Top Scots honoured at Spirit of Scotland awards

Commonwealth Gold Medallists Euan Burton, Louise and Kimberley Rennicks and Josh Taylor. Picture: Alex Hewitt

Commonwealth Gold Medallists Euan Burton, Louise and Kimberley Rennicks and Josh Taylor. Picture: Alex Hewitt

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Last night actor James McAvoy, singer Paolo Nutini, artist John Byrne and broadcaster Sally Magnusson joined the ranks of the winners of Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards.

This year’s winners were honoured at a ceremony at Edinburgh’s Prestonfield hotel.

Magnusson was nominated for her moving memoir tackling her mother’s long battle with dementia, while Byrne, one of the nation’s most venerated artists, was recognised with a exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery this year.

McAvoy was honoured days after being named best film actor for playing a crooked detective in the Irvine Welsh adaptation Filth, while 2014 saw Nutini release his third album to acclaim and perform headline gigs at T in the Park and Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Glasgow.

Among the other contenders were current Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi; Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers and playwright Rona Munro, whose trilogy The James Plays was staged in Edinburgh and London. The awards, now in their 17th year, are jointly organised by The Scotsman and the family-owned firm William Grant & Sons behind the Speyside whisky brand.

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Jonathan MacDonald, a rising star of Glasgow’s culinary scene; Jennie Martin, founder of an environmental education charity based in the Highlands, and Gavin Dutch, founder of a leading mobile app development company in Edinburgh, also picked up honours. Scotland’s Commonwealth Games medal-winning heroes were given a joint honour to recognise the “inspiring” efforts of those who thrilled the crowds in Glasgow this summer.

The Top Scot of 2014 award went to children’s series Me Too! actor Matthew McVarish, who is currently walking 10,000 miles around Europe’s major cities to raise awareness about the sexual abuse of children. McVarish, from Lanarkshire, waived his right to anonymity last year – just before setting off on his walk – to tell how he had been preyed on by his uncle as a child.

The nominees, chosen by an expert panel which included various correspondents from The Scotsman, were put out to an online public poll.

However, there was an open vote for the prestigious title of Top Scot, whose previous winners include singer Susan Boyle and Sir Chris Hoy. Speaking from Portugal, McVarish, an ambassador for child abuse support group Stop The Silence, told The Scotsman: “I’m in my 28th country at the moment. I’ve been walking for 18 months now, doing around 40 miles a day, and I’m not due to finish until the beginning of February next year, when I plan to arrive in Edinburgh. I’m really proud of the fact this award has been voted on by the public. It’s a real testament to the people of Scotland.” Jonathan Grant, great, great grandson of the whisky company’s founder William Grant, said: “The roll call of winners is so illustrious that it amounts to a kind of Scottish hall of fame.”

Ian Stewart, editor of The Scotsman, said: “2014 will go down in history not only as the year in which Scotland held its independence referendum but also as the year in which we showed to the world our ability to organise and deliver events of the highest calibre for a worldwide audience.

“From political debate to sporting competition, Scotland has led the way and demonstrated that a small country can be inspirational and world-leading, as well as beautiful.”

Judo star Euan Burton said: “It’s a great honour for the whole team to be mentioned in the same company as some of the people who have won awards tonight. It’s fantastic for us all.

“We just see ourselves as athletes. We just go out and do what we are trained to do to the best of our ability and hopefully end up on the rostrum.

“Although this was awarded to all the medalists, it is really for the whole of Team Scotland.”

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