In due time, I came to realise that Heath was a seriously flawed individual.
Didn’t grasp that straight away. In the first full flush of my fervent commitment to the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, I joined up, aged 14. Originally, of course, because both of my parents were Tories but very soon thereafter because my own developing intellectual rigour led me to believe that I was probably not wrong in my choice.
The joys of libertarianism and the superb speeches and writings of Rhodes Boyson, Enoch Powell, Sir Keith Joseph and, above all others, Peter Utley lay in my future. But, in that happy dawn, I was old enough to know that Sir Alec Douglas-Home was clearly a charming chap but probably not a lot more.
So, I shed no tears when he lost the 1964 election, believing that a brighter, better, more meritocratic future lay ahead of my Party. I genuinely thought that Heath was part of that despite the fact that he had chosen to serve under Sir Alec unlike the truly great Iain Macleod and the aforementioned Enoch.
I personally do not think that Heath was ever the best of speakers but it was clear that he had a fine mind and that he believed in what he said. That is why I have always been able to forgive him for his unswerving devotion to a United Europe. He was the product of his time and of his World War.
He served his country in that war, living through times which I have been lucky enough never to know. His speeches showed that he really believed that it was necessary to mesh the countries of Europe together in such a way that another war could never happen again between those countries.
And then it all went pear-shaped for me. Heath lost the 1966 election and Winnie Ewing of the SNP won the 1967 Hamilton bye election. Cue panic from the Labour Government and bigger panic from the Heath Opposition. It was alleged that it was necessary to draw the Nationalist sting by offering a measure of devolution to the revolting Jocks. Thus arrived the Declaration of Perth by the blasted Heath.
In the Autumn of 1967, when the ‘What do we do about the Nats?’ kettle was seriously boiling over, I attended the SCUA Young Conservative Conference in Leith (E Heath present). Inevitably, the subject of Scottish Devolution came up. Speaker after speaker came to the podium and lauded the concept. I seethed, put up my hand and was called.
In essence, all I said was that my country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, had a proud history and did not need to be fragmented. I have never been so disparaged, dismissed and derided as I was by the Right Honourable Edward Heath in his summation of that debate. Basically, he said that I was too young to grasp the facts and should keep my mouth shut until I had learned better.
I still believe that I was right and that he was so wrong.
In 2008, I did a 50th anniversary tour of places that had meant a lot to me when I was 8. My Dad got posted to Wiltshire in 1958 and I spent two happy years amongst my English brethren. Despite being a staunch Presbyterian (now agnostic), I acquired a deep and abiding love for Salisbury Cathedral. So, I strolled the place for a good hour, just savouring. Then I got to Heath’s memorial stone in the central aisle. I am ashamed to say that I jumped up and down on it and did a quick pas de basque to remind him that one can be proud of being both a Jock and a Brit.
I will never forgive him for being a man who was happy to feel free to tear my country apart by encouraging nationalism for the sake of political expediency. Especially when it was in direct opposition to his deeply-held belief in the need to suppress the nation state for the sake of the greater good when it came to his beloved Europe.