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SNP hands Salmond foreign brief

Former Scotland first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond will be his party's voice on one of the "dominating issues in parliament" after being appointed foreign affairs spokesman on his return to Westminster.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson confirmed Mr Salmond's appointment alongside other key figures on the party's frontbench today.

New Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry has been named justice and home affairs spokeswoman, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford is work and pensions spokeswoman and SNP deputy leader and Dundee MP Stewart Hosie is reappointed as economy spokesman.

Mr Salmond, who has returned to Westminster following his election as MP for Gordon, is likely to play a prominent role in opposing the Conservatives' proposed in/out referendum on the European Union.

Writing on Twitter, he said: "Delighted to accept the appointment from Angus Robertson as the SNP's foreign affairs spokesperson at Westminster.

"Foreign affairs, especially Europe, will be among the dominating issues in this parliament.

"Promoting Scotland's cause in the international arena is a key priority for the SNP.

"We'll provide a strong, consistent SNP voice which is pro-Europe, pro-developing world, against military adventurism."

His successor as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said a vote to take the UK out of the EU against Scotland's will could be the catalyst for another Scottish independence referendum.

Such a vote would be a "material change of circumstances" after the No vote in September last year, she said.

Mr Salmond rose to international prominence as the leader of the Scottish independence campaign which caught the attention of world leaders.

In his previous stint at Westminster, as MP for Banff & Buchan from 1987 to 2010, he described Nato's intervention in Kosovo in 1999 as "unpardonable folly" and was a fierce critic of the war in Iraq.

More recently, he expressed admiration for "certain aspects" of Russian President Vladimir Putin's leadership, notably his restoration of "Russian pride".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the appointment of Mr Salmond "is the equivalent of putting Mr Bean in charge of the World Bank".

Mr Rennie added: "Alex Salmond's blundering and bullish approach to many international matters warrants serious reflection from the new SNP Members of Parliament.

"Time and again Alex Salmond has proven himself on the wrong side of human rights groups and civil society.

"He did not speak for all of Scotland when he refused to meet with the Dalai Lama or expressed admiration for President Putin.

"He should be under no impression that he now speaks for all Scotland as a pseudo foreign secretary."

Ms Cherry, who took the Edinburgh seat recently vacated by former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, has been an advocate for about 20 years.

She has been standing junior counsel to the Scottish Government and advocate depute, and she was one of the first specialist sex crimes prosecutors in the Crown Office's national sex crimes unit.

She has been an SNP member since 2008 and is a long-term supporter of independence and home rule, co-founding and leading the Lawyers For Yes group during the referendum.

Ms Whiteford had big shoes to fill when Mr Salmond stepped down from Banff & Buchan in 2010 to focus on Holyrood and she was re-elected to the seat last week.

She caused controversy when she withdrew from the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, alleging that the convener, Labour's Ian Davidson, had threatened to give her ''a doing'' if she leaked private discussions to the press.

Mr Hosie was elected deputy leader in the wake of Ms Sturgeon's appointment as leader, fighting off a challenge from MSPs Angela Constance and Keith Brown.

The veteran SNP MP was the party's first youth convener and spent four years as national secretary before being elected as the organisation convener in 2003. He is married to Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison.

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: "In Scotland, taxpayers are used to picking up the tab for Alex Salmond's extravagant trips across the globe.

"Those across the rest of the UK may be a bit more puzzled by his penchant for Ryder Cups, tartan trews and film premieres."

Commenting on his own appointment, Mr Hosie said: "The election of 56 SNP MPs to Westminster provides a huge opportunity to stand up for Scotland.

"As well as oppose the Tory austerity agenda, we will press for the delivery of more powers for Scotland."

Ms Whiteford MP said: "With further Tory cuts looming, it is perhaps more important than ever before that SNP MPs stand up for the most vulnerable and provide an anti-austerity voice in Westminster."

Ms Cherry said: "Now more than ever it is imperative that Scotland's voice is heard in Westminster. This includes robustly opposing any attempt by the UK Government to repeal the Human Rights Act or to withdraw from the ECHR."


From Belfast Telegraph