An appreciation

NOBODY climbs a mountain without first giving it a great deal of serious contemplation. Or at least they give it a great deal of serious contemplation if they plan on making it safely back down again.

Craig Duff Roberton, a respected former Glasgow City councillor for Yoker, enjoyed clambering up the hills and mountains of Scotland, and it was an activity that suited him well. Roberton, who has died aged 78, was a canny politician who dreamed of a better world, though he also understood the path towards it was precipitous and precarious, and therefore must be navigated with caution and care.

The dedicated public servant, who was born on January 2, 1943, was raised in Shettleston. It was a loving, though at times difficult, upbringing. His mother, Ishabel, who had been a nursing sister, died when he was two, and he was largely raised in a house shared by his father and grandparents.

A serious-minded child, he enjoyed the company of his elders, particularly his father, an electrician, and his grandfather, who had been an environmental officer. His early years were spent taking trips with his father, a keen motorcyclist, and reading books, an interest he shared with his grandfather.

From them he would also learn the importance of a strong work ethic, and how crucial it was to get to grips with the fine details of a task before undertaking it. Sadly, his grandfather died when Roberton was 10; and a heart attack deprived him of his only remaining parent when he was 13.

At 16 he joined the Labour Party and later went on to study librarianship at Strathclyde University. He enjoyed student life, where his interest in politics continued. At the time he was a member of the Young Socialists and CND.

A formative experience came in 1968 when he went to Paris to witness the student occupations and general strikes that shook the de Gaulle government that year. While in France he met other Young Socialists and internationalists, and was impressed by the vibrant left-wing scene that confronted him, and the heady atmosphere of what seemed to be an impending revolution. He got as close to the scene as possible without getting arrested.

As a young man he certainly seemed to share the radical ideals that set France aflame. Although a member of the Labour Party, his intention in joining had been to push it in a more overtly socialist direction. But he always had a pragmatic side, and was never hypnotised by the romance of political idealism.

His involvement in practical politics began when he was asked to stand as a councillor for Kelvindale. The chances of victory were slim because it was a solidly Conservative seat. He worked hard on his campaign, and would later be elected in Yoker.

There were other interests besides politics. He joined a hillwalking club for members of the Mitchell Library, where he had accepted a post. He was keen on folk music, a passion he shared with his wife, Anne, who had also been a CND member. He learned the guitar and enjoyed playing at home or at parties.

Reading had remained an interest since childhood, though always non-fiction. His favourite books were about Roman history and, with Anne, he would often drive for miles to look at a small pile of stones that had once been a Roman fort.

Such trips would be extended indefinitely when he opted to take one of his infamous “shortcut” drives, which would invariably lead to a much longer journey than initially proposed, though always with spectacular scenery along the way.

However, shortcuts were not his way when it came to council work. From 1984, when he first became a councillor for Yoker, until his retirement in 2007 he became known as a tireless, diligent and sincere politician with a great eye for detail. A strong and committed advocate for Yoker and its residents, he also held a number of portfolios during his years as a councillor.

He served as city treasurer, convener of the council’s private sector housing sub-committee and senior vice-convener, Housing, and chairman of the Audit and Ethics Committee. He represented the city on a wide range of external bodies and was the chairman of the Strathclyde Pension Fund and the finance spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

He had a keen interest in the environment and transport. He was an advocate of improved public transport routes in his own constituency and for the wider Greater Glasgow region. Up until his retirement he was a strong supporter of the Clyde Fastlink Scheme to provide a light rail transit system connecting the communities along the Clyde with the rest of the city.

He argued for the improvements along the Dumbarton Road corridor, recognising the environmental impact of the traffic and seeking to improve the quality of life for residents. Latterly, he was chairman of Glasgow Clyde Regeneration, a company set up by the council to deliver waterfront regeneration projects, which eventually led to the Glasgow Harbour Development and the building of the Riverside Museum.

Roberton, who witnessed the furious fires of revolt in the Paris of his youth, learned in his maturity to nurture the steady flame of moderate, yet essential, improvements to his home city of Glasgow.

He is survived by wife Anne and her children from a previous marriage, Sean, Deirdre, Mairi and Catriona, and their partners, and by grandchildren Zoe, Josh, Logan, Fraser and Charlotte.