LADY Elish Angiolini,Scotland’s first female Lord Advocate, has been honoured at the Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards. 

A tireless worker for a better justice system, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh last night.

Lady Angiolini said: “I am so grateful and honoured to receive this wonderful Award. 

“Lawyers and former civil servants are not always valued or praised but it has been a tremendous privilege to have served with so many brilliant and good people in this country who are absolutely dedicated to social justice and the public interest. This award is for them. 

I am a product of a very loving and stable family and acutely aware that many of those in our prisons have not had that wonderful start in life. 

“I hope we can all work hard to give our kids the chance to fly.”

The Award, which is not presented every year, is given to mark an outstanding contribution to public life and a history of service above and beyond the call of duty.

There have been 12 winners since 1999, including two of the Scottish Parliament’s presiding officers, Sir David Steel and Sir George Reid, and its first clerk, Sir Paul Grice.

Gordon Brown and Lord Campbell of Pittenweem have also been recognised.

The judges were unanimous in wanting to present the award to Lady Elish.  

The daughter of a Govan coal merchant, she was inspired to enter the law by her experience giving evidence in a burglary trial as a teenager. 

Rather than being awed by the formalities and the gowns, she was struck by how little attention seemed to be given to the witnesses and the accused, who seemed “irrelevant”.

That concern for victims as well as those on the receiving end of the justice system has been a constant thread throughout her career.

After completing her legal studies at the University of Strathclyde, she joined the Crown Office and trained as a procurator fiscal.

While she was a trainee, she was a passenger on the Glasgow-Edinburgh train which crashed at Polmont junction in 1984.

Nine of the 13 people who died in the accident were travelling in the same carriage.

Two of them were sitting next to her.

She later said it left her determined to make the most of every day that followed.

After eight years as a Fiscal in Airdrie, she moved to the Crown Office in Edinburgh and worked on improving support to vulnerable victims and witnesses, especially children.

By 1997 she was head of policy and helped get the department ready for devolution.

She was involved in preparing the 1998 Scotland Act on which Holyrood was founded.  

After becoming the first woman to serve as the Regional Procurator Fiscal in Aberdeen in the year 2000, she became the first woman to serve as Solicitor General a year later, and the first female Lord Advocate in 2006.

When the SNP entered power, she also became the first Lord Advocate to serve two governments of different political complexions, such was the high regard in which she was held.

As Lord Advocate, she was an unabashed moderniser, ensuring support for youth courts, Glasgow’s domestic abuse court and drugs courts.

She also rolled out a victims’ rights pilot she had started in Aberdeen.

It supported victims through the courts, making sure they weren’t traumatised a second time by the system itself.

Since standing down as Lord Advocate in 2011, she has been ceaseless in her efforts to improve the justice system, bringing an unflinching gaze to the toughest of subjects.

She has conducted investigations into the Mortonhall cremation scandal, the prosecution of rape, deaths in police custody, and the handling of complaints against police officers.

She is currently leading the independent inquiry into the murder of Sarah Everard by the off-duty Metropolitan Police Officer Wayne Couzens.

She has also been a trustee of several justice charities, and is principal of St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire for the administration of justice a decade ago, she was recently named a Lady of the Order of the Thistle by the late Queen.

The judges felt hers has been a career remarkable in its scope and intensity, and that her willingness to take on so many formidable challenges is awe-inspiring.