Secret millionaire Scott hands museums £1m

SCOTLAND'S secret millionaire is at it again. He may be one of the nation's biggest philanthropists, but Dr Walter Scott is also one of its most private benefactors.

Worth around 150 million and estimated to be the 25th richest person in Scotland, Scott was last photographed in public in 1983.

Now his latest act of beneficence is to donate 1m towards the revamp of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Yet few people in the city would know what he looks like.

The former nuclear physicist described the institution as "one of the jewels in Scotland's architectural crown" and said in a statement that he hoped his gesture will help render the museum fit for the 21st century.

The reluctant Scott has come to the aid of a host of other organisations, including the National Trust for Scotland, Glasgow Humane Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Botanic Garden. Over the past 15 years, the graduate of Edinburgh and Cambridge universities has spent tens of millions of pounds quietly but diligently restoring Edinburgh's architecture, most notably in Charlotte Square.

The father-of-three, originally from Glasgow, spent around 35m restoring ten properties in the celebrated New Town site to their original Georgian splendour.

Scott's background in science spurred his interest in helping the National Museum of Scotland, which houses collections reflecting the achievements of Scots such as Sir James Black and Sir Alexander Fleming.

"I have been amazed by the ambitious vision to transform the Victorian Royal Museum building and the tremendous progress to date," he said in a statement. "National Museums is returning to us one of the jewels in Scotland's architectural crown.

"I am delighted to help make this happen. I am especially pleased to help fund Discoveries: it sits at the heart of the transformation of the museum and tells extraordinary stories of Scottish engagement with the world and its contribution to it."

Scott, who now divides his time between homes in Henley-on-Thames and the Cte d'Azur, made his fortune through investment management. He set up the firm Walter Scott & Partners in 1983 and quickly won a roster of blue chip clients. The company was sold to the US bank Melon in 2006. He left the company two years ago.

A former competitive rower, Scott has also backed various races at the capital's St Andrew Boat Club, while his five-figure annual sponsorship has allowed the annual Edinburgh and Glasgow universities' boat race to prosper.

Alan Easson, coordinator of the universities' rowing group at Scottish Rowing, said: "Dr Scott is a very private man. I've spoken to him a couple of times, and he's always been approachable, pleasant and helpful."

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said he was "tremendously grateful" to Scott for his donation.

He said: "Dr Walter Scott is a great supporter of our work and our ambitions."