News Online, 3 February 2008
  72. ^ Alexander will not be prosecuted
  73. ^ a b Labour leader faces one-day ban
  74. ^ Official Report, Decision Time, 4 September 2008 Scottish Parliament
  75. ^ MSPs vote against Alexander ban
  76. ^ A look at former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander
  77. ^ a b Wendy Alexander to quit Scots parliament at election
  78. ^ MSPs call for more Holyrood power under Scotland Bill
  79. ^ The Wendy Alexander plan aims to bridge gap in nation's finances
  80. ^ Q&A: Scotland Bill
  81. ^ Official Report – Meeting of the Parliament 10 March 2011
  82. ^ A Look at former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander

External links

  • Scottish Parliament biography
  • Wendy Alexander MSP
Scottish Parliament
Constituency created Member of the Scottish Parliament for Paisley North
Constituency abolished
Political offices
Office created Minister for Communities
Office abolished
Preceded by
Henry McLeish
Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning
Office abolished
Office created Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning
Succeeded by
Iain Gray
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jack McConnell
Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament
Succeeded by
Iain Gray
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