What Google wants to know about Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling

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Tonight's Scottish independence referendum debate pits first minister Alex Salmond against former chancellor Alistair Darling, leader of the pro-union Better Together campaign.

According to Google searches, these are the burning questions people want answered during the course of live televised debate:


Alex Salmond is called ‘wee eck’, short for ‘small Alex’, by his detractors in crass reference to his size. The character ‘wee eck’ first appeared in the Oor Wullie Scottish comic strip in DC Thomson’s newspaper the Sunday Post. Wee Eck was one of Oor Wullie’s gang along with Fat Bob, Soapy Joe and Primrose Paterson.

Why is he the first minister? Because democracy. Salmond has been the head of the Scottish government since 2007 and was voted in by the Scottish Parliament. His election ended eight years of Labour rule in Scotland, but for the next four years he headed a minority Scottish Government. After the 2011 Scottish Parliament election the Scottish National Party emerged with an overall majority.


Those eyebrows... We don’t know why Alistair Darling’s eyebrows are black. However he is not the only man to have eyebrows that remain black while his head hair fades to grey. George Clooney and Richard Gere have shown it can happen to anyone. Scientists think hairs go grey at different rates because head hairs have a different structure to that of eyebrow hair.

Eyebrow hairs are coarser and don’t fall out as quickly as head hair because they have thicker roots. Dr Desmond Tobin, professor of cell biology from the University of Bradford, says that the amount of pigment we receive as we get older decreases; it reduces at a different rate in different types of hair follicle. This can also be influenced by genetics.


Alistair Darling was born in London, was educated in Kirkcaldy and attended the University of Aberdeen. In an interview with the Guardian in 2012, he went into detail about his Scottish roots, explaining “how the Darling can be traced back to the 17th century, when they roamed the dangerous borderlands".

For the record, he is 60 years old.


For those wondering about Alex Salmond and Israel, the latest news is that the first minister has backed calls for the United Kingdom to impose an arms embargo on Israel. MSP Humza Yousaf announced the move to the Scottish Parliament ahead of the debate on Tuesday afternoon.

This follows Salmond writing to David Cameron on 25th July asking him "to show equal determination in the UK government’s approach to the situation in Gaza as they have shown in regard to the atrocity involving Malaysian Airlines flight MH17".

The full text of the letter is here.

Before that Salmond and Israel's ambassador to the UK hit headlines in 2012 after they held talks to discuss “elements of extreme hostility to Israel in parts of Scottish society”.


Alex Salmond is not Catholic but is part of the Church of Scotland.

He has clashed with the Catholic Church in the past on the subject of gay marriage. In August 2012, Cardinal Keith O’Brien suspended direct talks with the Scottish government over the first minister’s backing of same-sex marriage, which O’Brien, Britain's most senior Roman Catholic, vehemently opposed.

However in February 2013 O’Brien was forced to step down after claims of “inappropriate behaviour” with priests. Later in April, Salmond told Roman Catholic weekly The Tablet that the Catholic church had been “at the heart of the independence movement in Scotland” in the past, and that “without the Catholic Church there would be no Scotland".

Alex Salmond is not a socialist, he is Scottish and he is not mad, in any medical sense.

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