A FEW weeks before his death in October 2000, Donald Dewar was visited at his flat in Edinburgh’s New Town by Tony Blair, the Prime Minister.

Dewar, as Blair records in his memoir, A Journey, was recovering from an earlier illness that presaged a brain haemorrhage.

“Though I had known him for years, I had never visited his home and was rather astounded to see his very valuable collection of Scottish Impressionists and prints.

“’I never knew about this’, I said.

“’I never told you’, he replied, very Donaldish”.

Blair writes of Dewar: “Politically, I always felt that, underneath it all, Donald was rather New Labour. He had a good mind and also a good spirit about him, an impatience with ideology and a hearty common sense about human nature. His loss in Scotland was irreparable. He was a father figure; a creator of Scottish devolution; and clearly a man of stature. His funeral was a very sad affair”.

In May 2002 Blair flew north to unveil the 9ft tall Dewar statue, the work of artist Kenny Mackay, at the top of Buchanan Street.

Watched by a large crowd of politicians and members of the public (pictured by Chris James), Blair spoke of Dewar as a “transforming moderate” and said: “His compassion, his fundamental decency and his deep sense of social justice defined his entire approach as a politician”.

The Dewar statue remains a familiar, much-photographed fixture today. The main image was taken one Christmas morning by James Galloway.

In 2005, however, the statue was briefly taken down. Its original plinth was not high enough to protect it from the unwelcome attentions of pranksters and vandals. The new plinth was much taller.

Read more: Herald Diary