Alex Salmond personally pressured the University over comments on independence


First Minister Alex Salmond attempted to force Professor Louise Richardson, principal of the University, into retracting comments made about the adverse effects of independence, according to investigations by The Telegraph.

He also urged her to be critical of Westminster over higher education policy.

Mr Salmond personally telephoned the principal to persuade her to tone down or retract comments made in an interview with The Times in March.

During this interview Professor Richardson said: “If we were cut off from national research councils it would be catastrophic for this institution … We would lose our top academics, we would fail to attract serious academics [from other countries].”

A Freedom of Information request submitted by The Telegraph revealed communications between Geoff Aberdein, Mr Salmond’s Chief of Staff, and the University’s press office and Principal’s Office.

It was revealed that Mr Aberdein had sent an email to the Univeristy’s press office, suggesting a comment he wished to be issued under Professor Richardon’s name.

A draft comment was proposed to Professor Richardson by the press office. This comment praised the Scottish government’s policy on tuition fees and spoke of confidence in their ability to also provide research funding in the event of independence.

Professor Richardson, however, refused to accept this comment.

Even after this refusal, Mr Aberdein continued to email the University’s director of communications, Niall Scott, pushing for a clarification.

Eventually a one line statement was issued, expressing the principal’s acknowledgement that the Scottish Government “is working hard to resolve this issue” of research funding.

Mr Salmond is an alumnus of the University, where he gained a degree in economics and medieval history.


  1. Interesting, but Mr. Salmond has every right to attempt to discuss the issue, privately, with whomever he wishes. Given the personal connection to the University, it is surprising he sought an endorsement. Discussions around the referendum are often heated, so who cares? I am not saying there is no story here, but given the Telegraph’s bias (a recent editorial even compared Salmond to Mugabe), this is likely just a ramped up smear campaign. Does the Saint not have better things to report?

  2. It is well known within the University that the Principal is a passionate NO supporter, as much as she puts up a veneer of neutrality – so everything she says has to be considered in that light. That is her entitlement; we all have our own views after all.

    Much ado about nothing here, and compared to some of the behind the scenes antics from the UK government, most of which will not come out fully into the open until after the referendum, this was pretty tame. He asked, she said no, all fine. Anyway, this was in March, why are you dragging this up now?

    Does someone have an agenda?

  3. Geoff Aberdein, Salmond’s Chief of Staff, had the nerve to “suggest” a comment the Dear Leader wished to be issued under the Principal’s name. What does he think she is – a child being coached to write a letter to Great Aunt Jemima thanking her a for a Christmas present? Either he is the stupidest man alive or giving us a a foretaste of the “democracy” we may expect under Linlithgow’s version of Benzini Gasolini


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