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Lady Steel: my role in the sex scandal that shook Scotland

Lady Judy Steel has broken a 50-year silence over her involvement in a bizarre sex scandal that destroyed the career of a former cabinet member, rocked Scotland’s legal establishment and inspired a London West End play.

In 1973 David Anderson, a war hero and junior Scottish Office minister, was convicted and fined £50 for accosting two 14-year-old girls and asking them to walk over his naked body and kick him.

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The distinguished QC, who served as Solicitor General in the Conservative governments of Harold Macmillan and Sir Alex Douglas-Hume, protested his innocence until his death in 1995, insisting he had been set up by KGB agents.

However, Lady Steel, the wife of former Liberal leader Lord David Steel, has revealed in her newly published memoirs that Anderson made a near identical proposition to her 14 years earlier when she was a teenage fresher at Edinburgh University.

A host of high-profile figures including former Foreign Secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Robin Cook, as well as playwright John Hale, suggested the lawyer had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice and had called for his conviction to be quashed.

However, Lady Steel has revealed that a youthful encounter with Anderson convinced her of his guilt.

The 70-year-old recalled how she was beckoned over to a stranger’s car near Edinburgh’s George Square one evening in 1959.

The well-dressed man swore her to secrecy, explaining he was “something high up at the University”, before issuing a unexpected and highly unusual invitation.

She said: “He explained he had taken on a bet with a female friend, a Wren, about how much pain he could withstand and asked would I go with him to a gym and walk over him and stamp on him, preferably in stilettos.

“Did the offer of a fiver cross his lips? I honestly can’t remember, but I did think it was a very odd thing to take a bet about. I tried to imagine doing what he asked, but decided that it was really not for me and declined the gym visit.

“Again, he rejoined me to remain silent about the matter and I agreed to do this.”

Lady Steel finally learned the stranger’s identity years later when she went to see a play entitled The Case of David Anderson QC, at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre.

She said: “Anderson -- who was played by Corin Redgrave -- had been on stage for only a short time when I realised that the lines I was hearing were familiar to me: requests to the girls to walk over him, excuses about a bet with a friend who was a Wren.

“I had heard them all before in a car on a winter evening in George Square. I had completely forgotten the incident and now it was unfolding in front of me.”

She recalled the man had worn a Glenalmond School tie and learned from the play that Anderson was a former pupil of the prestigious Perthshire private school.

She said: “It brought home the realisation that I was one of a string of young women to whom he had made this suggestion. Far from convincing me of Anderson’s innocence (the play) confirmed his guilt.”

The portrait of Anderson also revealed he had lectured in law at Edinburgh University between 1947 and 1960.

The play, which suggested that the lawyer had been wronged, went on to be performed in London, where it gained critical plaudits.

The lurid reasons for the implosion of the high-flying QC’s political career led to the episode being dubbed ‘Scotland’s Profumo Affair’ -- after the 1963 sex scandal involving secretary of state for war John Profumo and model and showgirl Christine Keeler , which rocked the Macmillan administration.

In 2002 Anderson’s conviction was reviewed in a rare posthumous move. However, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission concluded there had been no miscarriage of justice and announced his conviction stood.

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