Obituary: Sir Alan Turner Peacock, academic economist

Born: 26 June, 1922, near Newcastle. Died: 2 August, 2014, in Edinburgh, aged 92

Alan Peacock: Outstanding economist, adviser to ministers, and academic with a passion for the arts

Alan Peacock was an outstanding academic economist who also played an important role in public life.

Educated at Dundee High School and St Andrews University, he served as a naval officer on small ships from 1942 to 1945, and received the Distinguished Service Cross for his work in intelligence.

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After the war he lectured first at St Andrews and then at the London School of Economics, becoming Professor of Economic Science at Edinburgh University in 1957. He left Edinburgh to found the Economics Department at the University of York. Between 1975 and 1986 he was seconded as economic adviser to the Department of Trade and Industry, providing trenchant and often effective advice to ministers.

In 1978 he moved to the University of Buckingham, the only private university in Britain, and served as Principal and Vice-Chancellor from 1980 until 1984. He was a strong and effective leader, and developed Buckingham considerably during his tenure.

In 1985, together with the present writer, he set up the David Hume Institute, a think-tank to research into and comment upon public policy, and became its first director, serving until 1990.

Alan was a member of the committee set up in 1985 by Margaret Thatcher to examine the financing of the BBC. She had hoped that it would promote her wish to privatise the BBC but the report, though accepting the merits of private broadcasting, considered the continuation of public financing inevitable.

Alan’s passion for music led him into composition, mainly for his friends. While Professor in Edinburgh, he also played effective comic parts in university productions of operetta. He chaired the Hebrides Ensemble for several years. In 1986 he succeeded the present writer as chairman of the Scottish Arts Council, thus also becoming a member of the Arts Council of Great Britain (ACGB).

He chaired a committee of ACGB which assessed the recent funding of orchestras in England. It reported, to chairman Sir William Rees-Mogg’s disappointment, that inflation had not affected their funding.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was awarded several honorary doctorates by universities at home and abroad.

Alan studied ceaselessly and wrote continuously on the economics of art and culture.

His work as an academic and in the arts earned him early distinction which grew with the years. He became a dominant figure in his generation.

He was knighted in 1987.