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Outgoing leader re-energised politics

By Katrine Bussey

Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond is perhaps the man who has done most for the cause of Scottish independence.

It was the outgoing SNP leader who secured an historic vote on the issue, in which support for the cause reached 45% – higher than it was in many opinion polls just a few weeks ago

On the independence cause, he said: "Let's talk about getting up the mountain. I think the base camp is not far off the summit now. It might be that those who make the last move to the summit are not those who brought it to the current encampment."

He has also led his party through the most extraordinary period in Scottish politics for generations. The referendum debate has re-energised politics north of the border, prompting a resurgence of traditional town hall meetings, as well as sparking debate across social media. The 85% turnout in the ballot is a record high for any vote for the UK.

Astonishingly perhaps, Mr Salmond has been leader of the SNP for a quarter of its 80-year history, with two 10-year long spells in the job.

He was leader between 1990 and 2000, standing down then and returning as leader just four years after with Nicola Sturgeon – the overwhelming favourite to succeed him – in 2004.

In 2007 he led the SNP to victory at Holyrood, and held together a minority administration for the next four years.

Then, in 2011, a landslide victory for his party saw him win an unprecedented majority at the Scottish Parliament.

In that time his SNP administration has pursued a raft of popular polices, introducing free prescriptions for all and the restoration of free higher education for Scottish students.

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