Smith honoured for Spirited performance

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Key quote "These awards are a showcase for an incredibly rich variety of Scottish talent, which we are delighted to support." - Scotsman editor, Mike Gilson

Story in full WALTER Smith, the football manager who has led the Scotland side out of the doldrums, was last night voted the country's Top Scot.

Mr Smith carried off the coveted trophy at the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards, set up to recognise the contribution of leading Scots to the nation's cultural life.

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, the Paisley-born singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini, and the British wheelchair curling team, all of them Scots, were also among the award-winners.

The Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards are backed by the family-owned single-malt whisky company and co-sponsored by The Scotsman.

The Scotsman editor, Mike Gilson, said last night: "These awards are a showcase for an incredibly rich variety of Scottish talent, which we are delighted to support."

The First Minister, Jack McConnell, joined the glittering ceremony at Edinburgh's Prestonfield House Hotel, to be broadcast on STV at 11pm tomorrow, St Andrew's Day.

The GMTV presenter Lorraine Kelly hosted the event - which she said was intended to "celebrate all things Scottish", adding: "We are not very good at doing that."

Awards were handed out by the Rebus writer and past Top Scot winner Ian Rankin, television presenter Sarah Heaney, the football legend and sports pundit Ally McCoist, and Gleneagles chef Andrew Fairlie.

Mr Smith said that he was "absolutely delighted" to be honoured.

He added: "It's not often that someone in sport achieves something like this. It's a reflection of the performance of the entire team."

The growing hopes for Scottish football have helped increase Mr Smith's popularity. Since he stepped into the shoes of Berti Vogts, Scotland has soared in the world rankings. The team is currently joint top of their group for Euro 2008 qualification after the 1-0 win over France, while Celtic are also in the last 16 of the Champions League and Rangers are in the UEFA Cup knock-out stages.

The awards were decided with the help of public voting on the internet and by mobile phone from a judges' list of nominees.

The top chef Gordon Ramsay won the screen award, reflecting his ubiquitous presence on television. Paolo Nutini, just 19, won for music. The rising star's first album, These Streets, has gone platinum. He will play at this year's Edinburgh's Hogmanay concert.

The all-Scottish members of the British wheelchair curling team won the award for sport, squeezing out better-known names like the tennis star Andy Murray and the young Aberdonian golfer, Richie Ramsay.

This January, the team won the world wheelchair curling championships in Glasgow. They are going on to compete in the Torino 2006 Winter Paralympic Games.

The writer and producer David MacLennan won the theatre award, a new category.

In business, the managing director of First ScotRail, Mary Dickson, won what is the latest in a string of awards. Ms Dickson led FirstGroup's successful bid for the ScotRail franchise in 2004.


Top Scot Award: Walter Smith, football manager

Business: Mary Dickson, managing director, First Scotrail

Theatre: David MacLennan, writer, producer of A Play, a Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor, Glasgow

Sport: The all-Scottish GB wheelchair curling team, world champions for two years

Food: Really Garlicky Co, which supplies supermarkets, farmers' markets and local shops with garlic

Music: Paolo Nutini, singer- songwriter who will perform at this year's Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh

Screen: Gordon Ramsay, celebrity chef, star of TV's Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares

Writing: Alan Spence, poet and playwright, director of Word Festival, Aberdeen

Art: Claire Barclay, Glasgow-based installation artist who has exhibited worldwide in materials including metal, leather, canvas and fur

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