The life and legacy of Brian Adam MSP


First Minister and Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond celebrated the life and legacy of Brian Adam MSP at Friday’s funeral service in Aberdeen.

Mr Salmond said:


“Brian Adam was a loving family man, a loyal friend, an outstanding politician, an exceptional human being, and someone of steadfast faith.  He was also a plain-speaking man, who did not need to use flowery language – because the passion of his commitment, loyalty and love spoke for itself.

“So in that same spirit, let me simply say that Brian was a fine loon – which as he would understand says everything about a person that is good.  And everything about Brian was good.

“Brian grew up in Banffshire and would spend his whole life in the North East of Scotland, which he loved dearly.  After gaining a BSc and MSc at the University of Aberdeen in Clinical Pharmacology he began work with Glaxo in Montrose before embarking on a career as biochemist, later becoming Principal NHS Biochemist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

“Brian succeeded in everything he did, because he approached every job he had with enthusiasm, his own God-given talent, and above all with dedication.

“Brian dedicated himself to others.  And when he did choose to get involved in elected politics in the late 1980s, he did so in a genuine – some would say old-fashioned – spirit of public service.  But that was the only kind of politics Brian knew – because that was the kind of man he was, all of his days.

“When Brian was elected in May 1988 he was the only SNP councillor in this entire city – an entire one-man group.  He spent the election campaign assuring me he was going to win – and reassuring his wife Dorothy that he had no chance whatsoever of winning!

“He served with distinction from 1988 to 1999 as a councillor on Aberdeen District, and then Aberdeen City Council, for the Middlefield and Heatheryfold ward.  It says everything about Brian that where he led, so many others wanted to follow.  They knew that if Brian stood for something it had to be good and true – because he was good and true.

“Since 1999, he has had an unblemished record of service and achievement as an MSP – first for the North East region, and since 2003 as an Aberdeen constituency member.

“They say that the sign of a great football manager is the ability to win a major trophy with a smaller team – perhaps like Alex Ferguson in Gothenburg with Brian’s beloved Dons.

“In the same way, the sign of a great member of parliament is to win a seat against the national trend.  In 2003 the SNP were losing votes, but in Aberdeen North Brian was winning them.

“In all these years as a councillor and MSP, Brian would do anything for anyone – nothing was too much trouble, whether it was a big issue affecting all his constituents or a small local problem.

“The people Brian represented so assiduously for so long knew him to be a man of great integrity.  They respected his words because they admired his deeds.

“Brian’s advice to colleagues was often to say: “Only ever promise to do your best”.  That is what he always did – and Brian’s best as a husband, father, politician, churchman, as a man, was the best there is.

“He always encouraged others – one of the reasons so many students turned out to help him get elected as a councillor the first time round and thereafter was because he took the time to talk to the SNP student groups in Aberdeen, and advise them of the way forward and how to grow.

“He gave so much of himself to others – we all tried in our own ways to repay the debt, but the final balance sheet of Brian’s life is one of overwhelming credit.  Brian spent himself in the cause of his fellow citizens.

“In 2007, the first SNP Government was elected with a plurality of one.  Most experts expected that it would last only a matter of weeks, or at most a few months.  The reason that we remained in Government and were then re-elected as a majority administration in 2011 was not because of this First Minister.  It was because of the work of Bruce Crawford as Minister for Parliament and Brian Adam as Chief Whip.  And that is why I was overjoyed to have Brian serving as a Minister in this current Parliament.

“One Monday night at the end of January I visited Brian at home, and it was clear that his illness was taking a heavy toll.  He told me that he planned to travel to Holyrood later that same week.  I then told Maureen Watt to let other colleagues know not to expect Brian in Parliament, as I did not think it would be possible for him.  However, on the Thursday Brian was there in parliament, at his usual place at the back of the chamber to vote against proposed social security changes.  Of all Brian’s political victories, this was the most impressive – it was a case of total willpower triumphing over almost total physical disability.  Brian was also there to see his friends, and as it turned out it would be for the last time.

“In ancient times, Sparta had no walls.  It was said it did not need them because its people were its walls.  People of the calibre of Brian Adam are the walls of Scotland.

“For those of us privileged to have known Brian, it is up to us to make his vision our reality.

“He was the finest loon.”



Brian Adam was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 as an MSP for North East Scotland. In 2003, he won the constituency of Aberdeen North and successfully held it with an increased majority in 2007.

In the 2011 election, Brian Adam won the new seat of Aberdeen Donside following boundary changes to previous constituencies.

Brian served as SNP Chief Whip from 2007 to 2011 before being appointed Minister for Parliamentary Business.

Brian was born in 1948 in Newmill, Banffshire and was educated in the North East at Keith Grammar School. After graduating with a BSc in biochemistry at the University of Aberdeen he took an MSc in Clinical Pharmacology from the same institution.

After leaving University, Brian started work with Glaxo in Montrose and continued his career at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he was a Principal Biochemist.

Brian was first elected as an SNP representative to Aberdeen District Council where he represented Middlefield and Heathryfold from 1988 until 1996 and as an Aberdeen City Councillor from 1995 until 1999.

He lived in Aberdeen with his wife Dorothy with whom he raised four sons, a daughter and two grandchildren.