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Salmond hails Connery’s ‘unshakable’ support for Scottish independence

The former first minister paid tribute to the actor.

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Alex Salmond and Sean Connery, pictured in 1999 (PA)

Alex Salmond and Sean Connery, pictured in 1999 (PA)

Alex Salmond and Sean Connery, pictured in 1999 (PA)

A long-time supporter of Scottish independence, Sir Sean Connery, in his own words, said that the country should be “nothing less than equal with all the other nations of the world”.

The actor, who had the words “Scotland Forever” tattooed on his arm, campaigned in favour of the Scottish Parliament being established back in 1997, when Tony Blair’s Labour government gave Scots a vote on devolution.

But while he said that was a “fantastic opportunity”, it was for him the “next step from independence”.

Connery was at the official opening of the new Scottish Parliament in 1999, delighting cheering crowds as he appeared, wearing full Highland dress and accompanied by his wife Micheline.

Fifteen years later, when Scots got the chance to vote for independence, he said this was an opportunity that was “too good to miss”.

He said back in 2014: “As a Scot with a lifelong love of Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss. Simply put there is no more creative an act than creating a new nation.”

The following year the actor, who was then retired, voiced the closing passage for the audiobook version of Alex Salmond’s book The Dream Shall Never Die – which charts the 100 days up to the referendum vote.

Mr Salmond, the former SNP leader and Scottish first minister, described him as being the “world’s greatest Scot”, and told how his support for the cause of independence was “unshakable”.

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Sean Connery campaigned with Alex Salmond in the run up to the 1999 Scottish Parliament election. (Ben Curtis/PA)

Sean Connery campaigned with Alex Salmond in the run up to the 1999 Scottish Parliament election. (Ben Curtis/PA)

PA

Sean Connery campaigned with Alex Salmond in the run up to the 1999 Scottish Parliament election. (Ben Curtis/PA)

He described Connery as being “the world’s greatest Scot, the last of the real Hollywood stars, the definitive Bond”.

But Mr Salmond said the actor was also a “staunch patriot, a deep thinker and outstanding human being”.

He said: “I have had the rare privilege of being his friend for more than 30 years and enjoyed every single moment of his company and talk.

“Sean was determined, thrawn as Scots would say, but only about things he really believed in.

“His charity, the Scottish International Education Trust (SIET), has over the years supported thousands of youngsters with a helping hand in their education.

“Sean was largely self taught and this gave him and abiding belief in the value of education, which he put into action through the SIET.”

Mr Salmond continued: “His support for Scottish independence was unshakable and started long before it was fashionable.

“It made him a political target for many who would otherwise have fawned over him but he shrugged it off, knowing that he was a much bigger person than any of his detractors.

“He was honest and brave and it has been one of the privileges of my life to count him as a friend.

“His sense of irony and humour were legendary, as was his love of country. ‘Scotland Forever’ wasn’t just tattooed on his forearm but was imprinted on his soul. He was a great and gentle man.

“My condolences go to his wife Micheline, his sons Jason and Stefan, his brother Neil and all of the family.”

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Sir Sean Connery with his wife Micheline, at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in 1999. (PA/PA Archive/PA Images)

Sir Sean Connery with his wife Micheline, at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in 1999. (PA/PA Archive/PA Images)

PA

Sir Sean Connery with his wife Micheline, at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in 1999. (PA/PA Archive/PA Images)

Mr Salmond’s successor as both First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon also paid tribute to him as a “patriotic and proud Scot”.

She said: “His towering presence at the opening of the Scottish Parliament was a sign of his dedication to his country.

“He was a lifelong advocate of an independent Scotland and those of us who share that belief owe him a great debt of gratitude.”

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “From humble beginnings in Edinburgh Sean Connery became a global star, he was James Bond.

“He was a legend of the screen and a fine ambassador for Scotland who had a burning desire to see his country become independent. Rest in peace Sean.”

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