George Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen

George Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen

"This article is about the contemporary politician. For the president of the Court of Session see James Robertson, Baron Robertson"

Infobox Politician
honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable
name = The Lord Robertson of Port Ellen

|George Robertson pictured at The Pentagon in June 2001]
imagesize = 149px
office = 10th Secretary General of NATO
term_start = 11 October 1999
term_end = 5 January 2004
predecessor = Javier Solana
successor = Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
office2 = Secretary of State for Defence
term_start2 = 3 May 1997
term_end2 = 11 October 1999
leader2 = Tony Blair
predecessor2 = Michael Portillo
successor2 = Geoff Hoon
party = Labour

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.

Early life

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 (M.A.) 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.

Political career

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. [cite web | url = | title = NATO Secretary General (1999–2003) The Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen | accessdate = 2007-02-22 | author = NATO | date = 6 January 2004 | work = Who is who at NATO? | publisher = NATO] 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 in 1999.

Quote on devolution

Robertson said that "Devolution will kill Nationalism stone dead" while he was Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.cite web | url = | title = How Bulldog Brown could call Braveheart Salmond's bluff | accessdate = 2007-05-06 | author = Warner, Gerald | date = 6 May 2007 | publisher = "Scotland on Sunday"] 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. [cite web | url = | title = Old Scotland took the high road. New Scotland is upwardly mobile | accessdate = 2008-09-17 | author = Devine, Tom | date = 11 May 2008 | publisher = "The Independent"]

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. [ [ BBC profile, 1999] ]

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. [cite web | url = | title = Robertson sues over Dunblane killer allegations | accessdate = 2007-02-22 | last = McDougall | first = Dan | year = 2005 | month = October | work = The Dunbane Shootings and Gun Law | publisher = Martin Frost ] [cite web
url = | title = Be careful what you say on the net | accessdate = 2007-02-22 | last = Thompson | first = Bill | date = 10 September 2004 | publisher = BBC News

After NATO

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

* Chairman of the Labour Party in Scotland
* Vice-chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy
* Vice-Chairman of the British Council for nine years
* Vice-Chairman of the Britain/Russia Centre
* Member of the Council of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) seven years, now President
* Member of the Pilgrims Society
* Governor of the Ditchley Foundation
* Trustee of the 21st Century Trust
* Patron to the British-American Project
* Currently serves on the Board of Cable & Wireless International
* Currently serves on the Board of The Weir Group PLC

Honours and Awards

* 4th recipient of the Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award
*2004 Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana first class []
* 30 November 2004 – Knight of the Order of the Thistle
* 12 November 2003 – Presidential Medal of Freedom (United States)
* 8 September 2003 – "Ridder Grootkruis in de Orde van Oranje Nassau" (Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau).
* 2003 – Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
* 2000 – Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania
* 24 August 1999 – created a life peer as Baron Robertson of Port Ellen.
* 1993 – joint Parliamentarian of the Year for his role in the Maastricht Treaty ratification
* 1991 – Grand Cross of the German Order of Merit
* Honorary Regimental Colonel of the London Scottish (Volunteers)
* Honorary Doctorate from the University of Paisley (awarded 5 July 2006)
* Honorary Doctorate from the University of Dundee
* Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bradford
* Honorary Doctorate from Cranfield University (Royal Military College of Science)
* Honorary Doctorate from the Baku State University, Azerbaijan
* Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)
* Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE)
* Elder Brother of Trinity House.
* 2003 - "Atlantic Solidarity Award" bestowed by the Manfred Wörner Foundation


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