WHEN Viscount Muirshiel, the former Scottish Secretary of State, John (Jack) Maclay, died in August 1992, aged 86, a very full appreciation appeared in these pages.

Written by R.D. Kernohan, it began: “Viscount Muirshiel was a man of many honours, and of honour. But he lived to so ripe an age as a friend of good causes and an elder statesman beyond politics that Jack Maclay (as he was until 1964) was almost forgotten as a once formidable politician.

“He was a powerful Secretary of State for Scotland under Harold Macmillan (1957-62) but his political role never quite matched his abilities or potential.

“That owed something both to temperament and circumstances. He was a man of great integrity, drawn to politics by a sense of public duty, but he lacked zest for the coarser forms of party conflict, perhaps even (as his time as Churchill’s Minister of Transport in 1951-52 suggested) for some of the rougher dealings within Government”.

One obituary of Maclay noted his many achievements during his time as Scottish Secretary of State. “He deserves”, it read, “much credit for the number of new factories built in Scotland [including the car plants at Linwood and Bathgate] during his term of office and for the new towns which came into being.

“He also had the satisfaction of seeing construction undertaken of the Forth and Tay road bridges, the inauguration of the first nuclear power station and of the Glasgow redevelopment plan, the modernisation of the fishing fleet and important measures of rating reform, hospital building and the liberalisation of the licensing laws”.

Maclay was one of the Cabinet ministers sacked by Macmillan in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in 1962. His parliamentary private secretary at the time, the Edinburgh South MP Michael Clark Hutchison, later wrote that Maclay’s dismissal was “grossly unfair” and added: “Jack was the most saintly character I knew in politics”.

Read more: Herald Diary