IT was Twitter, a platform awash with loathing and sanctimony, which brought me back into the orbit of Guy Grieve. I’d first encountered him two years ago while researching an article about the scallop wars raging on the west coast of Scotland. It’s an unequal battle, pitting the creelers and scallop divers against the large dredging combines who, the creelers say, are permitted to lay waste to our coastal environment, gouging the seabed and making a ploughed field of it.

With his former spouse and assisted by their two sons, Grieve owned and operated the Ethical Shellfish Company, supplying locally-caught produce to markets and restaurants all over Europe. He has become one of the most eloquent and high-profile advocates of sustainable fishing, a role that took him to the front line of a conflict in which the Scottish Government, while posing as the protectors of our coastal waters, have tacked towards the interests of industrial predation on the grand scale.

Covid-19 and the ongoing creep of Brexit had forced him to shut what had once been a thriving business, but for now these challenges must be laid to one side. A fresh environmental challenge had literally landed on his doorstep, this one involving the fate of a young Syrian family from Aleppo seeking refuge and a future of sorts in Edinburgh.

“I’m back working as a labourer for an old Edinburgh building firm, TT Construction where I’d worked as a student 30 years ago. Following the demise of my company I needed to work – good solid manual work – before making longer-term plans.

“While clearing out a skip, a Syrian woman approached me with her two children – one of whom was translating – to ask if there was anything in it that she could use to furnish her home.

“She invited me inside and there was nothing there but a broken sofa. It was heart-breaking. I immediately posted an appeal on Twitter asking for help to re-furnish this family’s home.”

What followed inspired him and showed how social media can be used as a force for decency. Having seen his tweet, hundreds of people offered possessions and volunteered to deliver them. “Don't think I'll ever get over the incredible generosity and kindness of people as demonstrated on Twitter last week,” he later tweeted. “Unforgettable and inspiring. I want to see more of this. I long, absolutely yearn to see politicians uniting our great country and bringing out the best in Britain. Twitter doesn’t have to be just about fighting.”

Later, he gave the family a letter, written in Arabic, pointing them in the direction of services – including English language classes – that might help them. “It was my way of giving them a measure of agency by preserving their dignity which was perhaps the only resource they could still call their own,” he said.

When the term ‘adventurer’ is deployed you’re tempted to add the words “in his own lunchtime”. When reviewing Guy Grieve’s life though, any other description seems half-baked. As you listen to him recounting his journey you feel as though you’ve lived in a salon for most of yours.

I’d first encountered him through his book, Call of the Wild, the remarkable 2006 journal of his year spent in the sub-Arctic Alaskan wilderness, building a log cabin 300 miles from the nearest road in temperatures that plunged to minus 60.

Journalists like to think they have a classic literary work waiting for the right time and place to emerge. And so it was a little discomfiting to discover that a book such as this, so vividly rendered and elegantly written, had been penned by a junior manager in the marketing division of The Scotsman as we journalists told our tall stories in small howffs.

“I’d simply reached a stage where I felt trapped in a job I didn’t really like, barely subsisting and dancing to the demands of other people and the laid-down norms of society. I wasn’t seeing enough of my family and I felt that if we were to survive as a unit I had to get away as a sort of healing.

“Juliet, my wife, understood this and when I returned we began to live more freely. I wanted my two sons to have other options for their futures and in the years before the company folded they were working alongside me.

I’VE NOW finally caught up with Grieve on a Wednesday night in Glasgow. He seems unsure about what to do next in his life. I tell him he’ll always have options. This man built a redoubt on the earth’s precipice and survived a capsizing in mountainous seas between Ireland and Scotland before deciding to live in a tree-house among the tribespeople of West Africa. There have been TV programmes on food and travel with Channel 4 and Channel Five, but not enough to replace the income of his lost business. “Is there not a wee Himalayan peak needing climbed,” I ask him, only half in jest.

The closure of his Ethical Shellfish Company hit him hard and the break-up of his marriage on top of it all couldn’t have been easy either. Yet he’s proud of his divorce. “Juliet remains a wonderful friend,” he says. “We divorced for £120 without the need for any lawyers and simply asked a stranger on an Edinburgh street to witness and sign our separation agreement. Our underlying friendship [they’d known each other for several years before marrying] was too strong for bitterness or recriminations.”

Whatever direction his life next takes him, Grieve’s commitment to the task of liberating Scotland’s shoreline from the tyranny of Big Dredging will remain implacable.

“Sadly, as a scallop-diver for 12 years, I was witness to the destruction of inshore seabed habitats on a daily basis and the destruction of all the three-dimensional life that goes with it. Everything torn away and entire eco-systems reduced to the maritime equivalent of deserts.

“I could have kept quiet about seeing our last great wilderness being endlessly eroded. I’m a patriot, but not in the contaminated Americanised sense. Why should an entrenched minority be allowed to have such an impoverishing effect upon an entire eco-system?”

“I’m talking about humans here too: our life chances and opportunities are as bound up to the inshore as the shattered crab nests and torn kelp. So long as there is zoo and phyto-plankton we still have hope. If the habitat is protected the plankton will settle and the inshore will heal. Complexity will return, life encrusted upon life again.”

Like many other national and international campaigners, he feels that Scotland’s precious inshore environment has been sacrificed to the predatory whims of the dredging industry, backed by a powerful political lobby that holds sway inside the Scottish Government by advancing a class lie.

“By speaking out you risk being damned as a shiftless, middle-class eco-warrior. This class card is their only defence in the face of pure science and hard economic facts. People in the remote communities cannot speak out, save for a few brave souls. And nor can the creelers; if they did their creels would be towed up at night to be passed off as ‘gear conflict’.

“Fergus Ewing, the former Rural Minister, for reasons that can only be guessed at, sided with the destructive and very powerful minority like a Tory hiding in the clothing of the SNP. He set us back years by undoing all the progress made under Richard Lochhead who truly was a patriot and who truly saw the sociological control that the dredging lobby holds.”

Perhaps it’s this that’s making him consider a future in politics. He recently wrote to Anas Sarwar, seeking advice on how to proceed. “My natural home ought to be the Scottish Greens, but ever since they began propping up the SNP their red lines have all dissolved in larger salaries, bigger cars and enhanced status. They can’t be trusted.”

There’s not yet been a response from the Scottish Labour leader and I tell him that in my experience Scotland’s main political parties don’t really take kindly to independent thinkers.

He’s a man who seems to seek solace and purpose in wildernesses and at the edges of routine. But he’s no lone wolf. “Without the friendships that flowered in my bleakest moments I would never have survived.”