ITis a tale of two brothers from Arran. One grew up on the hillside learning farm skills from his dad, while the other was in the family tearoom learning people skills from his mum.

One grew up to coax and cajole his most loyal friends into steering unthinking herding creatures into small spaces in which they remain penned - and the first minister's wee brother does the same with sheepdogs.

With the parliament in recess, Jack McConnell has recently been getting upstaged, at least in upland Scotland, by his 43-year-old brother Iain.

Yesterday, Iain was in Derbyshire, representing his country in the final of One Man and His Dog, the BBC programme's annual championship, now in its 30th year.

Last weekend, the younger brother achieved the highly unusual feat of getting two of his dogs into the final 15 placings in the Scottish championships in Campbeltown. And in the recent world championships in Ireland, Iain McConnell and Jaff, his six-year old Border collie, were placed tenth.

Yesterday's challenge for Jaff was to drive a f lock of 50 sheep away from his master and round a demanding course at Chatsworth House. According to Mr McConnell, that goes against a dog's instinct to bring sheep back to their master, and the difficulty was compounded by having eight times as many sheep as usual for competitions.

He said: "I've watched One Man and His Dog on telly for 30 years, so just to get a chance to compete in it is great."

Iain McConnell, two years younger than the first minister, lives near Fort William and works as a manager for Marine Harvest, the fish farm company. Working sheepdogs is his hobby, for which he rents some land and keeps a f lock of 30 sheep.

Iain McConnell explained that his big brother tried shepherding as a boy, but never took to it. He was better at working in the tearoom: "That could have given him his people skills, " he said.

The first minister phoned him ahead of his weekend in Derbyshire to wish him well.

"We're not holding out for it, but it would please a lot of people, " said yesterday's finalist.

The Herald is not able to report whether the three Scottish finalists beat their opponents, for fear of spoiling viewers' televisual fun when the programmes are broadcast at the end of the year. But we can report that Jaff was seen wagging his tail on the eight-hour drive home . . .