Sad death of Sandy Watson

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Alexander Bell (Sandy) Watson, OBE, DL, MA, Med - a tribute to the former Chairman of the Board of Tayside NHS who retired in May this year.

Sandy Watson, a career public servant who gave a lifetime of service to communities across Scotland, has died at the age of 70 in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, following a short illness.

Born in Airdrie on May 20, 1945, Sandy spent his childhood in the town with his brother Ian. Educated at Airdrie Academy, Glasgow University then Jordanhill College of Education, Sandy took up his first teaching post as a teacher of Classics at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff, before moving to the Isle of Skye as Principal Teacher of Classics at Portree High School. His love of Classics and Ancient Greece followed him throughout his life with annual holidays spent in Greece and an enduring passion for the Latin language.

His teaching career then took him to McLaren High School in Callander before the lure of a leadership role saw him take up posts in the Directorates of Education at Central, Strathclyde and Tayside regions, with him holding the position of Director of Education for Tayside Regional Council from 1990 to 1994.

A spell as Chief Executive of Tayside Regional Council was followed by a decade at the helm of Angus Council from 1995 to his retiral in 2005. However, not content with two public sector careers, Sandy embarked on another – this time with NHS Tayside – where, from 2005 he was a non-executive member of Tayside NHS Board, before holding the Chairmanship of the Board from 2007 to May this year, when he retired.

Sandy said he had been convinced to apply for the Chair’s position by Nicola Sturgeon who was the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing at the time. Her vision was to have an NHS where the Scottish people and the staff of NHS are partners and have a real voice in how services and care are shaped and delivered.

This “co-production” approach, where public services are delivered in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using the services, families and their neighbours, was very close to Sandy’s heart. He was committed to involving people to have a say and bring influence to bear on their own communities and neighbourhoods and a commitment to this approach, especially in NHS Tayside, is one of his many legacies.

Another of his enduring legacies is his long association with ‘Young Scot’ and the Dialogue Youth Initiative. He was absolutely committed to listening and supporting young people, believing that they had a massive contribution to make to all areas of life, especially in the public sector. Sandy also avidly believed in getting out there and meeting people in all of the organisations he worked for. He loved to go “behind the scenes” seeing for himself what the people at the frontline were doing and making sure they knew their role was valued and that they were making an important contribution.

Married to Jean for 44 years, the couple were inseparable. His devotion to the love of his life was evident to everyone who knew him.

Forever the master at putting people at ease, always quick with an anecdote and with a mischievous sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye, Sandy was also a true gentleman. He will be universally missed.

He is survived by his wife Jean, brother Ian and sons Calum, David and Andrew.