Obituary: David Scott, Depute Provost of Perth

David Scott: Grocer whose local campaigning was so effective he became Depute Provost of Perth
David Scott: Grocer whose local campaigning was so effective he became Depute Provost of Perth
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Born: 24 April, 1942, in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire. Died: 28 September, 2013, in Bridge of Earn, Perthshire, aged 71

Dave Scott was a councillor for Perth and Kinross for close to 30 years, Depute Provost of Perth for six years and a major SNP activist in the fledgling Scottish parliament at the turn of the millennium. Until his dying breath, he was a passionate believer in Scottish independence. But he was perhaps best known and loved as “the Big Man” with the Zapata moustache who ran Scott’s grocery, newsagent and “sweetie shop” on Crieff Road in his beloved, adopted Perth.

From behind the counter in that shop in the town’s Tulloch area, Dave Scott inadvertently created what national politicians nowadays would call a “surgery” – people would flock there to seek some good honest advice – which is why the shopkeeper decided to go into local politics when he was already in his 40s. Elected to the Perth council in the 1980s, he served through four separate decades until ill health forced him to stay at home, and eventually a nursing home, two years ago.

Ill health did not stop him from following his favourite team, Aberdeen FC, until shortly before his death. Like many Glaswegians of his generation, he had turned his back on the two-team religious bigotry of his native city at that time and looked elsewhere for a chance to enjoy football as a sport rather than a war.

According to one of his daughters, Adele, his attendance in Gothenburg, Sweden, for the European Cup Winners’ Cup final on 11 May, 1983 was “the greatest night of his life”. (For those too young to remember, Aberdeen, managed by a certain Alex Ferguson, won 2-1 in extra time.)

David Macdonald Scott was born in Bishopbriggs, just north of Glasgow, where his parents had survived the Luftwaffe bombings a year earlier. The family moved to Almondbank, a village outside Perth, when he was a teenager and Perth became his home for most of the rest of his life.

He first worked as an insurance clerk for the General Accident company, at the time based in Perth, later to merge with Norwich Union and now part of Aviva plc. It was at General Accident that he fell in love with a secretary, Carol Gannon, a Perthshire lass who would become his wife and the love of his life. Whether or not Dave’s resemblance to Cliff Richard in those days influenced Carol’s decision remains an open question but she always said she’d still choose Dave over Cliff.

The couple later returned to his native Glasgow, where he became a sales rep for Quaker Oats and afterwards for Scotbeef Ltd, now Scotland’s leading red meat manufacturer and one of the largest procurers of Aberdeen Angus cattle.

The couple lived in Blackwood, south-east of Glasgow. It was in 1978 that Dave Scott decided to go into business on his own, buying a small shop at 145 Crieff Road, Perth, which he called “Scott’s Newsagents”. In fact, it was a general store. “He sold everything,” his daughter Adele told The Scotsman. “It was a little Aladdin’s Cave. I think it’s now an Indian takeaway. It became a focal point for locals who sought his advice.

“People found something genuine in my dad. Everybody knew him. There he was, behind the counter, usually drinking a Diet Coke, and that’s what made him realise he cold contribute to the community on a local political level.”

That local involvement quickly escalated. After being elected to the local council, Scott was named a Justice of the Peace, a member of the Police Board and a commissioner of the Fire Service – a wooden plaque from the Fire Service was one of his proudest possessions. Immediately after being elected councillor for the Tulloch ward of Perth, Scott was appointed Depute Provost – the council uses the traditional “Depute” rather than “Deputy” – and convenor of housing.

Based in the council’s office on Perth High Street, the latter job put him in charge of the council’s modernisation programme for council housing. In 1990 and 1993, that job became crucial when Dave Scott became a totally hands-on councillor. He played a key role in getting people re-housed after the serious regional floods.

When the new Scottish Parliament convened in 1999, Bruce Crawford, who had been a fellow councillor of Dave Scott in Perth and Kinross (Crawford is now MSP for Stirling) asked his old buddy to help him make the historic breakthrough as a Member of the Scottish Parliament. “I became chief whip,” Crawford told The Scotsman yesterday. “Dave was a wise old devil. We were all brand new in a brand new parliament. He worked behind the scenes for me. But what we had together was a deep commitment to independence for Scotland. He was a colourful character, larger than life. Perth, the SNP and Scotland as a whole will surely miss him.”

“Dave was a big man, big of stature, with a big moustache but, most important, big of heart. Perth will miss him,” said Sergeant Bob Tocher of the Tayside Division of the Police Service of Scotland. “I first walked into his shop as a young policeman, still feeling some trepidation about my job. Dave kind of took me under his wing and became almost like a mentor. He was a one-off, a wonderful human being. Dave loved to play the guitar. He kind of did it by ear. He loved rock’n’roll and was a massive Stones fan. He was effusive, bright, jolly. He could get intense, but I never once saw him angry. In my business, that is rare.”

According to his daughters, the death of his only son, Steven, in 2003 at the age of 34, had a major effect on his life and his health.

Dave Scott is survived by his wife Carol , their daughters Adele, Laura and Caroline, eight grandchildren, and his mother Janey. His son Steven predeceased him.