ALEX Salmond is to stay away from the Scottish national side’s match against England as the two sides meet next month in the first football fixture between the two nation’s since the 1990s.
• Alex Salmond set to stay away from England v Scotland friendly match at Wembley
• First Minister was criticised for waving Saltire flag at Wimbledon after Andy Murray’s victory against Novak Djokovic
Mr Salmond has decided against attending the match at London’s Wembley stadium on 14 August - just over a year before the referendum on whether Scotland should leave the UK.
The First Minister’s decision emerged just over a week after he controversially waved a Saltire flag in the Royal Box at Wimbledon as Scotland’s Andy Murray became the first British tennis player to win the tournament in 77 years.
He has also been heavily embroiled in a row over men-only golf clubs and has refused to attend this month’s Open Championship at Muirfield in East Lothian.
Mr Salmond is a keen football fan who has regularly attended the national side’s games, as well as continuing to support Scottish Premier League crisis club Heart of Midlothian.
However, a spokesman for Mr Salmond said the SNP leader had “pretty conclusively” decided not to follow the Tartan Army to the UK capital for the match against the Auld Enemy.
The Scottish Government confirmed that Salmond had not been invited to attend the match being held as part of the English FA’s 150th
celebrations, although the First Minister is thought not have sought an invite.
Mr Salmond’s spokesman said there was “no particular reason” why the First Minister would not be at Wembley for the first match between the nations since 1999, when Scotland were edged out over two legs by England in a play off qualifier for the Euro 2000 tournament.
The spokesman went onto suggest that football fan Mr Salmond was staying away because the match is a “friendly” rather than a competitive game or qualifier for a World Cup or European Championship. He said: “He’s not scheduled to go. There’s no particular reason. He can’t go to everything.
“There are definitely no plans for the First Minister to go and I don’t expect that to change.”
Salmond attended the last match between Scotland and England at Wembley in November 1999, when he was serving as opposition leader in what was then the fledgling Scottish Parliament.
The SNP’s association with the match at Wembley, which Scotland won 1-0 but lost 2-1 on aggregate over the two legs, was mired in controversy because of the arrest of Mr Salmond’s justice minister Kenny MacAskill before the kick-off.
MacAaskill, who was then a backbench SNP MSP, was arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly, on his way to the stadium.
The SNP justice minister, who held in cells before being released without charge, is also staying away from next month’s Scotland v England fixture.
Salmond’s spokesman confirmed that no Scottish government ministers or officials planned to be at the mid-week match, which has an evening kick off.
Labour sports spokeswoman Patricia Ferguson claimed that Salmond was staying away from Wembley because he feared backlash from fans over his “flag-waving antics” at Wimbledon.
Ms Ferguson also said that the SNP leader feared a repeat of previous sporting events, when it was reported he was booed such as at the homecoming
celebrations for Scotland’s Olympic athletes in Glasgow last September.
She said: “Alex Salmond has been booed at Hampden, the Ryder Cup and the Olympics celebrations at George Square and embarrassed himself at Wimbledon with his flag-waving antics. With that record, it’s no surprise he is staying away from Wembley.”
Mr Salmond’s decision to not attend Wembley comes after he was involved in a bitter row when he was blocked from appearing on a sports show ahead of the Six Nations rugby clash between Scotland and England at Murrayfield in 2012.
The First Minister was heavily criticised by opposition MSPs after he compared a senior BBC adviser to a high-ranking Nazi Party official
following his exclusion from a rugby broadcast.
Mr Salmond had been booked to appear with former Scotland player Andy Nicol and England’s Jeremy Guscott for a live show outside Murrayfield, ahead of the Calcutta Cup tie.
But the invitation to appear on the show was withdrawn at the eleventh hour on the advice of political adviser Ric Bailey because of perceived tensions over the independence referendum.