Tributes paid to Scotland's most colourful lawyer

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ONE of the Scottish legal profession’s most colourful characters, Raymond Fraser, has died. He was 55 and had been suffering from cancer.

Renowned for a flamboyant style of dress and speech, Mr Fraser was widely regarded in his heyday as an advocate with a glittering career in his grasp.

A serious drink problem, however, reduced him to a forlorn figure and the ultimate shame of appearing in the dock on a shoplifting charge.

Colin Campbell, QC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: "Raymond Fraser had many talents as an advocate and was particularly effective in front of juries. He was a colourful and popular member of faculty who will live long in the memory of his many friends in Parliament House."

Born in Edinburgh, Mr Fraser attended George Heriot’s School and studied law at Edinburgh University where he graduated with honours. His contemporaries included Lord James Douglas Hamilton, Malcolm Rifkind and Robin Cook, who were all to make their mark in politics.

It was a field in which Mr Fraser also took an interest, serving as president of the Conservative club at university and standing for the Tories in Orkney and Shetland in the 1974 general election.

He joined the Faculty of Advocates in 1971, after "devilling" (serving an apprenticeship) with the late Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, QC.

Mr Fraser denied taking his dress sense of cravat, frock coat and top hat from the equally outlandish Sir Nicky. He once said: "I’ve always loved Edwardian and Victorian clothes. I think the way I dressed was elegant. "

Success as an advocate enabled Mr Fraser to live the high life and his exploits became legendary, with drink inevitably playing a leading role.

He was said to have sneaked into a party in Casablanca being held by the King of Morocco, and he himself threw a wild "eviction party" when he left Bonaly Tower, Edinburgh, the former home of the 19th century judge Lord Cockburn, and a far cry from the humble lodgings where Mr Fraser lived latterly.

In 1993, he was fined 2,000 and banned for seven years for driving with more than four times the legal alcohol level. Earlier he had represented the Duke of Hamilton, who was given an eight-year disqualification for drink-driving, and Mr Fraser’s remarks after his court appearance about "beating the duke by a year" led to a suspension and a severe reprimand from the Faculty of Advocates.

His fall from grace was completed and his career ended by two events in the late Nineties. He appeared for a man at Stirling Sheriff Court, unsteady on his feet and smelling of alcohol, and proceeded to tender the wrong plea.

He was arrested in Princes Street having, again befuddled by drink, walked out of Jenners without paying for cravats, a tie and a hat worth 192.80. He was ultimately admonished. At the time, a friend summed up the feelings of many when he said: "It’s very sad. Raymond is a great talent, wasted."