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Dr Robert D McIntyre
Chapter 21 - Stirling Burgh & Council

Stirling became home to Dr Robert McIntyre in the 1940’s and, since then, he has continued to live in the town. As could be expected, he would be pressed to play a part in the town’s affairs.

Robert first stood for office on the Stirling Burgh Council in 1956, having had his "arm twisted" by Donald Cameron, the then editor of the "Stirling Journal". He contested the Central Ward and was successful by a margin of nearly 400 votes. He remained as the Ward’s representative until 1975 when re-organisation of local government ended Stirling Burgh’s existence in the ill-fated, but much lauded, reform of local government in Scotland. The problems of a town like Stirling did not figure large amidst Scotland’s post-war ills. In terms of disruption imposed by the war, it had hardly been touched but, like other areas of Scotland, it had to contend with the neglect of the war years, particularly in terms of house building, allied to the continuance of decay and depreciation of much of the existing housing stock in the centre of the town.

To make some headway in new construction meant interfering with what many considered to be an essential part of Stirling’s history. No Scot could be surprised that Stirling’s citizens had a deep and profound sense of history with so many constant reminders of the past around them, including the impressive castle, the field of Bannockburn and always the monument to Wallace dominating the skyline.

But even with, this background of history the immediate post-war emphasis on change was avidly embraced by the leaders of the town. Claims were made that new construction was cheaper and less of a burden on the rates than attempting to modernise and restore existing buildings. While there were critics of this policy, it seems that, "Given the scale of dilapidation and poverty which the council was .... trying to alleviate, it was perhaps an attractive solution".

Much of the damage to historic Stirling took place before Robert joined the Council and one with whom he worked to try to redress this balance was Walter Gillespie, the Burgh Architect. The lack of foresight on the part of Stirling Burgh and its Council comes through in a parting shot on his role when Gillespie retired in 1975. He records that the Scottish Home and Health Department in 1953 had "almost to force Stirling into employing an architect".

Given his ability and persuasive gifts, it was to be expected that Robert McIntyre would play a leading role in the Burgh’s affairs in the 1960’s. Eventually he became Provost in 1967.

Gradually during the 1960’s the SNP increased its membership of the Stirling Burgh Council until the Party had 10 out of the 21 councillors. McIntyre took the view that, despite lacking a majority, "It was quite a good Council" and his approach to the issues before the Burgh was one of co-operation and conciliation. He had a respect for the Burgh’s officials but did not let them dominate the elected representatives.

Listing the achievements for Stirling in the period, McIntyre includes the buildings of houses - over 1,000, the Thistle Shopping Centre and, not surprisingly, the town’s swimming pool. While neighbouring towns had such a facility, Stirling had lagged behind.

But even more important to the town’s future was the bid for a university in 1964. The Robbins Committee had recommended the creation of six new universities in Britain, at least one of which to be designated for Scotland. Obviously, there was a great deal of "lobbying" to secure such a prize.

Recently released papers by the Scottish Office relating to the establishment of a new university at Stirling show that the Burgh’s claims for compensation for the "free school which James VI and I had promised did not meet with universal support.

While the University Grants Commission would make the decision, the Treasury, the Department of Education & Science, and the Scottish Office would have their say.

Bids came in from all over Scotland: Dumfries, Inverness, East Stirlingshire (Falkirk), Perth and Cumbernauld, in addition to Stirling all made their claims. Front runners were Inverness, East Stirlingshire and Stirling. What seemed to tilt the balance in favour of Stirling was that the Scottish Home & Health Department had in its possession the land at Airthry Estate. This had been acquired in the period of Dr Edward Neil Reid’s reign as Medical Officer for Health for a maternity hospital and was thus already in the public domain.

The early months of 1964 was a period of intense activity and, although Robert was not at this period Provost of Stirling, it is accepted that he was a leading member of Stirling’s team working behind the scenes and perhaps being, if anything, a bit over-zealous in his advocacy of Stirling’s virtues in that he seemed to have given the impression that some facilities at Airthrey would be available sooner than was actually practical.

On Friday, 17th July 1964, in typically low key parliamentary terms, came the announcement in a Written Answer to the MP for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (C E Donaldson) that the decision had been made to site the new university at Stirling.

No great imagination is required to contrast the elation at Stirling with disappointment elsewhere, especially in neighbouring Falkirk and Grangemouth, all part of the then Burghs’ Parliamentary constituency.

Stirling had been successful and moves went on at great pace to open the new university with Lord Robbin as Chancellor and Tom Cotrell as the first principal in 1967.

Few today would doubt the economic and social benefits of the ‘new’ university to the area and fewer still would disagree with Robert McIntyre’s assessment of the Burgh’s achievements.

This emphasis on the importance of collective achievement, and Robert McIntyre’s cohesive approach, is borne out by the recollections of Council work by two SNP members of Stirling Burgh at the time. Both Robert Campbell and Marion Williamson endorse the opinion that it was difficult at the end of a period to give credit to any particular Council or Committee member for the completion of a project. "The Council or the Committee as a whole did things."

Acknowledging that much of this Council ‘work’ was carried out in the evening, consuming scarce leisure time after normal tasks, it is a tribute to the sacrifice of Stirling’s councillors, of all-party and no-party, that so much was accomplished.

More surprising was that, in the midst of such activities and demands, Robert McIntyre afforded the time to get married in September 1954. His partner Letitia McLeod, was also a doctor in the Stirling area and was and is, by common consent, an able and staunch supporter of the National Party’s aims and aspirations and, during this period of work for Stirling Burgh, "Lila" was "a tower of strength and energy in organising events and raising funds, not only for the SNP, but for other important organisations and charities."

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