Thursday 29 December 2011: Knowing a statue - Glasgow
I can't claim to have known Donald Dewar well - different generation, much more senior, political opponent etc , etc - but I still find it a bit strange to look at a statue of someone I have spoken to in the flesh, so to speak.
And this sculpture, by Glasgow sculptor Kenny Mackay, is particularly life like. The image here is absolutely Donald , as anyone who met him at any stage will testify. The statue stands at the north end of Buchanan St, outside the Royal Concert Hall and the Buchanan Galleries Shopping Centre., We were in Glasgow most of the day, and happened to walk by it . It was erected in 2002 but vandalised repeatedly thereafter, so it was taken away, restored and returned mounted on a much higher plinth in 2005. That seemed to stop the spate of damaging stupidity.
I do remember several conversations and debating clashes with Donald in the Parliament in 1999, including some interesting exchanges about language and culture but the strongest positive memory I have is of briefing him during the 1997 Referendum campaign, when I was SNP Chief Executive. For a short period Labour and the SNP , with the Lib Dems, worked together under the "Yes / Yes" campaign umbrella and the leaders took part in at least two joint press conferences. It fell to me to do some of the intensive preparation before hand and I found him approachable and highly intelligent.
The words round the statue's plinth - the opening words of the Scotland Act ("There shall be a Scottish Parliament")- will always be associated with him. They are also the words that surround the head of the Scottish Parliament Mace.
The best speech I heard him make was on the opening day of that Parliament - 1st July 1999. It is worth reading again.