ANDREW Hughes Hallett was one of the foremost political economists of his generation. Author, editor and academic, he died in the United States on the night of Hogmanay, surrounded by his family including his wife Claudia, and children David, Jim and Nicky.

He had battled a long illness while living between Scotland and the United States. Having been born in London in 1947, he was 72. Far too young.

He was the son of Vice Admiral Sir Cecil Charles Hughes-Hallett whose brother was also a distinguished Vice Admiral. This may explain his global outlook, but he was so grounded that he never once mentioned his distinguished roots to me.

His career and lifetime contribution were truly world class.

He was both a genius and a gentleman. Ranked as one of the top percentile academics in his field globally, he advised governments, central banks, the IMF, the World Bank, the European Commission and European Central Bank and the OECD. His studies traversed Warwick University, LSE and Oxford. His career then took him to positions and visiting roles at universities around the world from Princeton and Harvard to Frankfurt, Rome, Paris and Copenhagen, to Tennessee, Virginia and more.

I first met him in his relatively brief period (1989-1992) at the excellent Economics Department of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

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He was pre-eminent amongst a group of colleagues of extraordinary capability and standing. I was a young undergraduate student. He was then as he always stayed, approachable, likeable, unintimidating and clever as can be.

Some years later I wrote asking for his help during the first term of the Scottish Parliament in 1999-2003. Alex Salmond had asked me to take on the finance and economy brief for the SNP. At this point I was completely unsure of exactly where Andrew stood on politics, I was just keen on his substantial brain.

He enthusiastically helped me with a campaign to engage academics and others behind the idea of the Scottish Parliament controlling all of its own finances. This was a success through the General Election of 2001 and prepared the ground for both the shifts in attitudes and practical reforms that were to come.

He went on to serve on the Council of Economic Advisers and then on the nascent Scottish Fiscal Commission. He did so with distinction.

The former and current First Ministers, Salmond and Sturgeon, were quick to note his passing with sadness. Both noted his intellect were outmatched only by his decency and modesty.

His was the first name on the list when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon created the Sustainable Growth Commission in September 2016.

He served this project with his trademark passion and intellectual integrity. His main focus was on the difficult conundrum of currency which sat at the heart of the transition challenges we faced and had to navigate.

He brought a level of practical as well as theoretical insight and experience that I don’t think could have been bettered.

He took it upon himself to visit Copenhagen and Frankfurt to check in on what other’s perspectives were.

He would join our meetings mainly by video from Virginia where he was undergoing treatment. He wore that battle lightly. He seemed to me to wear everything lightly, not least his genius. He had the humility one tends to meet in the most accomplished of people.

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He had so little left to prove to anyone so never, ever tried. He just expressed his views gently, with great humour but with an authority that was content led. He was therefore listened to, intently.

He reminded me in that way of that other great genius I was privileged to know, the late Professor Sir Neil MacCormick. By this time Andy’s politics were clear. He would have loved to see Scotland achieve independence and begin the process of normalisation, reform and state-building he thirsted to assist.

Even in these last months we would speak over the ether and he would enthusiastically engage in any argument that emerged against what we all proposed. I would check each new one I heard to be assured we hadn’t missed anything. To date, we haven’t.

Over the festive season we lost another Scottish giant in Alasdair Gray. Better known than Andrew, of course, I don’t know if they ever met, but I have a strong hunch these clever minds would have got on famously. Not least because Andrew’s life was a testament to the encouragement of Alasdair’s famous exhortation to “work as if you live in the early days of a better nation”. In so many ways, right until his last days, Andrew Hughes Hallett did.

He was quietly world class in both ability and application. What more could we ask of anyone?

If we make it to the day of independence and the beginning of our generation’s work to create a better nation the name of Andrew Hughes Hallett will be added to the pantheon of those who helped to get us there and make the most of it ... Rest in peace you beautiful man.