A STRAIGHT-TALKING Scot who once survived having a bounty placed on his head by Saddam Hussein is leading the UK’s efforts to help bring peace to Ethiopia.

Glasgow-born Alastair McPhail has served the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) as a conflict resolution specialist in trouble spots including Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Gaza strip.

Now as the UK’s Ambassador in Ethiopia, the top diplomat is helping deal with the fallout from the eruption of violence in Tigray, which has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Last week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met with his G7 counterparts in London and they put pressure on Eritrean forces to pull out of the troubled region.

The UK Government has so far pledged £15.4 million of aid since the crisis flared six months ago in November.

McPhail played a major role in brokering the peace deal, which saw the creation of South Sudan as an independent state in 2011 – and knows his diplomacy skills face another serious test with Tigray.

He said: “Sometimes I think that maybe I’ve been typecast. I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, there’s this guy from Glasgow. He can go to the tough places’, and so I’m often not considered for the nice jobs.

“I’m originally from Maryhill, where Taggart was set, and it had a certain reputation in the 60s. It was known as ‘Scaryhill’, so even from a young age, I had conflict around me.

“I’ve handled conflict resolution in Northern Iraq and Sudan, and of course I’m now in Ethiopia, where the situation in Tigray is bad.

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“Our primary focus is to try and de-escalate the violence and secure humanitarian access to ensure civilians get the life-saving support they need. The governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea announced last month that Eritrean forces were to withdraw from Tigray – and we are adamant that this must commence.”

He added: “I’m proud of the role the UK has played in past peace processes. I’ve been a part of things which have meant that peoples’ lives have either improved, or they are alive, as a result of things we’ve done.

“That is an incredibly positive thing, so for me, I never view this job as a hardship. It’s a front row seat on history, it’s being able to participate, rather than spectate, and hopefully act as a force for good.”

Dad-of-two McPhail joined the Foreign Office in 1994, having previously worked as a binman, barman, factory labourer, farm labourer and even a rent collector on a London housing scheme.

He joked: “Being a rent collector was useful in giving me conflict resolution skills, as it taught you certain ways to approach people who are very hostile.”