London-born Alistair Darling, with a law degree from Aberdeen University, first became an MP with the Labour Party in 1987, winning a seat in Edinburgh.
Now aged 60, for the past two years he has led the ‘Better Together’ campaign to encourage Scots to remain in the United Kingdom.
He argued: “If we decide to leave there is no going back. This is no protest vote, this is not a vote like a by-election where your are kicking the government in the teeth. This is a decision that will affect not just our generation but generations to come.”
Long known in his party as ‘a safe pair of hands’, Darling was made Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) in 2007, after managing numerous other major portfolios.
He was handed finance by Gordon Brown, the new Prime Minister who had held it beforehand. Going into the 2008 global financial crisis, warned of terrible times, bluntly and openly. What with a run on British bank Northern Rock and the UK banking industry’s liquidity troubles, it was a difficult time for both the party and the economy. He and Brown later feuded bitterly over leadership.
Following the defeat of Labour in 2010, in an interview on euronews in 2012, just after launching the cross-party ‘Better Together’ campaign, Darling said:
“I think that the heart of the argument is that Scotland is better together with the rest of the UK just as the UK is better with Scotland. We are more than the sum of the parts – not just on an emotional level but critically on an economic level. We have an economic union, and at a time of deep uncertainty to head off to a very uncertain destination with so many unanswered questions seems to me to be a very foolish course of action to take.”
Darling kept an optimistic face on the ‘no’ campaign, notwithstanding criticism from some that he was at a disadvantage to ‘yes’ leader Alex Salmond, in terms of style.