DAVID Campbell, who has died at the age of 78, was a well-known and respected business figure in the west of Scotland who started his working life in the Merchant Navy but found his true vocation in the newspaper industry.

From 1974 to 1984, he was Managing Director of Scottish and Universal Newspapers, part of a long association with George Outram & Co., who were publishers of the Glasgow Herald and a wide range of other titles. He was also a former president of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and a Freeman of the City of London.

Having risen and prospered through media businesses, he gave many years of service to public bodies, particularly in his adopted Ayrshire and, more widely, as a disburser of National Lottery largesse to a multitude of worthy causes. Whatever he turned his hand to in a multi-faceted career, David brought sharp intelligence, an open mind and a stylish personality.

Having obtained officer qualifications, he spent seven years as a radio operator in the Merchant Navy, mainly with the Union Castle line, but came ashore after deciding that “you can only see Rio de Janeiro’s harbour so many times and you know it is time to move on”. In 1968, his first job with Outram’s was as an advertising representative and his climb through the organisation thereafter was meteoric.

Scottish & Universal was the publisher of Outram’s 23 local newspaper titles. This was a period of rapid technological change in the industry and David revelled in the environment, driving change and efficiencies without provoking the industrial relations conflicts that would later beset heavier-handed press barons.

His friend Tony Meehan recalls: “David was the only person I knew at that time who recognised the influence that information technology would have on our lives. He had the vision to see the potential and the ability to make it happen. In real terms this was moving a major Scottish newspaper publishing house from the Stone Age – in more ways than one - into the 21st century”. In 1983, he became chairman of the Scottish Newspaper Publishers Association.

David was born in Glasgow and attended Whitehill School in Dennistoun before progressing to James Watt College for his Merchant Navy training. He met his wife to be, Moira Donald, in the Kenco coffee shop in Buchanan Street – the place to meet in 1960s Glasgow. Moira was then working for British United Airways and would later graduate in both social work and law.

As David’s business career progressed, they settled first in Largs and then in West Kilbride. After moving on from Scottish & Universal, he maintained his interest in newspapers by buying the former Guthrie group of local titles from Johnston Press. It became West Independent Newspapers with David as chairman and chief executive and its titles included his own local papers, the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald and Largs & Millport Weekly News.

In 1984, he also became involved in another branch of technology-driven media innovation as chief executive of the fledgling Clyde Cable Vision. Cable television created, for the first time in the UK, the offer of 24-hour, multi-channel television and Clyde Cable Vision won one of the early franchises to operate in North Glasgow. The programme mix included local content as well as imported material.

In order to connect subscribers, it was necessary to lay cable in the streets. On top of that costly logistical challenge, competition at the time was with video recorders as much as with other broadcasters. Clyde Cable Vision launched in October 1985 but cable faced another huge challenge within five years through the advent of satellite TV. The company widened its telecommunications package and was sold to the American group Cabletel, of which David remained a director until 1993.

David had become a real Ayrshire patriot and was involved in a wide range of organisations which promoted the economic and social wellbeing of the county. Throughout the 1990s, when Scotland’s enterprise network was devolved, he was a director of Enterprise Ayrshire. He took on a national role as chair of the Health Education Board for Scotland where his energetic leadership of campaigns, particularly around smoking and drugs, led to him being awarded a CBE in 2000 for services to health in Scotland.

David was also made chairman in Scotland of the National Lottery’s New Opportunities Fund. Initially the Scottish Land Fund was channelled through this route and in 2001 David became its chairman also. While he certainly had no land reform background, he embraced the cause with his usual enthusiasm and became a vital ally to communities, particularly in the islands, which were seeking to buy their own land.

The biggest of these buy-outs was in South Uist. Angus Macmillan, who led its purchase from an absentee syndicate, recalls: “The negotiations were intensive, but David`s commitment and perseverance ensured that the funds and structure were agreed. This was equally true of other buyouts major buy-outs, like Gigha and North Harris, that were concluded in these early years”. When the Fund closed in 2006, it had distributed £13.9m and David had become a quiet hero of the land reform movement.

He brought the same traits to the many other public roles he fulfilled through such organisations as the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and and the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust. Amidst all his interests, he made time to lead a well balanced life. Golf at West Kilbride and travel, preferably on cruise ships, were among his firmest diary commitments. He and Moira were a great, sociable couple for whom life was never dull.

I got to know David through being MP for Cunninghame North where my comrades generally assumed him to be hostile, largely on the grounds that he lived in a big house in West Kilbride. From the first time I met him, nothing could have been further from the truth. He was sociable, open-minded, great company, enthusiastic about any role in which he was involved, shrewd in business and advice, and extremely loyal to friends.

David is survived by Moira who cared for him at home in West Kilbride through a long and harrowing illness and to whom sympathy is extended.