Born: November 6, 1946;

Died: October 15, 2021.

ROBERT William Black, who has died aged 74, was the first Auditor General for Scotland, and a public servant of long and distinguished standing.

He was the scrutineer of public finances when the soaring costs of the new Scottish Parliament building became an international story, after the early mooted cost of £55 million rose to more than £400m in the space of six years. The changes made in the design after construction work began, and the lack of a single point of leadership, were highlighted by

Dr Black as major reasons for the delays and overspend.

That complex saga became tied up with the credibility of the new parliament and was probably the most high-profile single case Black dealt with, but he treated every report he put his name to with respect and seriousness.

He had a reputation for integrity, rigour and impartiality, and was appreciated for his warmth in his personal dealings. A committed public servant, his career in local government and national auditing spanned more than four decades, but he also had a rich personal hinterland away from work, encompassing a love of music, many friendships and a large family that was an unending source of pride and delight.

The Banff-born Black grew up mainly in Aberdeen, the son of grain manager Robert Black and Nell (nee Gray), who worked in a lawyer’s office. He had a younger sister, Norma. Unknown to him at the time, he was growing up around the corner from his future wife, Doreen Riach. They would pass one another in the street but did not meet properly until their early 20s.

Being in the Scouts was a significant part of his childhood and, at 19, he was made a Queen’s Scout, the movement’s highest award. Schooled at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, he went on to study economics at the University of Aberdeen before doing Master’s degrees in town planning at

Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and public policy at the University of Strathclyde.

In 1970, he and Doreen married and moved to Nottingham, where Robert took his first job, as a planning officer for Nottinghamshire County Council. A few years later, now with two children, they returned to Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire, and he became a senior planning official in Glasgow.

In 1985, he became chief executive of Stirling District Council and the family relocated to Callander. In 1990, he was appointed chief executive of Tayside Regional Council, an area covering Dundee, Perth & Kinross and Angus. Council chief executives met together regularly at this time to share good practice and provide mutual support, and out of those meetings enduring friendships grew, lasting into retirement.

In 1995, he was made controller of audit at the Accounts Commission, which holds local government to account, and then, in 2000, became the first Auditor-General under the devolved Scottish Parliament.

His work was vital both to designing the new public audit system and implementing it. He set the tone for Audit Scotland, its independence, expertise and rigour; when he made a pronouncement, ministers listened. He performed a crucial role in building Audit Scotland’s reputation in parliament and wider society, explaining why it mattered to have the national auditor providing checks and balances on the spending of public money.

Audit Scotland was innovative

in uniquely auditing both central government, under the oversight of the Auditor-General, and local government, under the Accounts Commission, meaning that on issues such as social care, education and housing, which cut across both, issues could be observed in the round.

As a manager and colleague, Black was committed to high standards and supporting people to develop their potential.

After leaving his role in 2012, he received a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list. He was awarded honorary doctorates in law from

the University of Aberdeen and business administration from

Queen Margaret in Edinburgh. Dr Black continued working in various roles, including as a board member of the British Library, a university court member at Edinburgh and Stirling universities, an honorary vice-president of Shelter Scotland, an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, and a member of the council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

As recently as last year, he authored an independent report on the governance of the Scottish Police Authority, and was subsequently made a member of its board.

Retirement, however, also gave him a chance to focus on music. A gifted baritone, he had sung with the Scottish National Orchestra choir at university, and carried on singing right up until his time at the helm of Stirling Council, when his children remember him warming up his voice in the lounge before choir practice.

After leaving Audit Scotland, he joined the Rosenethe Choir in Dunblane. The choir sang at his funeral. He was also a keen fiddler, playing mainly classical but also some folk music.

His children picked up their parents’ passion for music, playing between them the bassoon, clarinet, cello and French horn. He and his wife are lovingly remembered by their children as supportive hands-on parents who took great joy in their grandchildren.

Doreen, a proponent of early-years education, who was made an MBE for her work with the Scottish Pre-school Play Association, died in October 2018.

During a short period with bowel cancer, Dr Black received the support of Macmillan “Mac2” nurses.

He is survived by his sister Norma, his children Emily, a garden designer; Angus, who works for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service; Duncan, head of audit at Glasgow City Council; and Colin, a GP, as well as 10 grandchildren aged three to 15.