John Fairley, a brilliant educator and renowned writer on social and economic policies, passed away at the age of 57 due to an aneurysm. He held professorships at three prestigious Scottish universities and was a highly regarded thinker in the field of public policy in Scotland.
In the early 1990s, John assumed the Grampian public policy chair at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. He later became a Professor in Public Policy and Management at Strathclyde University, and then a Professor of Planning at Napier University in Edinburgh until 2008, when ill-health forced him to retire early. Despite this, John continued to teach part-time at Stevenson College in Edinburgh until his passing.
Born in Kirkintilloch, close to Glasgow, John was an outstanding student at Lenzie Primary and Lenzie Academy. He graduated in politics from the University of Edinburgh in 1975, then moved to London to work as a lecturer at London Metropolitan University. During Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister of the UK, John tirelessly promoted the importance of high-quality skills training and apprenticeships as an active worker at the Greater London Council.
John returned to Scotland in 1986 and worked on economic development at the City of Edinburgh Council. He co-founded the Edinburgh Women’s Training Centre, preparing women returning to work in science and technology for a successful career.
John was a former member of the Communist party and had broad interests, including socialist, nationalist, and internationalist ideas. He was known for his commitment to challenging conventional thinking on social and economic policy. Through his contribution to Radical Scotland, a publication aimed at educating the country on social and economic policies, John’s writings made their way into policy-making circles, earning his significant recognition for his intellectual clarity.
Throughout his life, John produced various articles, books, and pamphlets that reflected his ability to translate complex ideas to all readers. He focused much of his academic and political work on understanding the complex relationship between local and central governments, particularly within the Scottish context. John firmly believed in the power of local democracy and the importance of local government in supporting it.
Professionally, John was dedicated to his work, acerbic, committed, and disrespectful. On a personal level, he was kind-hearted, open-minded, warm-hearted, witty, and entertaining. John’s intelligence and ability to connect with others’ lives made him an exemplar of the Scottish democratic intellectual.
John is survived by his mother, Frances, brother, Archie, and daughter, Jean. His former partner, Anne, also mourns his loss.