Environmental campaigner and leading figure in WWF Scotland

Born: September 27, 1947;

Died: September 18, 2018

SIMON Pepper, who has died aged 70, played a major role in shaping environmental campaigning and policy in Scotland. He made WWF Scotland into one of the country’s most influential pressure groups, forged dozens of different organisations into a powerful alliance and was a key advisor to successive governments.

In 1985 he was WWF Scotland’s only employee, working from his study under the stairs at home near Aberfeldy. Over the course of the next 20 years under his leadership it grew to be an effective force for environmental good, with up to 20 staff.

With skilled behind-the-scenes negotiating, he helped stop a destructive plan to gouge a superquarry into a mountain on the isle of Harris. The French multinational behind the plan, Lafarge, sponsored WWF International to the tune of £3.5million and admitted that internal pressure from WWF Scotland helped persuade it to abandon the superquarry in 2004.

Mr Pepper also was key in getting Scottish ministers to establish two national parks at Loch Lomond and the Cairngorms in 2002 and 2003. He fought plans for a funicular railway up Cairngorm, which turned out to be a financial and environmental disaster, and campaigned against fish farms and tax breaks for commercial forestry.

He knew that more progress could be achieved if Scotland’s disparate conservation groups learnt to work better together. That is why he devoted much energy to founding Scottish Environment Link in 1987, which now includes more than 35 organisations representing half a million people.

The Millennium Forest for Scotland was Mr Pepper's brainchild, and he helped run it from 1995 to 2001. That resulted in £27million being spent restoring 22,000 hectares of woodland.

He served on the boards of eight government agencies, offering ministers advice on forestry, deer, wildlife conservation, sustainable development, climate change and lottery funding. He was elected rector of St Andrews University from 2005 to 2008 and – to his embarrassment – was awarded an OBE.

His last, unfinished, job was to chair the Scottish Government’s Deer Working Group, which has been examining how to prevent deer from destroying native woodlands. Its final report, which will be very much Simon Pepper’s, is due out in a few months.

Born in Sussex, schooled in Oxfordshire and at university in Aberdeen, he was a Scottish champion rowing blue and had a pilot’s licence. He married Morag Hunter Mackenzie in 1973, and literally built a home with her and his growing family on land near Aberfeldy.

This 42 hectares of sheep farm, native woodland and orchid meadow was where his heart was, a private haven that kept his public work rooted. It is where, after dying suddenly from a heart attack while unloading hay on 18 September, he is buried.

“We are here” will be the epitaph on his headstone: here near Aberfeldy, here in Scotland and here on planet earth. Well respected, widely admired and warmly loved, the world has cause to be grateful Simon Pepper was here.

He is survived by Morag, five children, 11 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.