Bill Jamieson, convivial Scots financial journalist of robustly free-market views – obituary

He was a Fleet Street veteran who relished debate in all its forms

Jamieson outside Adam Smith's house in Edinburgh
Outside Adam Smith's house in Edinburgh: Jamieson was economics editor at The Sunday Telegraph and was at The Scotsman for many years Credit: Jane Barlow/TSPL

Bill Jamieson, who has died of cancer aged 75, was the doyen of Scottish business journalism and a former economics editor of The Sunday Telegraph.

A veteran of Fleet Street’s hot-metal era, who loved every aspect of newspaper-making, Jamieson returned to his native land in 2000 for a distinguished 12-year stint as executive editor of The Scotsman.

Though his contrarian, free-market views rarely coincided with those of Scotland’s Left-leaning media and establishment, he relished debate in all its forms and made friends across the spectrum of opinion.

As a writer Jamieson brought clarity and concision to complex economic issues, both global and local, and delved into the detail of important business stories.

As a manager with wide-ranging but loosely defined responsibilities in The Scotsman’s Edinburgh headquarters, he commanded universal respect for his editorial judgment, had no time for office politics or prima donnas, and was a great encourager of younger journalists.

A big, convivial man with an infectious, bellowing laugh – usually followed by an explosive smoker’s cough – he never took himself too seriously.

Jamieson in 1997

William Bryce Jamieson was born in the small Ayrshire town of Newmilns on June 9 1945, one of three children of John Jamieson, a lawyer, and his wife Anne, née Leckie; Bill attributed his first interest in journalism to the proximity of the family home to the local newspaper presses.

He was educated at Sedbergh School and went on to read Economics at Manchester University, where much of his time was taken up with CND and anti-war marches.

He began his career in 1969 on local papers in South Wales, serving as a sub-editor on the Western Mail before moving to London in 1973 to become a City reporter with Thomson Regional Newspapers.

He joined the Daily Express in 1976 and wrote for its City desk until 1986, when he was recruited into the launch team of Today, conceived by the union-busting entrepreneur Eddie Shah as Britain’s first full-colour tabloid using state-of-the-art technology.

Later that year Jamieson moved on again to be deputy city editor of The Sunday Telegraph, where he was economics editor from 1995 to 2000.

A natural libertarian and early Eurosceptic, Jamieson’s published writings included titles such as Britain Beyond Europe (1994) and A Constitution to Destroy Europe (2003).

He stood as Ukip’s candidate for Putney in the 1997 general election – winning 233 votes that (together with 1,518 for Sir James Goldsmith of the Referendum Party) assisted in the famous defeat of the Tory incumbent David Mellor.

Canvassing in Putney in 1997 (meeting Jill Duncan) Credit: John Robertson

From 2000 to 2008 Jamieson was director of the Policy Institute, a think tank established to promote neoliberal ideas in a Scottish context, and in 2005 he wrote Scotland’s Ten Tomorrows, subtitled “The devolution crisis and how to fix it”.

He was named Journalist of the Year in the 2009 Scottish Press Awards in recognition of his writings on the financial crisis – which he foreshadowed several months before it happened – and collected an additional Campaign of the Year award for The Scotsman’s coverage of the rescue merger of Halifax Bank of Scotland by Lloyds Banking Group. He was saluted again, for lifetime achievement, in 2012.

After retiring from executive duties, Jamieson founded Scot-Buzz, a website that he promised would deploy “mischief and humour” for the serious purpose of supporting Scottish enterprise and pursuing “campaigns that put Scotland first”.

He also continued writing elegant Scotsman columns on many subjects – including the pleasure of cultivating the many varieties of roses in the garden of the new home he commissioned on the site of a ruined cottage overlooking Loch Earn.

Bill Jamieson married, in 1971, Elaine Muller, whom he met at university. She survives him with their son Alastair, who is a journalist at The Independent.

Bill Jamieson, born June 9 1945, died November 14 2020