This article is about the contemporary politician. For the president of the Court of Session see James Robertson, Baron Robertson
George Islay MacNeill Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, KT GCMG FRSA FRSE PC (born 12 April 1946, in Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Scotland) was the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, between October 1999 and early January 2004; he succeeded Javier Solana in that position.
He served as Defence Secretary for the United Kingdom from 1997 to 1999, before taking up his NATO position and becoming a life peer as Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, of Islay in Argyll and Bute.
The son of a policeman, he was educated at Dunoon Grammar School
and later the University of Dundee
, graduating in 1968 with a Master's degree
) in Economics
. When he was 15 years of age, he was involved with protests against US nuclear submarines docking in the UK. (*
) He married Sandra on 1 June 1970. They are the parents of three children: Malcolm, Martin and Rachael.
Robertson survived a serious crash in January 1977 of his car with a Navy Land Rover, which was carrying 100lb of gelignite and a box of detonators, and hit his car head-on in the Drumochter Pass, leaving him with two wrecked knees and a broken jaw. Robertson was wearing a seat belt at the time and attributes his survival to this factor.
He was six times elected to the United Kingdom House of Commons
, was Chairman of the Labour Party in Scotland
, and was appointed to the Privy Council
. After Labour won the 1997 General Election
, Robertson was appointed Secretary of State for Defence
, a position he held until he resigned from the Cabinet
in order to become Secretary General of NATO
Quote on devolution
Robertson said that "Devolution will kill Nationalism stone dead
" while he was Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
. This quote was designed to assuage fears that devolution would provide a greater platform for the SNP
. Robertson's quote has been frequently recalled, usually in a mocking fashion, after the SNP won the 2007 Scottish election
Dunblane libel action
Robertson's three children are former pupils of the school in Dunblane
where gunman Thomas Hamilton
went on the rampage in 1996, murdering 16 children and their teacher. After the massacre, Mr Robertson, a long-time resident of the town, acted as a spokesman for the victims' families. He was also a key figure in the subsequent campaign that led to the UK ban on handguns
In 2003, the Sunday Herald newspaper ran an article entitled "Should the Dunblane dossier be kept secret?", a reference to documents relating to the Cullen Inquiry into the massacre which are to remain classified for 100 years. In a discussion board on the newspaper's website, anonymous contributors claimed that Robertson had signed a recommendation for a gun licence for Thomas Hamilton in his capacity as Hamilton's MP. In fact, Robertson had never been the gunman's MP, and the claims were totally unfounded. Robertson successfully sued the newspaper. The case became an important test case as to whether publishers can be held responsible for comments posted on their websites.
He has received numerous honours (including a total of 11 Honorary doctorates from various universities). Currently he holds directorships of several notable companies, including the Weir group
and Cable and Wireless in his home country.
- 1968–1978, Official of the GMB Union for the Scottish whisky industry.
- 1978–1999, Member of the United Kingdom House of Commons, member for Hamilton or Hamilton South, elected six times.
- 1979, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Social Services.
- 1979–??, Opposition Spokesman on Scottish Affairs.
- 19??–82, Opposition Spokesman on Defence.
- 1982–93, Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs.
- 1983–93, Chief Opposition Spokesman on Europe.
- 1993–97, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.
- May 1997, Appointed to the Privy Council
- May 1997 – October 1999, Defence Secretary of the United Kingdom
- October 1999 – January 2004, 10th Secretary General of NATO and Chairman of the North Atlantic Council.
Other former or present posts
Honours and Awards