FORMER first minister Alex Salmond and Scottish Labour leadership contender Jim Murphy have been lauded for their work in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum as they were honoured by a top politics magazine.
The Spectator gave Mr Salmond the Politician of the Year award, while Mr Murphy was awarded Murphy the Campaigner of the Year prize for his role in the leadership of the No campaign during the independence debate.
Mr Salmond said he was “honoured” to receive the award for a second time, having previously been recognised in 2011 after the SNP’s landslide win in the Scottish elections.
Mr Murphy won the award at the magazine’s Parliamentarian of the Year event, mainly in recognition of his street speaking tour of Scotland in the run-up to the referendum.
The East Renfrewshire MP was widely viewed to have been one of the most high profile politicians during the campaign, when he made speeches while standing on an Irn Bru crate during what was billed as the “100 towns in 100 days tour” for the Better Together campaign.
The former SNP leader said: “This has been a momentous year for Scotland and, while the Yes campaign may not have won in the referendum, there is no doubt that Scotland has been changed utterly.
“With the SNP now the third biggest party in the UK with more than twice as many members as the Lib Dems, and support for the party surging in the polls, there is a determination in Scotland to ensure that real progress is delivered.”
The MP for East Renfrewshire was widely viewed to have been one of the most high profile politicians during the referendum campaign, when he made speeches while standing on an Irn Bru crate during what was billed as the “100 towns in 100 days tour” for the Better Together campaign.
The former Scottish Secretary was pelted with eggs by Yes supporters in one of the most bitter exchanges of the campaign and was even temporarily forced to put his speaking tour on hold.
Mr Salmond had launched a scathing attack on Mr Murphy during the referendum campaign, comparing the Labour MP’s speaking tour of shopping districts to that of “the guy with The End Is Nigh round his neck”.
Mr Murphy also received the award in recognition of what the competition’s judges said was his response to being demoted from UK Labour’s defence secretary to the international development portfolio by Ed Miliband.
The MP is now standing to succeed Johann Lamont, with the winner of the three way contest involving shadow health minister Neil Findlay and former transport minister Sarah Boyack announced on 13 December.
Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, who presented the awards with Home Secretary Theresa May at the Savoy Hotel in London, praised Mr Murphy’s role in the referendum.
Mr Nelson said: “He was not only demoted but exiled — sent on a one-man tour of the Outer Hebrides with only an Irn-Bru crate for company. Yet somehow he became a sensation, his speeches so potent that nationalists chased him all around Scotland.
“His refusal to back down made a media sensation – drawing attention to more ugly elements of the referendum campaign. He had eggs thrown at him, and was called a terrorist and worst — but what his hecklers didn’t realise was that this was nothing compared to being a Blairite in Ed Miliband’s Labour Party.”
Former Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer won the “Peer of the Year” prize, while Tory MP Sarah Wollaston was named as ”Backbencher of the Year”.
Mr Murphy said: “It’s always flattering to win awards, but it’s not what I came into politics for.
“My 100 towns tour during the referendum was politics in its rawest form. There was no spin - just me, my Irn Bru crates and whoever happened to turn up. Politicians need to spend less time shouting at one another and more time out on the streets listening to what people have to say. That’s what I did during the referendum tour and it’s what I will do if I am elected Scottish Labour leader and First Minister.”
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