George Robertson

Secretary General of NATO 1999-2004
UK Secretary of State for Defence, 1997-1999

Lord (George Islay MacNeill) Robertson was NATO Secretary General from 1999-2004 and UK Secretary of State for Defence from 1997-1999. He was a Member of Parliament from 1978-1999 before being elevated to the House of Lords in 1999.

He is currently Special Adviser to BP and Senior Counsellor at the Washington DC-based Cohen Group (USA).

Public Career

George Robertson was born in Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Scotland and educated at Dunoon Grammar School and the University of Dundee (MA Hons in Economics in 1968).

From 1969-1978 he was Scottish Organiser with the GMB trade union and senior negotiator in the Scotch Whisky Industry. From 1979-1993 he held senior parliamentary Opposition roles including 11 years on Foreign Affairs and was Chief Spokesman on European Affairs (he was named Parliamentarian of the Year in 1992). In 1993 he was elected to the Shadow Cabinet and served as Principal Opposition Spokesman on Scotland (the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland).

He was appointed the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defence in 1997 and appointed to Her Majesty’s Privy Council.

In October 1999 he took up appointment as the 10th Secretary General of NATO and Chairman of the North Atlantic Council.

Activity after Public Service

In 2004 Lord Robertson was personally appointed by the Queen as one of the sixteen Knights of the Thistle (KT) and awarded the GCMG (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George). In 2011 he was appointed Chancellor of that Order. He was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s top civilian honour, in 2003, and has been awarded the highest national honours from many countries

He was Deputy Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Audit Committee of TNK-BP (BP’s £50 bn market cap Joint Venture in Russia) from 2006-2013 and Chairman of BP Russian Investments Ltd from 2017-2020. He has also served on the Boards of Cable and Wireless plc, where he was Executive Deputy Chairman and Chairman of CW International 2004-2007, the Smiths Group plc, Monaco Telecom SA and the Weir Group plc.

Lord Robertson served as Joint President of the Royal Institute of International Affairs 2001-11 and was chair of Ditchley Foundation from 2009-2017.

Lord Robertson is currently a Special Adviser to BP and Senior Counsellor at the Washington DC-based Cohen Group (USA). He is also Chairman of Western Ferries (Clyde) Ltd.

He joined the GLF as a Member in 2020.

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Chair of FIA Foundation
  • Chair of Ohrid (Friends of North Macedonia) Group
  • Co-Chair of Commission on Franco-British Defence post Brexit, with former French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve
  • Vice Chairman of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
  • Trustee of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust
  • Trustee of the British Forces Foundation
  • Council Member of International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Council Member of the Centre for European Reform
  • Council Member of the European Council on Foreign Relations
  • Member of International Advisory Board of the Atlantic Council of the US
  • Senior Adviser at Royal Institute of International Affairs
  • Honorary Professor of Politics at the University of Stirling and Visiting Professor at Kings College, London
  • Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • Fellow of the Royal College of Defence Studies
  • Elder Brother of Trinity House