The challenges to government this week included an unexpected broadside from the royal commission on long-term care of the elderly, which condemned the failure to introduce free personal care across the UK.
Only Scotland has implemented the recommendations of the 1999 report, and the commissioners warned that the present system was fraught with "anomalies and injustices". Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, who chaired the commission, said: "We urge the government to take the necessary action, and soon."
The former principal of Edinburgh University has always been noted for his political astuteness in a career that has combined academic work with public service. He stepped down from the Edinburgh principalship a year ago, saying he wanted to further his academic interests without the constraints of a full-time post. Before leaving, he set in train the radical restructuring of the university into three US-style colleges, backed by a £40 million bond from the Prudential finance group.
Without it, Lord Sutherland warned, Edinburgh faced a £12 million deficit within four years.
He is president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and chairman of the council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. He is also president of the charity Alzheimer Scotland. The charity said the Sutherland report "drew attention to the serious problems affecting people with dementia, for whom care is the main form of 'treatment', but for which they are means-tested."
Stewart Sutherland was born in Aberdeen, graduating from Aberdeen University with first-class honours in philosophy, followed by a first-class MA in the philosophy of religion from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. After 20 years in teaching and research, he became principal of King's College London, then vice-chancellor of London University, a post he latterly combined with being chief inspector of schools for England. Knighted in 1995, he became a "people's peer" in 2001.