IT may seem strange to give a Lifetime Achievement award to someone who has just turned 54 and has not long embarked on a new career, but Lord Wallace has had a profound impact on Scottish politics.

As Baron Wallace of Tankerness, he has yet to make his full impact on the House of Lords, but as plain Jim Wallace he was a driving force behind devolution and, in becoming Deputy First Minister of Scotland, he was the first Liberal since Lloyd George to serve in government.

A native of Annan in Dumfriesshire, he became an adopted Orcadian when as a young advocate he succeeded Jo Grimond as Liberal MP for Orkney and Shetland in 1983, rising to become an employment spokesman and Liberal Democrat chief whip during 18 years at Westminster. But it was his commitment to Home Rule that saw him make his real mark. He became Scottish Liberal Democrat leader in 1992 and immersed himself in the work of the Scottish Constitutional Convention.

He worked there with the then general-secretary of the Labour Party in Scotland, Jack McConnell, and brokered the deal by which the Scottish Parliament would be elected by proportional representation.

After the 1979 referendum campaign, he stood as LibDem candidate for Orkney, having also secured the deal whereby Shetland would receive a separate MSP. Tavish Scott, MSP for Shetland and newly-elected leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, presented his colleague with his award, sponsored by Diageo, last night.

Mr Wallace led the LibDems into coalition talks with Labour after the 1999 Holyrood election, becoming Deputy First Minister under Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish, and then Mr McConnell, deputising as First Minister during each change of office. He served as Justice Minister and then Enterprise Minister.

Under his leadership, he took the Liberal Democrats to their highest-ever share of the vote in Scotland, maintaining 17 seats in the first and second terms of Holyrood.