George Younger: A Life Well Lived
‘Future historians, professional and amateur, will find it utterly invaluable for its diligent and authoritative account of a career that marked the decline and fall of the Tories in Scotland,’ – Harry Reid, The Herald
‘Excellent and fluent,’ – Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, The Scotsman
‘Torrance’s most attractive work to date, enlivened by the access he has had to private letters, political papers, diaries and personal memories,’ – Michael Fry, Scotland on Sunday
George Younger (1931-2003) was a senior figure in Scottish and UK public life for several decades. A product of the famous brewing dynasty, his career straddled three different walks of life: the Army, politics and business. National Service in Korea was a formative experience and forged a lifelong association with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; Younger later made his political mark with a campaign to ‘Save the Argylls’, while his appointment as Defence Secretary in 1986 found him in charge of the UK’s Armed Forces. But there were also setbacks.
In 1963 he sacrificed a safe House of Commons seat so that Sir Alec Douglas-Home could return to Parliament as prime minister, and in 1976 he was sacked from the Conservative Shadow Cabinet by Margaret Thatcher. Yet in 1979 he was appointed Scottish Secretary, eventually becoming the longest continually-serving incumbent. Younger repackaged Thatcherism for sceptical Scots, helped manage the final phase of the Cold War at the Ministry of Defence, and guided both Mrs Thatcher’s leadership campaigns as her powers waned. But his political career did not, as Enoch Powell’s maxim dictated, end in failure. Instead, Younger interrupted it at a happy juncture and resigned from the Cabinet to become Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, managing its transformation from a provincial High Street institution into the world’s fifth-largest banking group.
Written with full access to private letters, political papers, diaries, and family members, George Younger reveals the man behind the affable public persona and offers new insights into Mrs Thatcher’s leadership, Conservative attitudes to Scottish devolution and the historic acquisition of NatWest by RBS. Above all, it charts a fascinating and varied life of committed service to Scotland and the UK.