Iain Scott

Born: March 13, 1957;

Died: June 25, 2021

IAIN Scott, who has died aged 64, was a former sports editor of The Herald and the Evening Times, and universally regarded as one of the best production journalists of his era.

Scotty, as he was known to all in the trade, was recruited for and successful in leading sports posts for The Sun, the short-lived Sunday Scot and, latterly, the Daily Record, in addition to his outstanding work for The Herald and Evening Times.

His name will not be instantly recognisable to readers, because Scotty’s duties were focused on the all-consuming business of editing rather than writing. His extraordinary talent was to marshal writers to cover the best stories of the day with insight and freshness.

He was an old-style journalist but one who reacted easily to the imperatives of the changing face of newspapers. He influenced a generation of sports writers with his advice and guidance but was also at home when commissioning or leading writers such as Ken Gallacher, Alan Davidson or Archie Macpherson.

Scotty had a great respect for these journalists: their experience, their contacts, their ability to produce exclusives or analysis quickly and accurately. He revelled, too, in hearing the newspaper stories from the days of unlimited expenses and conspicuous excesses.

He was an integral part of one of the great newspaper exclusives of his age – the signing of Mo Johnston for Rangers in 1989 – and loved and sometimes lived to produce the scoop that would dismay rivals and invigorate staff.

Scotty worked hard at his job and expected colleagues to do the same. However, he was a generous executive. Reporters would wake to texts from Scotty praising their efforts in that day’s edition. He regarded the production of newspapers as a serious business but was a humorous man. This sense of fun was disguised by a dryness of tone and sometimes escaped notice as it was articulated from the side of his mouth and without unnecessary drama.

He occasionally wrote pithy, funny and informed columns but this was not his passion. Asked by this colleague why he did not write more often, he replied: “I leave that to the amateurs.” This was said with mischief but while looking me straight in the eye.

Scotty was simply seduced by the business.

He remarked often how he was blessed to do what he loved. He was a football supporter to the very marrow of his being. He followed Rangers and Scotland, taking particular delight in his tales of the Tartan Army, most notably the invasion of Spain for the World Cup in 1982.

A sojourn on the beach left Scotty so sunburned that he had to be carried into the stadium. He insisted later that the damage this had inflicted prompted him to be instructed in the Spanish for “stick a fork in him and turn him over, he’s done”. This might not be strictly accurate but history records that he made the match.

A Prestwick boy, he came into newspapers as a teenager, working in his native Ayrshire and then Argyll. He moved to the Stirling Observer in the late 1970s, where his talent and drive became apparent. His allegiance was to his work rather than to any desire to ascend poles that are notably greasy in newspapers.

It became obvious, though, that his power to revolutionise the sports pages of The Observer would be recognised in the wider industry.

His career thus entered a new and unbroken phrase as a senior executive, often sports editor, in a series of national newspapers. There was more than occasional turbulence in these roles but Scotty maintained a steady course. He was a good man to have at the helm in times of crisis.

If professional life could become frantically complicated at times, his personal life was conducted with enduring simplicity. His long and close relationship with his wife, Libby, had begun in his teenage years while working in Argyll. Libby came from Tarbert, Loch Fyne, and though the couple spent all their married life in Stirling, there were regular holidays in their Argyll haven.

Their marriage produced four children: Iain, Alasdair, Jamie and Cara. Another generation followed in the the shape of grandchildren Sarah, Miley, Cooper, Mia, Arabella and Ollie. It was obvious he loved his wife and children though he was not a man for the overly emotional outburst. He was simply besotted with his grandchildren.

He was a constant friend. He did not gush. One would not see him for months but he had the ability to pick up a conversation from way back. It was easy to rekindle affection and intimacy. Scotty would recoil at such sentiments but it was part of his essence to be a loyal, close mate.

Outside his family, his interests were deceptively straightforward. He liked a bottle of beer, he loved a natter about newspapers and journalists, and enjoyed watching football, where he would spit out perfect headlines to accompany every change in the drama playing out on screen. He had a passion, too, for reading, with American crime writing his favoured genre.

His premature death is, of course, a blow to his family but it will be felt strongly in journalism. Apart from his substantial professional gifts, privately he could do a good turn to others without fuss and without any expectation of recompense down the line.

He was a great journalist and a good man.

Hugh MacDonald