The Full Wiki

Jim Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other persons named James Wallace, see James Wallace
The Right Honourable
 The Lord Wallace of Tankerness

In office
18 April 1992 – 23 June 2005
Preceded by Malcolm Bruce
Succeeded by Nicol Stephen

In office
19 May 1999 – 23 June 2005
First Minister Donald Dewar (1999-2000),
Henry McLeish (2000-2001)
Jack McConnell (2001-2005)
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Nicol Stephen

In office
16 May 1999 – 21 May 2003
First Minister Donald Dewar
Henry McLeish
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Cathy Jamieson

In office
21 May 2003 – 27 June 2005
First Minister Jack McConnell
Preceded by Iain Gray
Succeeded by Nicol Stephen

Member of Parliament
for Orkney
In office
6 May 1999 – 3 May 2007
Preceded by new constituency
Succeeded by Liam McArthur

In office
9 June 1983 – 7 June 2001
Preceded by Jo Grimond
Succeeded by Alistair Carmichael

Born 25 August 1954 (1954-08-25) (age 55)
Annan, Dumfries and Galloway
Political party Scottish Liberal Democrats

James Robert Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness PC QC (born 25 August 1954) is a Scottish politician, currently a life peer in the House of Lords. He was formerly Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Orkney and the first Deputy First Minister of Scotland in the Scottish Executive.


Early life

Wallace was born in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway and grew up there. As a boy, his first interest in politics was stoked when he collected autographs from politicians visiting the local area[1]: he still possesses one from Tam Dalyell, with whom he would later serve in the House of Commons. After finishing school in Annan he was accepted by Downing College, Cambridge, where he obtained a joint degree in Economics and Law. From there he returned to Scotland to read Law at Edinburgh, graduating in 1977. Based in Edinburgh, he practised as an advocate at the Scottish Bar, mostly in civil law cases.

Member of Parliament

Wallace joined the then-Liberal Party in the early 1970s, but first became seriously involved after completing his second degree. His first foray as a candidate was in the constituency of Dumfriesshire in 1979, where he failed to win. He also stood, unsuccessfully, as the Liberal candidate in the South of Scotland constituency in the European Parliament elections of that year. Four years later, he would earn the Liberal nomination for the seat of Orkney and Shetland, the seat being vacated by former party leader Jo Grimond, and won election to the UK Parliament. At the time, it was extremely rare for Liberal candidates successfully to win election to succeed former Liberal MPs, although many have since done so. He was to serve as the MP there for 18 years, occupying a number of front-bench posts for the Liberal Party (and, from 1988 onwards, the Liberal Democrats), including Employment spokesman and Chief Whip.

In 1992, he was unopposed in becoming the new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, succeeding Malcolm Bruce. Scottish politics at this time was dominated by the question of constitutional reform. There were few opportunities for legislation affecting Scots Law to be debated or effectively scrutinised at Westminster and, especially after the 1987 election, with only ten Conservative MPs in Scotland but with a large majority in the House of Commons, it was argued that there was a democratic deficit in Scotland. The Scottish Liberal Democrats were committed to an overarching principle of federalism throughout the United Kingdom, with the Scottish Labour Party advocating legislative devolution for Scotland and Wales, as had been attempted unsuccessfully in the late 1970s, the Scottish National Party seeking independence. However, the UK Conservative Government wanted no such change, and Scottish Secretaries, such as Ian Lang and Michael Forsyth, advocated internal parliamentary reforms at Westminster, such as holding more debates in the Scottish Grand Committee, which then consisted of all 72 MPs for Scottish constituencies.

Given the similarity of their preferred options, the Scottish Liberal Democrats had co-operated with the Scottish Labour Party in the Scottish Constitutional Convention to produce a blueprint for a devolved parliament within the UK. Wallace continued this and the Convention's final proposals were published on St Andrew's Day 1995. A key part of this plan was the decision that this new parliament would be elected by a system of proportional representation (PR). This was a long-held Liberal Democrat (and Liberal) policy which would ensure a fairer distribution of seats, and which would almost certainly deny any single party an overall majority. The Labour Party was initially strongly opposed to this policy, and it was a mark of success for Wallace and the Liberal Democrats that it was agreed. Both parties agreed to work to enact the proposals, especially after the next UK election.

When the Conservatives lost the 1997 election, the New Labour government converted the Constitutional Convention's proposals into a White Paper and a referendum of the Scottish people was held on 11 September 1997. Wallace was a key figure in that campaign, arguing strongly for the proposal (alongside Labour and Scottish National Party leaders), although campaigning in the referendum was suspended for several days following the death of Princess Diana. Despite Conservative opposition, the plan was approved by nearly 75% of those voting, and nearly 64% also voted separately for the Parliament to have the power to vary the basic rate of income tax. The Scotland Bill was then successfully piloted through Westminster and became the founding legislation of the new Parliament.

