Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

When, not if: Paul Robertson is spreading his wings, ready to soar in an independent Scotland

Paul Robertson.

Having just written an election-winning manifesto for one of Britain’s biggest political parties while still in his mid-20s, Paul Robertson should have been celebrating.

But the snap contest ordered by Theresa May in 2017 was particularly tough to take for the SNP’s young policy chief, following the jubilation of election victories in 2015 and 2016.

Because, although his party again won more seats than any other in Scotland, on a manifesto he authored, it also lost a third of its seats, including many in Mr Robertson’s north-east homeland.

“There was a unique set of circumstances there at the time and that was very hard because obviously it was where Angus Robertson lost his seat, I lost my mentor in Eilidh Whiteford, Alex Salmond lost his seat,” he said.

“A lot of people who had been my mentors had lost their place in parliament, so that felt a good time for me to move on and do something different from party politics.”

The SNP’s Paul Robertson in Peterhead.

The election marked the end of an exciting and eventful chapter in politics for Mr Robertson, who was born and raised in Aberdeen, to parents who both worked in the oil and gas industry.

The former Harlaw Academy pupil had always been fascinated by political issues, joining the SNP at 16 and studying the subject when he became the first member of his family to go to university.

“From a young age I was very passionate about politics. I was involved in all the student councils at school and then I was involved in the Aberdeen Youth Council way, way back as well,” he said.

“I think the thing that clicked it for me was the great wealth that exists in Aberdeen because of the oil and gas industry; Scotland could well afford to stand on its own two feet.

“But in Aberdeen, you know, I was fortunate to grow up in a really great middle class area and had a great upbringing, but in the same city, if you were to drive 20 or 30 minutes, you know, they also had the highest child poverty rate in Scotland.

“For me, I questioned why that was, and could we manage our affairs better, and manage our wealth better, if we were an independent country, and that’s what eventually turned me onto the SNP.”

Student of European politics

After a brief spell working as a caseworker for then Banff and Buchan SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford, Mr Robertson moved to Berlin to broaden his horizons and further his interest in politics.

He studied European politics and economics at Berlin School of Economics and Law, before he went to work for a big tech start-up incubator.

Enjoying life in Germany, Mr Robertson had little intention of returning to Scotland any time soon.

Yes campaigners, including Mr Robertson, right, at Peterhead Harbour.

But his plans quickly changed when it became clear what was about to happen back home.

“I was quite happy living there in one of the most exciting places in Europe, when the Scottish independence referendum happened,” he said.

I was enjoying spreading my horizons, as many young Scots do, go abroad and experience different cultures, but I felt if I didn’t come back and work in the referendum then I would have regretted it.”

“I was enjoying spreading my horizons, as many young Scots do, go abroad and experience different cultures, but I felt if I didn’t come back and work in the referendum then I would have regretted it.

“So I ended up packing up my life in Berlin and coming back to Banff and Buchan.”

Mr Robertson returned to Scotland in 2014, and managed Ms Whiteford’s office in Banff and Buchan again, as well as the Yes campaign in Banffshire and Buchan Coast.

‘An exciting period for the SNP’

The following year he played his part in the SNP surge of 2015, and was soon following Ms Whiteford on the road from Peterhead to parliament.

“That was an exciting period for the SNP when we had a big wave of support, and I managed Eilidh’s re-election campaign and I think in that 2015 election she got the biggest share of the vote that an MP had got in that constituency, even in Alex Salmond’s hands,” he said,

“There were lots of jobs going in London, and Eilidh had been my mentor through all of that, and offered me the opportunity to go and work in the research unit at Westminster.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is joined by the newly elected SNP members of parliament as they gather in front of the Forth Bridge on May 9 2015 in South Queensferry.

“So I initially went down to be a researcher on the economy for the party’s MPs, and within a few months I was made the head of research and policy for the Westminster group.”

Mr Robertson remained a key behind-the-scenes adviser for the SNP at Westminster until 2017, when he left to work advising corporate giants on public affairs and communications.

Last year he returned again to the north-east after being selected to succeed Ms Whiteford as the SNP candidate in its former Banff and Buchan stronghold.

“It was a very last-minute decision. It was clear from summer 2019 that there was going to be an election. I always thought I would want to try to be elected at some point in my life, but I thought it would be much later,” he said.

“What became obvious in 2019, especially around the independence issue, is that this could be the last group of MPs Scotland ever sends to Westminster.”

Paul Robertson, right, next to Conservative David Duguid after the election battle in Banff and Buchan.

Mr Robertson was able to increase the party’s vote and vote share, but still fell short of winning the seat back from Conservative David Duguid.

“Being a candidate is relentless, I know that from being close to candidates over the year. But this election was even more relentless because it was it was in the dead of winter,” he said.

“It was actually a very short campaign, it was less than two months, I think, from when the election was called to polling day, so it was absolutely relentless trying to reach all four corners of the constituency and meet as many people as possible.

“But I actually find that quite energising, and that’s the kind of politics I like, speaking to people about their issues. That kind of campaigning is the bit that interests me.

“So even although I didn’t win and I didn’t get the result I wanted, it was a respectable outcome for us in that we increased the vote, but it was also a great learning experience, a great campaigning experience, and a great personal experience to do something that I love doing.”

‘When Scotland becomes independent…’

After a couple of recent contests in which the outcome has been mixed, Mr Robertson will hope to be celebrating on an election night once again, at some point in the future.

“At the moment I’ve gone back to working with some of the UK’s and the world’s leading businesses, and I’ve gone back to working with senior business leaders and I enjoy that and think it’s good experience,” he said.

“Because when Scotland becomes independent, and I think it will become independent, we’re going to need people in our parliament who have experience of this, who are able to contribute something to the development of Scotland’s economy, for example.

“So for now, I’m enjoying working in the private sector, I’m enjoying some of the challenges that brings in my professional life, but for me there is a big drive and motivation to contribute to public service and to contribute to Scotland.

“So definitely in the future I think I will look at politics again, but for now I think it’s good and people like people who go away and get some experience in the real world before coming back to politics.”

Nicola Sturgeon and Eilidh Whiteford campaigning in Turriff.

Mr Robertson’s sentiment was echoed by his mentor, Ms Whiteford, who said: “Paul’s abilities, and his commitment to the north-east, were evident at an early age.

“He has a great deal to contribute, though perhaps it’s good that he is building a career outside politics for now.

“That experience will be of immense value should he ever seek to enter public life in the future.”