Born: September 6, 1958;

Died: January 25, 2022.

FROM modest beginnings – she was the fourth child of parents who arrived in Dundee from Nakodar, India, and was their first to be born in Scotland – Rani Dhir, who has died aged 63, became an important contributor to public life in Scotland.

Identified by the Sunday Herald as one of Scotland’s top businesswomen, Rani – her name meant ‘queen’– played a key role as a member of the Calman Commission which shaped Scottish devolution. Her easy interaction with professionals and the public helped to collect and collate views on how devolution should work.

Her intelligence and insight helped to produce a report which changed constitutional arrangements to serve the people of Scotland better, increased the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and continued to secure the position of Scotland within the UK.

From 2004 she was a board member of the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board, at a time of media scrutiny, hospital rationalisation and the delivery of community-based services. She went on to be a director of NHS Health Scotland and to chair two Community Health Partnerships.

Her charitable work at the Lloyds TSB Foundation, meantime, led to an appointment to the board of the bank itself, and further recognition with Fellowship of the Institute of Banking in Scotland.

At the award-winning charity, Ankur Productions, Rani helped challenge cultural perceptions in the arts, hosting encounters between artists and audiences from different traditions. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

She served on the Scottish Legal Aid Board, making sensitive decisions about why and to whom public funds should be granted for legal aid. Her colleagues recall that she brought insight, warmth and just the right amount of challenge to meetings.

Graduating as a young woman from what is now Abertay University, Dundee-born Rani Dhir worked in Glasgow City Housing, then at Drumchapel Housing Cooperative. The experience launched her career as a non-executive director; an influencer, challenger and supporter in so many parts of public life.

In social housing she was a leader in developing tenant ownership and management of ex-council houses. With a forward-looking approach and warm and good-humoured interaction with committee members, tenants and officialdom, she was soon a board member at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations.

In Edinburgh in 1996 she was one of many notable Scots who gave evidence to the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life for its study on local public spending bodies.

She gave voluntary assistance to boards of several associations and became a director of the government’s housing agency, Communities Scotland, chairing its Regulation Board. She helped the agency make further progress in community ownership by transferring thousands of public-sector homes to tenants’ ownership and management.

She was an early board member of PATH Scotland, finding training placements for black and minority ethnic housing professionals as they launched their careers. One of a tiny group of BAME chief officers in this sector, she was also chair of the Happy to Translate scheme for councils and housing associations.

Rani promoted co-operatives, and the Romanian government invited her to speak on the ownership of community assets. Her lengthiest board role was at the HAPM housing association insurance company, run on a co-operative membership basis.

In 2001 she was awarded an MBE for services to housing. Her mother didn’t live to see it, but Rani was accompanied to Buckingham Palace by her father, who had encouraged his family to integrate after they arrived from India, all those years ago.

Sat Dev had left Bombay by sea in November 1955, arriving at Liverpool. His destination was Dundee, where others from Nakodar had settled. His wife, Swarn Lata, joined him in February 1957 – not by sea as planned, but by air because of the Suez crisis. She travelled with Rani’s young sisters, arriving at the flat in Dundee and surprising her husband who had been waiting to hear about her delayed flight. Her example of courage, determination and love still inspires her descendants.

The family lived in William Street in central Dundee, moving to Broughty Ferry in 1975. As a schoolgirl Rani worked in her father’s shops, learning not only about customer relations and business finance, but about fashion and style; something she excelled in throughout her life.

In 2013, the Erskine charity sought to meet the changing needs of the ex-Service community, by adding to its established care services. Rani, as a trustee, was key to building new supported homes in the Erskine grounds – family homes as a precursor to residential care, and one-person homes for younger veterans adjusting to civilian life, perhaps finding a workplace on the Erskine site.

Latterly, she was central to the success of a new approach to low-cost rented housing at another award-winning charity, LAR Housing Trust. Her generous availability during Covid included advice on tenants struggling with a drop in income, and therefore with their rent payments.

Rani leaves three sisters, a brother, eight nieces and nephews, and 14 great nieces and nephews.

Lynn McCulloch