He led the Scottish Liberal Democrats in the first election to the new Scottish Parliament in 1999, himself winning the constituency of Orkney with 67% of the votes cast. This meant he served as a Member of both the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments for a time with a dual mandate, although like other MPs elected to Holyrood (such as John Swinney, John Home Robertson and Donald Gorrie) he stood down from Westminster at the 2001 General Election.


Scottish Parliament

As expected, the proportional election system for the new Scottish Parliament meant that Labour failed to gain an outright majority in the first elections. Their Leader, Donald Dewar, chose to seek a formal coalition government with a working majority rather than try to operate as a minority government. He contacted Wallace and a week of formal negotiations were held between the two parties' representatives, following which a partnership agreement was signed, committing both parties to support a negotiated joint agenda. Wallace became Deputy First Minister and Minister for Justice, and maintained these briefs throughout the first term of the Parliament.

The decision to enter a coalition government with Labour was hugely controversial at the time. British politicians were entirely unaccustomed to coalition politics, and the Liberal Democrats came under fire from Conservative and SNP opponents who claimed they had 'sold out' their principles. Key to this criticism was the Labour policy of making students pay tuition fees, which the Liberal Democrats had promised to abolish as their price of entering a coalition, but which in fact became merely the subject of an inquiry as the coalition was formed. In the event the Liberal Democrats did insist on the abolition of tuition fees after the inquiry reported in 2001, but in 1999 the delay was perceived to have been a compromise and Wallace in particular became the focal point for extremely bitter criticism.

Despite this, and a number of other difficult moments, he and his party stayed firm and remained in power. Wallace established himself as a competent, if perhaps uninspired Minister. His legal training, political nous and capacity for hard work saw him demonstrate that Liberal Democrats could govern. On three occasions over the first term of the Parliament, he became Acting First Minister, twice in 2000 due to at first the illness, and later the death, of the first First Minister Donald Dewar, and then again in 2001 after the resignation of Dewar's successor as First Minister, Henry McLeish. Each occasion lasted for only a few weeks or months.

Under his continued leadership, the Scottish Liberal Democrats' popularity grew steadily. After leading the party through the second Holyrood elections in 2003 elections, again winning 17 MSPs but with a higher share of the vote, he led the party into a second coalition with Labour. The 2003 coalition negotiation process was widely seen as a more successful enterprise by the Liberal Democrats than the preceding one, with key aspects of Labour's proposals on anti-social behaviour dropped or limited, and with the promise of proportional representation for Scotland's 32 local councils. Wallace remained as Deputy First Minister but left the Justice brief, becoming instead the Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning.

Resignation, Retirement and Peerage

On 9 May 2005, following the 2005 UK general election, Wallace surprised many by announcing his intention to stand down as party leader and Deputy First Minister. He would remain as MSP for Orkney until the 2007 election, but would serve his time out as a backbencher. He ceased to be an MSP with the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament on 2 April 2007.

On 13 September 2007 it was announced that he was to be appointed to the House of Lords.[2]. This was gazetted as Baron Wallace of Tankerness, of Tankerness in Orkney on 17 October 2007.

On 28 April 2008 it was announced that Wallace would be a member of the Commission on Scottish Devolution, chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman, established by the Scottish Parliament to consider the future powers of the Parliament, including powers over finance. This is a distinct exercise from the SNP Government's national conversation.

In November 2008 Wallace received a lifetime achievement award in the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards.[3]

Personal life

Affiliation with the Church of Scotland

Wallace is also an elder of the Church of Scotland, attending St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney.

See also


  1. ^ BBC NEWS | Scotland | CV: Jim Wallace
  2. ^ BBC NEWS | Scotland | North East/N Isles | Former Lib Dem leader made a peer
  3. ^ Lord Wallace's Lifetime of Achievement, The Herald, Friday 14/11/2008

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jo Grimond
Member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland
Succeeded by
Alistair Carmichael
Scottish Parliament
Preceded by
Constituency Created
Member of the Scottish Parliament for Orkney
Succeeded by
Liam McArthur
Political offices
Preceded by
Office Created
Deputy First Minister of Scotland
Succeeded by
Nicol Stephen
Preceded by
Office Created
Minister for Justice
Succeeded by
Cathy Jamieson
Preceded by
Iain Gray
(as Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning)
Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning
Succeeded by
Nicol Stephen
Party political offices
Preceded by
David Alton
Liberal Chief Whip
Succeeded by
Position abolished
Preceded by
New position
Chief Whip of the Liberal Democrats
Succeeded by
Archy Kirkwood
Preceded by
Malcolm Bruce
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Succeeded by
Nicol Stephen


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address