HE wants to hold on to the pound in the event of a Yes vote, but there are a few excess pounds Alex Salmond is apparently intent on shifting ahead of next year's referendum on independence.

The First Minister is rumoured to have adopted an intermittent fasting diet favoured by celebrities including Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck in the build-up to the ballot in September 2014.

The rapid 5:2 weight loss regime, made famous by British physician Michael Mosley in his book The Fast Diet, advocates two days of a strict low-calorie intake – around 600 a day for men – and five days of sensible eating. The recommended average daily calorie intake is about 2000 for women and 2500 for men.

It is claimed that dieters can shed 1lb a week, while studies have also shown improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity.

Aides have reportedly encouraged Mr Salmond, 58, to walk rather than take a chauffeur-driven car between engagements, although it is a suggestion that hasn't proven popular due to the prospect of him being stopped regularly by members of the public.

A source told a Sunday newspaper there have been concerns about Mr Salmond's weight since the death of former Labour leader John Smith from a heart attack in 1994.

The SNP leader said in February 2011 he had embarked on a weight loss regime to prepare for the Scottish election campaign that year.

He lost a stone before his Holyrood election victory in 2007, then cutting out curries, late-night snacks and bottles of Lucozade.

TV diet guru Gillian McKeith has lambasted Mr Salmond in the past for lecturing Scots on healthy living while "his belly is hanging over his belt".

He also came in for criticism in 2009 following the publication of MPs' expenses which showed he pocketed the maximum £400 a month in food expenses for the first four months of 2007, whilst claiming to be on a diet.