James Douglas
1925 - 2006


JAMES DOUGLAS CBE Scot who headed England's landowners' association
Born: 26 September, 1925, in India. Died: 3 August, 2006, in Kent, aged 80.

JAMES Douglas was the mild-mannered Scot who gave up a senior post in the Civil Service to become head of the Country Landowners' Association in England and Wales. He left major impressions on both.

A career civil servant earmarked for career acceleration, Douglas was selected in 1966 as secretary of the Royal Commission on Local Government. The group quickly took to Douglas's courtesy and innately good manner, as well as the steel beneath. Within three years - a speedy time for such a weighty subject involving travelling all over England and Wales - Douglas's team reported back to Harold Wilson's Labour administration proposing a system of what it termed "unitary authorities".

But the proposal was rejected by the incoming Tories in 1970 in place of the two-tier system which largely survives today. By contrast, the latest round of local government reorganisation in Scotland in 1996 favoured the system of unitary system, coincidentally as outlined by Douglas.

Douglas took Tory rejection rather feelingly. Looking round for alternatives, he was quickly taken up by the Country Landowners Association, now the Country Land and Business Association. His civil service background, appreciation of local authority work, and knowledge of who mattered where and why made him an excellent choice as director-general. To his new post he brought incisiveness, clarity of thought, and an ability to motivate members and staff.

His parents, Herbert and Amy Douglas, were Brechin folk, with Douglas senior a career banker, heading operations in India. The young Douglas lived with his grandmother while attending Morrison's Academy, Crieff, before graduating from Aberdeen University in economics, English and history. In 1944, he joined the RAF, serving as navigator until 1947, then entering Balliol College, Oxford, to read modern history.

While in Lausanne in 1949, he met Julie Friedericke Kemmner, and married her the following year. Joining the civil service in 1950, he worked his way up until invited to join the Treasury in 1960.

Douglas's service with the Country Landowners Association coincided with farming issues hitting the forefront during repeated attempts by the UK to join Europe. Noting how able the National Farmers Union were as lobbyists, Douglas used all his available contacts to sharpen the profile of the CLA so that by the time of his retirement in 1990, it ranked alongside the NFU.

Appointed CBE in 1985, James Douglas served on numerous committees, including serving on CBI council for three years from 1986.

Characteristically modest about all he did, it took Sir Geoffrey Howe to outline his many achievements - and even then only on Douglas's retirement. Formal work behind him, Douglas continued to write assiduously, producing numerous articles on countryside matters.

His wife, Julie, survives him, as do their son and daughter.


Source: The Scotsman

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This page was last updated on 30 September 2021

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