THE great and the good of the nation gathered in Edinburgh last night to celebrate the cream of Scottish talent at the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards.
Among those who received awards were actor Peter Capaldi and author Ian Rankin, while global overnight sensation Susan Boyle was named Top Scot of the Year.
In winning the title, the miner's daughter from West Lothian joins a roll call of famous names, from Harry Potter author JK Rowling to last year's winner, Sir Chris Hoy.
Accepting Boyle's award on her behalf last night, her older brother Gerry said: "It's amazing that she's won this. She still thinks she's the little lady from Blackburn. It's a tremendous achievement in what has been a tremendous year, and she is delighted and thrilled."
Capaldi took the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award in the screen category. It was richly deserved, after appearances this year ranging from hit film In the Loop to sketching his way through a documentary on the milestones of Scottish art.
Ronald Ross, dubbed "Ronaldo of the Glens" for his prowess in the quintessentially Scottish game of shinty – including scoring 1,000 senior career goals – won the sports award. He squeezed out contenders such as Catriona Matthew, the North Berwick golfer who is the first Scot to win the Women's British Open Golf Championship.
Also recognised were Nicky and Robert Wilson, the couple whose extraordinary outdoor collection of contemporary art opened to the public this year at Jupiter Artland, near Edinburgh airport. They won the art prize.
Judges in the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards, organised with The Scotsman as media partner, picked nominees in eight areas: : business; art; food; sport; music; screen; environment and writing.
In a measure of her surging stardom, singer Boyle was unable to attend the ceremony at Edinburgh's Prestonfield House Hotel as she was in Paris last night, promoting her album – part of a hectic string of appearances from New York to Germany and Australia.
The panel included The Scotsman editor John McLellan, Hogmanay impresario Peter Irvine and Sally Gordon, of William Grant & Sons. She is the great-great-grand-daughter of founder William Grant.
The winners are chosen from the nominees by a public vote, and the Top Scot award is decided by an open vote. Double Michelin-starred chef Andrew Fairlie and musician Midge Ure were among those in contention. But Boyle – who has gone from living in a West Lothian council house to earnings estimated at 10 million a year since her runner-up triumph on Britain's Got Talent – swept the competition aside.
"Congratulations to Susan Boyle and all the winners," said Mr McLellan. "I'm sure she will look back on this year with a huge sense of satisfaction, but also of astonishment. If ever there was a story of the triumph of hope, this is it."
The 48-year-old Scot, who has struggled with learning disabilities, will return to Scotland for Christmas with her family, her brother said.
"Susan Boyle has had a fairytale year; her incredible talent has catapulted her to international fame and captured the hearts of people around the world," said Elizabeth Lafferty, public relations manager for Glenfiddich in Scotland.
Author Ian Rankin won the writing award.
Mike Robinson, who as chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland shaped tough climate change legislation in the Scottish Parliament, won the environment award and Glasgow-born musician and composer John McCusker took the music category.
Richard Dixon, who founded Dumfermline-based Vets Now and built a network of 34 clinics across the UK, won the business category and Pete Gottgens, a South African chef who moved to Loch Tay to open the Ardeonaig Hotel, won the award for food.
AND THE WINNERS ARE . . .
Top Scot - Susan Boyle
Screen – Peter Capaldi
Writing – Ian Rankin
Art – Nicky & Robert Wilson – Jupiter Artland
Business – Richard Dixon – Vets Now
Environment - Mike Robinson - Stop Climate Chaos Scotland
Food – Pete Gottgens, Ardeonaig
Music – John McCusker
Sport – Ronald Ross, Shinty