Aine Harrington

DISGRACED senior Scottish civil servant George Pottinger, jailed for corruption and conspiracy during the infamous 1970s Poulson scandal, has died aged 81.

Pottinger collapsed during a game of tennis last Thursday at a friend's house close to his home in Balsham, near Cambridge.

The distinguished civil servant was being talked of as a future candidate for head of the Scottish Office before his fall from grace in 1974, when he was sentenced to five years, later reduced to four on appeal, during the Poulson case.

Pottinger was jailed for taking #30,000 worth of bribes in the shape of holidays, cars, Savile Row suits, and help with the purchase of his palatial Edinburgh house, from the corrupt millionaire architect John Poulson.

The Poulson case led to the resignations of then Home Secretary and Edward Heath's deputy Prime Minister Reginald Maudling and the jailing of the Newcastle city councillor leader T. Dan Smith.

It also brought to light allegations of a UK-wide network of bribery and corruption among MPs, civil servants, councillors, and local authority officials who supplied Poulson with lucrative contracts in the1950s and 1960s.

By the late 1960s, Poulson's architecture practice was the biggest in Europe and in the 10 years preceding his downfall he paid out more than #500,000 to influence people.

Yorkshire-born Poulson, who died in 1993, first came to prominence during the 1960s in Scotland as the designer of the Aviemore ski and leisure resort.

Pottinger, then with the Scottish Development Department, was put in charge of the Aviemore scheme and this is how he first met Poulson.

Ten years after that meeting, Pottinger was serving a prison sentence for corruption, having been found guilty of accepting lavish gifts from Poulson, who was said to have believed that Pottinger used his influence to secure contracts for the Poulson practice.

Poulson also designed and built the civil servant's luxurious house ''Pelicans'', overlooking the Muirfield golf course in East Lothian, where Pottinger was a member.

Ironically, Pottinger, then Permanent Secretary at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries at the Scottish Office, had reached the brandy and cigars stage of dinner at Muirfield in the company of two sheriffs and a High Court Judge when he was summoned to his home to speak to the Fraud Squad.

During the court hearing, a key element of the scandal emerged when Pottinger admitted Poulson also part paid the mortgage for his Gullane house ''as a gift''.

Sentencing Pottinger to jail, Mr Justice Waller said: ''You have let down the honourable service to which you belonged.''

At the time of his arrest, Pottinger had already started a parallel career as a historian and author with a history of Muirfield golf course. When released from jail, he took up his new profession of full-time author once more.

Pottinger died before seeing the publication of his latest work - a collection of biographies of famous modern Scots, called Scotland the Brave.