Senior Liberal Democrat John Farquhar Munro has backed Alex Salmond for another term as First Minister. The endorsement from such a respected figure is highly embarrassing for his party on the day they launch their manifesto and as polls show Lib Dem voters turning to the SNP.
Mr Farquhar Munro, who is not seeking re-election to Holyrood on May 5, sat in the Scottish Parliament since it opened in 1999 until last month and is regarded as “the father of the house”.
The veteran MSP, who represented Ross, Skye and Inverness West, said: “I am delighted to support Alex Salmond for a second term for First Minister of Scotland in the Scottish Parliament.
“I have known Alex Salmond for several years and have come to appreciate his political acumen, his debating skills and his devotion to Scotland.
“I consider Alex Salmond is the only one who can lead us through the next session of Parliament ensuring a more prosperous and sustainable future, and that is why I’m pleased to support him.”
The SNP released the statement after a day of campaigning in the Highlands, where the party hopes to make gains from the Lib Dems.
Mr Salmond said: “John Farquhar Munro is hugely respected and has an outstanding record as a selfless champion of his constituency, the needs of the Highlands and Scotland’s interests.
“I greatly value John’s opinion. This is a personal endorsement but he speaks for many across the Highlands of Scotland.”
Mr Farquhar Munro, who was previously a crofter, is regarded as a radical liberal in the Highland tradition. He is a passionate advocate of land reform and parity of esteem for the Gaelic language.
Born in Glen Shiel in 1934, he served as a local councillor for 33 years before going to Holyrood. He is understood to be deeply disappointed with the actions of the Liberal Democrats in coalition at Westminster. He also voted against the decision to share power with Labour at Holyrood from 1999 – 2007 and defied the party leadership by backing a referendum on independence.
He is a critic of the Crown Estate Commission’s control of seabed rental in Scotland. The Liberal Democrats have long opposed the Crown Estate in their Highland stronghold – but have dismayed communities with their failure to reform this now they are in government. The coalition in Westminster refuse to insert a simple amendment in the Scotland Bill which would end the commissioners’ stranglehold on seabed rental which goes straight to London. Land campaigners want local communities to benefit from leases to renewable energy developments, but the Scotland Office, run by Liberal Democrat Michael Moore MP, has done nothing to support this longstanding Scottish party policy.
The Liberal Democrats in Scotland have had a bad start to their election campaign. Last week one of their MSPs, Hugh O’Donnell, withdrew from the contest saying the leadership had betrayed voters by entering the coalition with the Tories in the UK.
An ICM poll of March 14-15 gave the first indication that former Lib Dem voters are breaking in favour of voting SNP. The SNP’s new breakdown of people who voted Lib Dem at last year’s General Election found only 25% sticking with them, while 40% were undecided.
Of those who had decided to vote for another party, 16% intend to back the SNP, 9% said they would back Labour, 2% will go to the Greens and 1% intend to vote Conservative.