Stuart Patrick: Scottish business has lost a true giant with Vic Emery’s passing

Losing Vic Emery OBE to a car accident on Saturday has been a shock to the business community in Glasgow.

His contribution to Glasgow and to Scotland stands as a powerful demonstration of the force for good that business leadership can be.

Born and brought up in Portsmouth, Vic took Glasgow to his heart and he served this city for more than 25 years.

There are stories to tell of his prior career in shipbuilding all around the globe and of his national contributions to policing as the first chairman of the Scottish Police Authority and as chairman of the Civil Nuclear Police Authority.

I am qualified only to relate the experiences I had of his work here in our city.

He led naval shipbuilding on the Clyde for more than a decade ultimately turning around the faltering delivery of the Type 45 destroyer programme.

His most obvious legacy is a confident and sophisticated Clyde shipbuilding business that can see decades into the future.

There are not many industries planning for an order book stretching out beyond 2040. A successful shipbuilder in Glasgow has a gravitas that is hard to match.

I first worked with Vic when he succeeded Willie Haughey as the chairman of Scottish Enterprise Glasgow in 2007.

He was disappointed that his term of office was cut short by John Swinney’s decision to abolish the local enterprise companies, a decision he did not support.

Nevertheless he stuck to the task, guiding the senior management through the thankless process of breaking up an established team.

Vic could be combative and all but impossible to intimidate but he would not fight battles that could not be won.

Securing £25 million from Scottish Enterprise towards the building of the Hydro was a more positive tussle he did enjoy.

He was president of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce during the 2014 Commonwealth Games taking office in the previous year.

He found great pleasure in representing the city’s business community during one of the most successful events in our history and he carried out the role with grace and humility.

It was with Vic that the Chamber fashioned its arguments in favour of investment in Glasgow.

He also persuaded the Chamber team back in 2015 that the circular economy offered a productive route towards tackling climate change.

With his help and in his role as chairman of Zero Waste Scotland he encouraged us to build our network of members exploring the benefits of circularity especially amongst the small business community.

I last saw Vic during COP26 at an afternoon reception held by the Chamber at Kelvingrove Museum in the presence of the Prince of Wales

I took the opportunity that day publicly to recognise Vic’s role in promoting the circular economy and I am so glad that I did.

Vic was a strong and quietly understated leader. He was not a man of many words but he did not need words to manage a board.

Respect for the clarity of his perspective was more than enough.

He was very widely liked as a true gentleman with a fulsome understanding of loyalty.

He kept a flat in the city but every weekend he returned to his family home in Newcastle and it was on that journey that his car left the road.

I have lost a close friend and a mentor. Vic knew how to be a mentor.

He understood the subtle nature of that relationship as a guide and a role model.

I know I will be making more mistakes in the years ahead now that Vic is here no longer.

Much more importantly, Glasgow has lost a champion.

Stuart Patrick is chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *