CIVIL liberties campaigner Helena Kennedy and Scots playwright David Greig are among the honorary fellows to join one of the country's most prestigious societies.

They are among 53 distinguished individuals elected to become Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) from a wide variety of disciplines spanning the arts, business, science and technology sectors.

The RSE also said it has moved to encourage young women to excel in their chosen professions and several new fellows are "notable role models in this regard".

They will join those past and present who have strived to attain the RSE's founding mission: "The advancement of learning and useful knowledge."

New fellows are elected each year via a rigorous five-stage nomination process.

The breadth of the fellowship, which includes more than 1500 people from Scotland, the rest of the UK and beyond, ensures that the RSE can provide leadership and excellence across all areas of public life.

The RSE said female role models among the new fellows include Honorary Fellow Professor Margaret Buckingham, who joins in recognition of her work on heart development and stem cells, Professor Rebecca Lunn, a leading geosciences engineer and head of University of Strathclyde's school of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor Annabel Glasier, a world leader in the study of sexual and reproductive health.

The list also includes Corresponding Fellow Professor Barbara Grosz in recognition of her achievements in the field of artificial intelligence and Dr Rabinder Buttar, of clinical research company Clintec International based in Glasgow.

The majority of the fellows come from the science and technology sectors.

Several, however, have enjoyed careers in the arts and other non-academic spheres and they include Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, QC, who becomes an Honorary Fellow as a leading human rights lawyer and civil liberties campaigner Sir Peter Maxwell Davies becomes an Honorary Fellow as one of the most distinguished conductors and composers in Europe.

David Greig, the leading Scottish playwright, whose work has been staged throughout the UK and translated into 25 languages, and Steven Osborne, the concern pianist, who has made a great contribution to cultural life in Scotland through his commitment to music and encouraging young people in the arts were also included

Bruce Minto of the corporate law firm Dickson Minto, and chair of the National Museum of Scotland and Ben Thomson of the corporate finance firm Inverleith LLP, the think-tank Reform Scotland, and chairman of the National Galleries of Scotland were among the new fellows from the business sector who have enjoyed successful careers internationally and who now also hold leading positions with two of Scotland's most respected cultural institutions:

President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Sir John Arbuthnott, said: "The Fellowship is at the very heart and soul of the work of the RSE.

"One of my most rewarding duties is to oversee the highly-selective process that identifies which of the outstanding candidates nominated each year should be recommended for election to the Fellowship of the RSE.

"With such a great number of highly distinguished individuals joining this year, I have every confidence that they will bring the exceptional skills and experience needed by the RSE to continue its 230-year history of supporting excellence across all areas of academic and public life in Scotland."