A former Scottish provost will reveal how he turned down a meeting with the most powerful man in the free world to honour a scheduled visit to steel workers in Baltimore.

As Dundee’s Lord Provost from 2001 to 2012, John Letford was the longest-serving civic head in the UK since the 19th century, which he recalls in his autobiography 'Fae the Boatyaird to Buckingham Palace’ .

He will launch the book at the University of Dundee on Thursday, when he will talk about his life and the sometimes unsavoury side of local politics.

His period as Lord Lieutenant of Dundee brought him into contact with the Royal Family, heads of state and A-list celebrities. But he says he never lost sight of his working-class roots, demonstrated by his decision to decline President George W Bush’s invitation to the White House.

Professor Sir Pete Downes, Principal of Dundee University said: “John Letford was a fantastic ambassador for the city of Dundee and a great friend to the University before, during and after his time in office.

“It is fitting that his autobiography be launched here as he helped enhance town and gown relations and was awarded an Honorary Degree from the University in recognition of all he had done for the city. His career is a unique and fascinating one and I am sure John’s book will be illuminating for anyone who has watched political developments in Dundee and Scotland over the past few decades.”

Born in Aberdeen, John Letford moved to Dundee in 1943. He served his apprenticeship in the Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Company shipyard and also completed his National Service in the Royal Air Force. He latterly became a councillor in Tayside Regional Council and was elected to Dundee City Council following the reorganisation of Scottish local authorities in 1994.

He was elected Lord Provost of the city seven years later. Following the damaging stalemate that followed the 2009 local elections, Mr Letford resigned from the Labour Party to serve as an independent councillor and remain the Lord Provost of the new SNP administration, a controversial move that dramatically altered the city’s political scene.