Colin MacKay: STV political editor whose easy charm hid probing questioning

The worlds of politics and media have paid tribute to the broadcaster, who passed away at the age of 79 after a short illness.

Colin MacKay: STV political editor whose natural authority and easy charm hid probing questioning STV News

The worlds of politics and broadcasting have been remembering the former STV Political Editor Colin MacKay, who has died at the age of 79 after a short illness.

Colin served as the station’s second political editor from 1973-1992.

His broadcasting career spanned 41 years and uniquely led him to work for both the BBC and the three ITV companies in Scotland.

Former First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Colin MacKay was an outstanding journalist and interviewer whose old-world courtesy often disguised a keen political mind.”

The Labour Peer, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, remarked that MacKay was “one of the most distinguished reporters on both TV and radio and a really funny person in private”.

MacKay's broadcasting career outlasted that of seven Prime Ministers and included notable sit downs with the likes of Margaret Thatcher.STV News

STV colleagues have been remembering him on a social media platform for current and ex staff.

Former reporter and director Dermot McQuarrie said he was “one of Scotland’s great broadcasters and a wonderful person to share time with” whilst ex production assistant Margot Cunningham commented: “He will be much missed. Colin was lovely to work with and a most entertaining companion”.

As STV’s political editor he interviewed all of the leading figures of the day. That numbered seven prime ministers including Margaret Thatcher.

Colleague and friend Fiona Ross recalled that his knowledge of politics was “encyclopaedic” and his interviewing style one of “polite probing”.

“He found aggressive hectoring distasteful,” she added.

He is best known as the presenter of the politics programme Ways and Means, which he anchored from 1973 until 1986.

He then reported from Westminster from 1986 before returning to full time studio duties in 1990 as the lead presenter on Scottish Questions.

Colin signed off from STV in 1992. The remainder of his broadcasting career was predominantly in radio.

He presented Talk In Sunday on Radio Clyde, where he presided with a natural authority and easy charm as the uber-opinionated of the west of Scotland let off steam on the issues of the day.

He then had a long association with BBC Radio Scotland where he presented the weekly political magazine People and Power and thereafter Politics Tonight. He was guided in these programmes by his long-term producer and ex-STV colleague Heather Fraser.

In 1997 he was named BT Scottish Radio News Broadcaster of the Year.

When he signed off from frontline broadcasting duties in 2008, on air tributes were led by the Conservative Lord Forsyth, the Nationalist Jim Sillars and by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown who had briefly worked with MacKay at STV.

Brown remarked that when he arrived at STV as a researcher there was little point in competing with Colin and so he decided to go off into politics instead.

Until recently, Colin freelanced for the BBC handling viewer complaints, bringing a disarming charm to the ire of the outraged.

Gary Smith, head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland said yesterday: “In the busy world of journalism he was -to the end-a pillar of the old-fashioned values of courtesy, humour and erudition.”

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