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Last Updated: Monday, 14 May 2007, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Alex Fergusson, countryside man
Andrew Black
Political reporter
BBC Scotland news website

Alex Fergusson does not have the public profile of his predecessors in the presiding officer's chair.

Alex Fergusson
Alex Fergusson has won the respect of all the parties

The first person to hold the prestigious position, former Liberal Party leader Lord Steel, was succeeded by the veteran Nationalist and broadcaster George Reid.

But what Mr Fergusson lacks in outside renown, he more than makes up for in the respect he has earned from all the Scottish parties and his constituents as an astute political operator.

So who is the man behind the (neatly trimmed) beard?

Born in 1949 in Leswalt, Wigtownshire, the young Alex Fergusson attended Eton before working as a farmer from 1971 to 1999, when he was elected to the Scottish Parliament as an MSP for the South of Scotland region.

The father-of-three later won the seat of Galloway and Upper Nithsdale in the 2003 election, beating the SNP by only 99 votes.

Four years later, he increased that slender majority to more than 3,000 - perhaps saying something about his popularity as a local MSP.

'Political maturity'

The captain of the MSP cricket team has been described by Scots Tory leader Annabel Goldie as a man of "integrity, intelligence and political maturity".

Mr Fergusson, a true man of the countryside, has exercised those credentials on several occasions over the years as a supporter of rural issues.

As a convener of the Scottish Parliament's rural development committee in 2002, he described proposed legislation to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland as flawed and open to legal challenge.

Later, as Scottish Conservative rural development spokesman, he said the laws would mark "yet another nail in the coffin for rural Scotland".

He also described laws banning the docking of dogs' tails as "complete and utter folly", arguing that there was huge difference between the cosmetic docking of entire tails and the shortening of the tails of working dogs.

Scottish Lead Mining Museum (pic by Undiscovered Scotland)
Mr Fergusson campaigned to save the mining museum

Mr Fergusson has also backed other issues, including an upgrade for the A76 road and trying to get Glasgow University to reverse its move to halt admission of undergraduates at the Crichton campus in Dumfries.

The rugby and curling enthusiast also played a part in the successful campaign to help save the Scottish Lead Mining Museum at Wanlockhead from closure.

When the issue of electing a new presiding officer came up, Mr Fergusson's name was soon thrust into the open, but he initially ruled it out.

But once able to address his prime concern of serving his constituents, he decided to put his name forward.

Whatever the future holds for Alex Fergusson, one thing is certain.

He may not have been a well-known name going into the job of presiding officer, but he will be by the time he leaves it.

MSPs elect new presiding officer
14 May 07 |  Scotland
Tory stands for presiding officer
11 May 07 |  Scotland
MSP will not seek Holyrood role
08 May 07 |  South of Scotland
Cash lifeline saves lead museum
01 Mar 07 |  South of Scotland
Scots hunt ban bill is 'flawed'
12 Feb 02 |  Scotland


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