Waving, smiling, and mooning over their men in public - Hillary, Cherie and Norma are all at it. But the spouses of Scotland's political leaders are made of less simpering stuff, as Marian Pallister discovers.

SOME political spouses walk out into the political limelight with a wave and a smile. Others have the spotlight beamed upon them and tag along with reluctance and a new hairdo to do their duty according to the demands of the ruthless party publicity machine. It is not too difficult to categorise Hillary Clinton, Cherie Booth, Elizabeth Dole and Norma Major as smilers, wavers, and was-it-John-Frieda-who-did-the-new-haircut-Norma?

In Scotland, we do things differently. It is quite possible that most voters are unaware of the first names of the wives of the four political leaders, and it is absolutely certain that if such is the case, that is the way the politicians, the parties, and particularly the spouses want it. We are unlikely to be subjected to Moira Salmond's knitting patterns or read of Sandra Robertson's soul-searching over whether a Jacques Vert suit rather than something smarter would have swung the balance and kept her from cruel criticism on the fashion front. We may never learn from the lips of Susan Forsyth what Michael eats for breakfast or whether he knows where the washing machine is situated in their Stirlingshire home, and Rosemary Wallace is not going to edit an edition of People's Friend just because the Lib Dems hierarchy says it would be a good vote catcher.

The Prime Minister may see his wife as his ``secret weapon'', and Cherie Booth may have joined the campaign trail playing a role far removed from the reality of her high flying legal career, but the parties in Scotland will not be trotting out their wives to catch votes.

A Scottish National Party spokesman says very firmly: ``We don't do things that way. There is no need for spouses to have an active role and we respect the wishes of particular individuals not to have an active role.'' Moira Salmond, who met husband Alex while they were both working at the Scottish Office, is described as an extremely private person, extremely protective of her own privacy and of her husband, too. You will not see her on the platform beside him, but it is said that she is so supportive that without her, he would not be as effective as he is.

The SNP is hoping, of course, that in a new independent Scotland, we would not be saddled with the trappings of Whitehall and Westminster, and there would be no need for a doting wife to be seen hanging on the arm of Scotland's premier politician. Mark the words ``doting wife''. Doting husbands are not expected to be wheeled out in quite the same way as the womenfolk are in this Americanised way of politicking.

Maureen Watt, SNP's vice-convener for local government, says: ``Major and Blair claimed they wanted to get away from personalities in this election, but by trotting out their wives they are creating a diversion from policies. In Scotland, the issues are considered more serious.'' SNP MP Roseanna Cunningham says: ``I see no reason why there should be this emphasis on the wives. Women should be allowed to be people in their own right. In Scotland, people vote for the individual MP, not their wider family.''

A cross-party view is held in Scotland that the exploitation of political wives is patronising to both the electorate and to the women themselves. Maria Fyfe, Labour MP for Maryhill, says Scottish voters are likely to reach for the sick bag if confronted by a Nancy Reagan figure ``gazing dreamily'' into her husband's eyes. She says: ``I don't think it is acceptable in Britain and particularly not in Scotland, where people don't appreciate having politics turned into an American circus.'' She sees no reason why the wife, or husband, of a leading politician should be saddled with the responsibility of commenting on political affairs when they neither seek nor hold elected office.

The voters will see through it all, according to Fyfe, but meanwhile, she sees it as unfair on the political wife. ``I do not see why any leading politician's wife should be subjected to this kind of nonsense about her clothes, career aspirations or how her family behaves. If you seek office, you are fair game. If you don't, it can be very wounding.'' George Robertson's wife, Sandra, is unlikely to subject herself to such ``nonsense''. Another deeply private person, she is seen by party activists as honest, likeable, and endowed with a generous helping of commonsense. She dislikes the showbiz side of politics but should not be dismissed as a home body, and is more than capable of taking her place, as Moira Salmond aficionados also assert would be the case, in the political arena.

Just don't mention the hairdo.

Susan Forsyth, wife of the Secretary of State for Scotland, also ``knows her politics'', according to a Tory insider. She, like her husband, is - you guessed it - a very private person, but moles say she is ``a formidable lady''. No mere appendage of the Secretary of State, she is said to play an active role in politics, ``though not to the Hillary Clinton level, thank God'', says one unattributable source.

For the record, Susan Jane Clough married Michael Bruce Forsyth in 1977, and they have one son and two daughters; Sandra Wallace wed George Islay MacNeill Robertson on June 1, 1970, and they have two sons and a daughter; Moira French McGlashan became a political wife when she tied the knot with Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond on May 6, 1981; and on July 9, 1983, Rosemary Janet Fraser became the wife of the man who is now MP for Orkney and Shetland and leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, James Robert Wallace. The couple have two daughters.

Mrs Wallace says: ``If the Scottish Liberals were to suggest that we were to be marketed as a package I don't think I would be very happy about it, and I suspect the other Scottish leader's wives would think the same.'' Finding it logistically difficult to stray far from her Orkney home because of the children, horses, dogs and cats, not to mention three mornings a week working as a speech and language therapist and her voluntary duties as vice-chairman of the housing committee, Wallace only goes to the occasional political dinner and the Scottish Liberal Conference.

``I think the Scottish party leaders' wives all have better things to do than stroll round in their husbands' wakes smiling nicely,'' she says. ``I certainly wouldn't like to be on show all the time and have everyone coming to see what the sitting room is like with their cameras.'' The Wallace sitting room is a confessed sea of paperwork, an area of unmitigated chaos and not Hello! material at all. Wallace adds: ``There is enough of the feminist in me not to want to be seen as an attachment to my husband. You must begin to question whether you are electing the politician or you are electing the couple.'' She is strongly against children being used in politics without their express permission.

She describes herself as 5ft 10ins tall and a size 16 on a good day. ``If the media got hold of me and my dress sense, I would need a thick skin or prolonged visits to a health farm,'' she says. That, she believes, is the kind of information voters really only want ``if you have 10 minutes in the dentist's and nothing better to do.''