David McLetchie’s lifelong passion for politics

McLetchie began his career as a lawyer in Edinburgh. Picture: Colin Hattersley
McLetchie began his career as a lawyer in Edinburgh. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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David McLetchie’s involvement in Scottish political life began 45 years ago when, as a teenager, he first became active as young Conservative.

He went on to hold several senior positions within the party, including a seven-year stint as leader of the Scottish Tories, before standing down in 2005 amid controversy over his taxi expenses.

More recently, he was Conservative chief whip and business manager and latterly the party’s justice spokesman.

Born in 1952, Mr McLetchie attended Leith Academy and George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh before attending Edinburgh University where he gained a law degree, graduating in 1974. He qualified as a solicitor in 1976 and joined Tods Murray WS in Edinburgh, becoming a partner in 1980.

After the 1997 general election, which saw the Tories ejected from every Scottish constituency, he took part in a root-and-branch review of the party. In 1998 he was elected leader of the party’s group of Holyrood candidates and led the campaign for the first Scottish Parliament elections the following year, in which the party won 18 list seats.

Mr McLetchie cemented his position in the 2003 Holyrood election, defeating Labour’s Iain Gray to win the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency.

During his time as Tory leader, Mr McLetchie hounded then-first minister Henry McLeish mercilessly over the “officegate” affair, which led to the Labour MSP resigning as first minister in 2001.

But he came under pressure over his expenses, and it emerged he had billed the taxpayer for a journey to the Tory Party conference in Bournemouth in 2002.

He notified Holyrood officials of errors in his claims in March 2005 and repaid them. But the controversy refused to go away, resulting in his resignation.

He remained in Holyrood as an MSP, winning the Pentlands seat in 2007 with an increased majority. Although he lost this seat in 2011, he remained a list MSP for the Lothian region.

He was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours earlier this year.