|First Minister Nicola Sturgeon|
Preceded by Karen Whitefield
Education University of Dundee
Preceded by Nicola Sturgeon
|First Minister Alex Salmond|
Name Alex Neil
Preceded by Office created
Majority 2,001 (8.4%)
Succeeded by Shona Robison
|Political party Scottish Labour Party, Scottish National Party|
Alexander "Alex" Neil (born 22 August 1951) is a Scottish politician who is the Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament for Airdrie and Shotts. He was Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights between 2014 and 2016.
- Early life and education
- Early years
- Member of the Scottish Parliament
- Government Minister
Early life and education
Neil was born in Ayrshire Central Hospital, Irvine, the son of Alexander Neil snr, a coalminer, and Margaret Neil (née Gunning). He was brought up in Patna, Ayrshire, and became involved in Labour politics, joining the Labour Party in 1967, aged sixteen. He was educated at Ayr Academy, before attending the University of Dundee, where he studied Economics. He served as chairman of both the Scottish Organisation of Labour Students and later the UK-wide National Organisation of Labour Students.
After graduating with an MA (Hons) degree in 1974, Neil was appointed as the first-ever research officer for the Scottish Executive Committee of the Labour Party. In 1976, Neil, along with Jim Sillars and John Robertson, left the Labour Party to form the breakaway group, the Scottish Labour Party (SLP). Neil served as General Secretary of the SLP from 1976 to 1979. By 1979 the SLP had collapsed and Neil fell out of active politics until 1985 when he joined the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Neil would go on to become the SNP's Publicity Director, and then in charge of the party's policy, as well as a candidate in the 1989 Glasgow Central by-election and candidate in the Kilmarnock and Loudoun constituency in both the 1992 and 1997 general elections.
Member of the Scottish Parliament
In 1999 he was elected SNP regional list MSP for Central Scotland in the first Scottish Parliament.
The following year he stood unsuccessfully in the hard-fought contest for the leadership of the SNP against John Swinney. Thereafter he was appointed chair of the Scottish Parliament's Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee, a role he kept on until 2003.
Neil is on the left of the SNP, and is known as a fundamentalist, critical of the gradualist wing.
In 2003 he was re-elected as SNP MSP for Central Scotland to the Scottish Parliament.
In July 2004, Neil announced that he would not be a candidate in the impending contest for the leadership of the SNP, despite the fact that he believed he had considerable support within the party. He said that the reason for his decision was that senior figures in the party (such as MSP Fergus Ewing and former SNP leader Alex Salmond) had made it clear publicly that they would not work with him as leader.
In 2004 Neil was appointed chair of the Enterprise and Culture Committee. He was also a co-convenor of the Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on the Scottish Economy.
Neil emerged as a leading supporter of former policewoman Shirley McKie as she bid to win compensation from the Scottish Government following her acquittal from perjury charges.
He was again re-elected as a regional MSP for Central Scotland in 2007. He sat on the European and External Relations Committee and the Finance Committee from 2007–2009, upon his promotion to Scottish Minister.
In the first reshuffle of the SNP Government since it took office in 2007, Neil was appointed as the Minister for Housing and Communities in February 2009. In 2011 Neil defeated Karen Whitefield in the Airdrie and Shotts constituency, gaining a majority of 2001, a 5.5% swing from Labour to SNP. He was promoted to the Scottish Cabinet on 19 May 2011 by Alex Salmond to become the new Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment after the SNP's landslide win in the 2011 Scottish election.
He was moved from that post to the post of Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing in September 2012. A month into this post, in an interview with Scotland on Sunday Neil spoke about the possibility of abortion laws being made in Scotland rather than Westminster, saying that politicians would have to consider the medical evidence.
In May 2014 Neil survived a vote of no confidence 57-67. Opposition MSPs had alleged he had acted improperly by cancelling changes to mental health provision when he took up his post as Health Secretary. After Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister of Scotland in November 2014, Alex Neil was appointed to the new post of Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights. He resigned from the government on 18 May 2016.