Alison’s lifetime of service rewarded

Dr Elliot photographed on her appointment as Moderator. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA
Dr Elliot photographed on her appointment as Moderator. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA
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The First Woman Moderator has received one of Scotland’s highest honours for public service.

Dr Alison Elliot is only the third person ever to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Scottish Public Service Awards

Alison – the first Church of Scotland elder to hold the post since 1567 – says she feels lucky and grateful.

“I think the award itself will be one of the things I am most proud of because it is for public service,” she said.

“That is really the heart of what I’ve been trying to do for the last 30 years and I feel hugely privileged to have found myself in positions where I can exercise that.”

The mother-of-two, 68, has five Honorary Degrees and an OBE. As associate director at the Centre for Theology and Public Issues in Edinburgh University’s School of Divinity, Dr Elliot has been at the forefront of Scottish civic life.

The centre has been credited with bringing together people from higher education, government and the third sector to shape public policy through a theological lens.

Brought up in West Lothian’s Bangour Village hospital, where her father was a psychiatrist, she says religion was central to family life. She studied psychology at Edinburgh University before becoming a researcher studying children’s language development.

Dr Elliot, who lives in Edinburgh, has served as an elder and session clerk at Greyfriars Kirk and spent 12 years on the central committee of the Conference of European Churches.

In the 1990s she was Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Nation committee. Then in 2004-5 she became Moderator, inspiring women across the religious landscape.

“That year was one like no other most certainly,” she says. “That was a highlight of my life.”

As a member of the Christie Commission Dr Elliot helped map out the future of Scotland’s public services. And from 2007-2013 she was convener of the charities body, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. One of her biggest challenges was to chair the Land Reform Review Group whose report laid the groundwork for this year’s Land Reform Scotland Act 2016.

She remains optimistic about the future, saying it is time for her generation to pass the reins to the younger generation. “We’ve had quite a good innings frankly and it’s not surprising that a lot of these ideas are beginning to feel a bit tired. It’s painful to stand aside and it’s especially painful to see the Brexit and the Trump perspective taking over. But you have to trust your children to take over. You have to trust the young.”

Created in 2014 through a partnership of the Parliament, the Scottish Government and Holyrood magazine, the Lifetime Achievement Award recognise excellence in our public life.