WITH the Covid pandemic forcing a pause in The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards, the judges have looked back at 21 years of previous winners to pick their best of the best.

In the first category, Best Scot At Westminster, they were unanimous. An individual winner in four years of the competition, Gordon Brown is simply a giant of Scottish politics.

A relentlessly energetic intellectual, he edited the historic Red Paper on Scotland while the 24-year-old rector of Edinburgh University.

Four years later he campaigned for a Yes vote in the Scottish Assembly referendum of 1979.

And four years after that he was elected as a Fife MP, sharing a Commons office with another promising rookie, Tony Blair.

A key figure in the Scottish Constitutional Convention, Mr Brown signed the Claim Of Right in 1989.


Stepping aside for Mr Blair to lead Labour in 1994, he became chancellor in 1997 and spent a decade in the job  – the longest stint in the modern era, and far longer than he wanted.

READ MORE: Herald Politician of the Year Awards - A Labour perspective

Prime minister when the financial crash came, he galvanised efforts to keep the world economy afloat, but failed to win Labour’s re-election in 2010.

He later made key interventions on behalf of the No side in the 2014 independence referendum, and is now set to return to the constitutional fray as chairman of Labour’s convention on reforming devolution, as part of his effort to save the Union from the  kack-handed embrace of Boris Johnson.

A prolific reader and author, Mr Brown continues to contribute to public life in print and in speeches, chiding governments north and south of the Border over the constitution, Brexit, coronavirus, poverty and unemployment. He is without parallel.

Also commended by the judges was two-time winner Angus Robertson.
The then SNP Westminster leader first won the award for masterminding his party’s historic 2011 election win at Holyrood. As the technically savvy campaign director, he worked behind the scenes to help the party gain an overall majority in its second term, paving the way for the first independence referendum.


Angus Robertson

His second win was for helping shepherd the newly elected 56-strong SNP group at Westminster after the tsunami 2015 General Election, as well as eclipsing Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs.

Now aiming to enter Holyrood next year as the MSP for Edinburgh Central, he is tipped as a possible SNP leader and first minister.

Another former chancellor singled out for praise was Alistair Darling.
The former Lothian Regional councillor and advocate was a constant face of the New Labour era.

Indeed, he was one of only three ministers, other than Mr Brown and Jack Straw, to serve continuously in Cabinet from 1997 to 2010.

READ MORE: Herald Politician of the Year Awards - A Labour perspective

His famous safe pair of hands saw him work as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Work and Pensions Secretary, Transport Secretary, Scottish Secretary, Trade Secretary and, finally, Chancellor.

Within months of taking on this last job, Britain saw the first run on a bank since 1860 as the credit crunch began.

He won the award in 2008 for helping steer the country away from a full-blown banking meltdown with the RBS bailout. After leaving the UK Government, he then took on the equally thankless task of leading Better Together in the 2014 independence referendum.

Robin Cook played a key role in modernising the Labour Party under Neil Kinnock in the 1980s and was rewarded with four years as foreign secretary under Mr Blair.
But the Livingston MP was better known, and admired, as a brilliant parliamentary debater.


Robin Cook

His response to the arms-to-Iraq affair in 1996 was regarded as one of the finest of the era. And it was another speech on Iraq that earned him the award in 2003.
His resignation statement in protest at UK-US military action against Saddam Hussein without UN approval was the first speech ever to receive a standing ovation in the Commons. 

He died in 2005. Also commended was Michael Moore. Born in Northern Ireland, where his father was a British Army chaplain, Michael Moore moved to Wishaw aged five and was raised and educated in Scotland.

A Borders MP from 1997 to 2015, he was the first Scottish secretary in the 2010 coalition and it fell to him to negotiate the terms of the independence referendum, and he was the signatories on the Edinburgh Agreement alongside Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and David Cameron.

His work ensured the vote would be a straight Yes-No response after Alex Salmond initially toyed with a multiple-choice ballot.