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The Dinwoodie Interview

IT’S ONE thing to be a terrific natural raconteur, but when you’ve had as many careers as cats have lives, it takes story-telling to another level. And so it was as three hours in a restaurant in Bridge of Allan flashed by in what seemed like moments, reminiscences pouring forth from George Reid.

A veteran of newspapers and broadcasting, of both Westminster and Holyrood, and of the International Red Cross where he dealt with humanitarian crises around the world, he is still at the age of 78 teaching as a professor at Stirling University, although as we met he was joining his union comrades on strike over cuts to pensions.

The former Presiding Officer credited with rescuing the Holyrood building project was served sherry with his tutorials as a student at St Andrews, learned his journalism in the hard-nosed Glasgow school on the Express, was a long time co-presenter of a television news programme with no less than Michael Parkinson, and was one of the “First Eleven” SNP group at Westminster in the turbulent 1970s.

He spent the next decade globetrotting the disaster zones of the world with the Red Cross, working his way around the KGB and African despots to bring relief during famines and earthquakes, before returning to politics in the 1990s at the Scottish Parliament where, as second PO, he not only tackled the building project debacle but took action which prevented an expenses scandal exploding in Edinburgh in the way it did at Westminster.

And then to “retirement”, in which he was invited to troubleshoot at Stormont and Cardiff Bay assemblies, and also grapple with a foe more deadly than the KGB, the bourgeois establishment running the National Trust for Scotland. Now, after overcoming life-threatening bladder cancer, he has come full circle back to the career he first intended for himself, academia. And this whole colourful tapestry spanning seven decades is adorned with the most wonderful anecdotes.

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iScot issue # 40 - April 2018 is now available to download - we apologise in advance for the sensitive nature of the front cover and suggest that one displays the issue face down on one’s coffee table.