Profile: Lord Smith of Kelvin

Chosen by David Cameron to lead the newly formed Scotland Devolution Commission, the Glaswegian was put in charge of establishing new tax

Thursday 27 November 2014 19:34
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“Tonight we stand together, tonight we are filled with pride, tonight we are a Commonwealth,” an emotional Lord Smith of Kelvin said as he addressed the closing ceremony of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games.

But those words could not have rung more hollow yesterday, as his report on further devolution following the Scottish referendum was widely seen as introducing the end of the United Kingdom as we know it.

Chosen by David Cameron to lead the newly formed Scotland Devolution Commission, the Glaswegian grandee was put in charge of establishing new tax, spending and welfare powers north of the border.

No challenge seems too big for Smith, 70, who grew up in Glasgow’s tough Maryhill district. He deserves plaudits for a slick Commonwealth Games, but he has had a rougher ride defending soaring energy bills as chairman of big-six energy provider SSE.

Smith was also chairman of industrial pumpmaker Weir when it sold its last manufacturing plant in Scotland, and had to clean up when the firm was fined for breaching UN sanctions on doing business with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

Smith had a colourful career in the City, too: he only turned to accountancy after failing his first-year English exams at Glasgow University. Stints in venture capital and at the Royal Bank of Scotland led him to merchant bank Morgan Grenfell, where he sorted out the mess when cross-dressing fund manager Peter Young tried to siphon £250m from unit trusts into high-risk investments. And he suspended City superwoman Nicola Horlick, whom he suspected of preparing to defect to a rival, prompting her well-publicised flight to Germany for a showdown with bosses at parent company Deutsche Bank.

The peer was also a BBC governor when Greg Dyke resigned as director-general over the Dr David Kelly affair.

Smith is currently chairman of Green Investment Bank.

In his spare time, he likes to unwind with a glass of wine from his South African vineyard. He lives in the Borders with his wife, Alison – they have two daughters and several grandchildren – and also owns Inchmarnock, an island off the west coast of Scotland, where he breeds Highland cattle.

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