FROM Boris Johnson elevating his own brother to the House of Lords (and reportedly recommending his father for a knighthood), to the Speaker of the Commons Lindsay Hoyle following his father – the now “Baron” Doug Hoyle – into a career as a Labour MP, family connections are everywhere in British politics.

In fact, 49 current MPs are listed as relatives of other current or former members – and examples can also be found in Scotland’s parliament. Regardless of their own merits, it is hard for such people to shake off the impression that they have been helped into their positions by nepotism – their well-connected relatives calling in a favour here or giving a nudge there.

The Sunday National has pulled together a list of the Holyrood politicians whose familial connections couldn’t have hurt – though there is no suggestion the people listed below wouldn’t have gotten to their current positions on their own merit.


Anas Sarwar:

The National: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar speaking on the first day of the Scottish Labour Party Conference at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. Picture date: Friday February 17, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS ScotLabour. Photo credit should read: Jane

Anas Sarwar, now Scottish Labour’s leader, first won a seat at Westminster after his father vacated it. Mohammad Sarwar – who would go on to serve two terms as the Governor of Punjab – was the MP for Glasgow Govan from 1997, winning the seat again in 2001. In 2005 he won the Glasgow Central seat, which was then won by his son in 2010.

But the younger Sarwar failed to copy his father’s winning ways, and lost his seat in the 2015 election to the SNP’s Alison Thewliss. However, he won a safe Glasgow list seat and became an MSP the following year.


Oliver Mundell:

The National: Oliver Mundell during the debate on the final Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Scotland Bill at Holyrood thursday. STY.Pic Gordon Terris/The Herald.3/10/19.

Oliver Mundell was elected to represent Dumfriesshire at Holyrood in 2016, aged just 26. His father, David Mundell, was Scottish Secretary at the time. The older Mundell had already enjoyed a long career as a Tory politician, serving as an MSP from 1999 to 2005 and an MP from then. He was on the Conservative’s shadow front bench at Westminster from his election, as was his son in Holyrood.

Donald Cameron:

The National:

A Tory MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Donald Cameron is the son of the chief of Clan Cameron and has extensive links to the aristocracy. His grandfather on his mother’s side was Peter Kerr, the “12th Marquess of Lothian”, and his uncle on the same side is Michael Ancram, the Tory peer, and former chair and deputy leader of the party.

Alexander Burnett:

The National: Alexander Burnett

On the topic of Tory MSPs with links to the aristocracy, it would be remiss not to mention Alexander Burnett. Presumed to be Holyrood’ richest MSP, Burnett is the fourth-great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia on his mother’s side. Cameron’s father is chief of the House of Burnett, and his immediate ancestors include a wealth of Lords, Grand Dukes, Baronets, and Countesses.

Edward Mountain:

The National: Edward Mountain, rural spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives

Tory MSP Edward Mountain is also known as Sir Edward Brian Stanford Mountain, 4th Baronet of Oare Manor and Brendon (Somerset). The title was created for his great-grandfather, also called Edward Mountain, who founded the FTSE insurance firm Eagle Star. It folded in 1999, and Mountain the MSP spent time in the army and working as a surveyor before being elected as a list member in 2016.


Fergus and Annabelle Ewing:

The National:

The two Ewings have both enjoyed long careers in politics, following in the wake of their quasi-legendary mother Winnie Ewing. Fergus, an MSP since 1999, made it to the Scottish Cabinet before being demoted to the backbenches in 2021.

Annabelle meanwhile served first as an MP from 2001 to 2005, before being elected as an MSP in 2011. She also served as a minister, and is currently one of Holyrood’s two deputy presiding officers.

Jim Fairlie:

The National: 10/02/2022 Picture Duncan McGlynn +447771370263.  Portraits Jim Fairlie MSP at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland. ©Duncan McGlynn ***NO SYNDICATION***NO ARCHIVE***.

Another SNP MSP who has a pedigree in the party is Jim Fairlie. His father, also called Jim, served on the SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee from the 1970s, becoming the deputy leader as well as senior vice chairman in the 1980s. Unrelated to politics but interesting nonetheless, Andrew Fairlie, the MSP’s brother, was a renowned chef who founded Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, the only restaurant in Scotland with two Michelin stars.

Ruth Maguire:

The National:

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire was elected to parliament in 2016, following in the footsteps of her father, John Finnie. The two sat concurrently, but Finnie represented the Greens, having left the SNP in 2012 in protest over their decision to back Nato membership for an independent Scotland. Like her father, Maguire served as an SNP councillor before entering parliament. While Maguire served on North Ayrshire Council from 2012, Finnie was the SNP group leader on Highland Council from his election in 2007.

LibDems and Greens:

While Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has an interesting family history including connections to Irish politicians from the 18th century and Canadian biscuit magnates, it has hard to see how any of it would have really helped him into the Scottish parliament.

And the Green group of MSPs don't seem to have any familial connections that could be interpreted as nepotistic at all. 

Honourable mention:

King Charles III.

The National: King Charles III is crowned with St Edward’s Crown during his coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey. Image: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

While not technically a member of the Scottish Parliament, Charles has the ability to scrutinise and oversee bills before their passage, with his input remaining secret, thanks to nothing more than an accident of birth. This constitutional mechanism, called “Crown Consent”, gives Charles the ability to influence laws in a way that most MSPs could only dream of.

Reports said that his mother, the late Queen, was given advance sight of Holyrood bills, allowing her to secretly lobby for changes, on at least 67 occasions. These included bills dealing with property taxation, protections from tenants, and planning laws.

The staffers:

The National:

As well as MSPs and aristocracy, there are also a couple of people on the parliamentary payroll who are related to politicians. The most recent register published by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, from November 2022, lists two people.

Lawrie Carlaw, the son of former Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw (above), works as a senior parliamentary assistant to every Conservative MSP apart from his father.

And Jack McKelvie, the son of Culture Minister Christina McKelvie (who is married to SNP depute leader Keith Brown), is employed as a caseworker for Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan.