Chic Brodie, who has died aged 78, was the Liberal candidate for Glasgow Hillhead who in 1982 stood down to enable Roy Jenkins to make a triumphant return to the Commons for the SDP.
Thirty years later, as a Nationalist MSP, the slick-haired Brodie clashed with Donald Trump at Holyrood over wind farms in what became known as the “Battle of the barnets” – but went on to become a staunch supporter of Trump’s business interests in Ayrshire.
In a largely unsuccessful political career stretching over half a century, Brodie fought seven general elections north and south of the Border as a Liberal or Liberal Democrat; won a council seat in Surrey at the fourth attempt; joined the SNP, serving one term as a list MSP; then in 2020 formed his own pro-independence party, Scotia Future.
He made the biggest difference when, having been selected for Hillhead, he agreed to make way for Jenkins.
The Liberals and the SDP – which had split from Labour the year before – were still ironing out details of their alliance when, on the second day of 1982, the death of Hillhead’s Conservative MP Tam Galbraith – the Tories’ last in Glasgow – was announced.
SDP activists immediately pressed for Jenkins – who had already come close to winning a by-election at Warrington – to be parachuted in. Brodie regarded such talk as distasteful; he was also mindful that the Liberals were well organised in Hillhead and that Jenkins was not a Scot.
Jenkins recalled in his memoirs: “Difficulties arose with the Liberals, mainly at Scottish headquarters level. On January 5 the Glasgow SDP invited me to stand. But by the 7th I decided the intra-alliance difficulties were too great, and more or less wrote off Hillhead in a telephone conversation with [Liberal leader] David Steel.”
Then, over dinner with the future SDP leader Robert Maclennan and the party’s press officer John Lyttle, Jenkins’s appetite for the fight returned.
“Eventually it was agreed that the adopted Liberal candidate, Chic Brodie, and the Hillhead Liberal chairman, would come down to see me in London. It was very good of them to make the journey across 400 snowbound miles, and even better of them to behave as they did when they arrived.
“Brodie was giving up the real possibility of winning the seat, and getting nothing in return except the advancement of the cause in which he believed. He was a major artificer of the Alliance.
“We were closeted for three hours, and then, with the assistance of John Lyttle and Paul Medlicott, the Liberal press officer, produced a statement in which the Liberals endorsed the SDP invitation to me to contest Hillhead.”
Jenkins took up the challenge with Brodie’s full support, and after a stirring campaign defeated the Conservative Gerry Malone by 2,038 votes. Brodie never made it to Westminster.
Charles Gilchrist Brodie was born in Dundee on May 8 1944 and educated at the city’s Morgan Academy. He read Mathematics and Economics at St Andrews University, graduating in 1966. He spent his working life as a businessman, dividing his time between Ayr and Surrey.
Brodie fought Dundee East in October 1974, and again in 1979, before being selected for Hillhead. As a Liberal Democrat, he contested Ayr in 1983, North West Surrey in 1987 and Glasgow Garscadden in 1992. In 1995 he was elected to Surrey Heath council, serving until 1999.
From then, all his political activity was north of the Border. He fought Perth at the 1997 general election, then Greenock & Inverclyde in 2001.
He first stood for the SNP at the 2010 general election, contesting Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock. In the next year’s Holyrood elections he fought Ayr; he was unsuccessful, but was returned as an MSP on his party’s South of Scotland list.
At Holyrood Brodie became deputy convenor of the public petitions committee and convenor of the cross-party group on social enterprise. He also built a heroic reputation with his expenses.
However, he secured lasting fame as a member of the Economy, Energy and Tourism committee, before which Trump appeared in April 2012. When the future US president asserted that the Scottish public hated wind farms, Brodie asked if he had any evidence for the claim. “I am the evidence,” Trump replied.
The two men took to each other, Brodie saying later: “There was a mutual respect after that, and we built up something of a relationship when he bought Turnberry [golf course and hotel]. His investment in this area and its young people has been nothing short of superb.”
Brodie also campaigned for oil drilling to be allowed in the Firth of Clyde, and for Ayr’s tumbledown Station Hotel to be spared from demolition.
For the 2015 Holyrood elections he was passed over as candidate for Ayr and pushed down the party list to have little chance of re-election. He resigned from the SNP in 2017, stood for Ayr council as an independent – finishing last – then in 2020 formed Scotia Future. Though Brodie polled only 267 votes at Ayr in the 2021 Holyrood elections, the party has announced its intention to continue.
Chic Brodie is survived by Mary, his partner of 30 years, and by a son and two daughters.
Chic Brodie, born May 8 1944, died September 24 2022