Eberhard ‘Paddy’ Bort: Economic and social thinker, folk musician


Significant figure in both Scottish political thought and culture passes away at age of 62

ECONOMIC and political theorist, internationalist and Scottish folk movement devotee Eberhard ‘Paddy’ Bort has died at the age of 62.

Bort, originally from Germany, passed away in Edinburgh on Friday 17 February.

In his work as an academic at Edinburgh University as a lecturer in politics, and a participant in initiatives such as Nordic Horizons and the Scottish Rural Parliament, he advocated an enhancement of local democracy and the alternatives to the UK’s economic model that can be found on the European continent.

Director of the Common Weal Think Tank Robin McAlpine said: “There are a number of people who’s influence over the Scottish independence movement is much bigger than their name recognition. Paddy played an essential role in shaping the concept of the European social democratic and Nordic models of an independent Scotland. His influence in placing Scotland in an international intellectual context and seeing it through a lens other than the Anglo-American capitalist model was important.

Bort on Hamish Henderson at the Edinburgh People’s Festival in 2013

“In particular, as a co-author with me of Silent Crisis, the major report on the state of local democracy in Scotland, it was Paddy’s academic knowledge of European local democracy which helped to show just how undemocratic local government in Scotland is. Paddy was an enormously generous man and he played a crucial role in the development of Common Weal’s thinking. He was also simply a wonderfully kind and supportive person whom I will miss very much. Scotland is lesser for Paddy’s passing.”

Paddy was also a keystone figure in the Edinburgh folk scene since the 1990s, and was the chair of the Edinburgh Folk Club (EFC) at the time of his death.

In addition to his mentoring and advocacy of many young folk musicians in the Scottish scene, he also worked to keep alive the memory of Hamish Henderson, the legendary godfather of the Scottish Folk revival tradition, and a leftwing intellectual in his own right.

To this end, Bort helped to organise initiatives like the Carrying the Steam Festival and Hamish Henderson Archive Trust (HHAT), and he spoke and wrote often about Henderson’s achievements and legacy.

Writer and campaigner Lesley Riddoch said: “Larger than life was a description that seemed to fit Paddy Bort. When he reached top speed and high volume on a favourite subject (municipal government in the Nordic nations invariably did it) he was hard to ignore. Yet Paddy was essentially a careful, patient, unassuming man whose big gift to Nordic Horizons was his quiet belief in any project – big (like the recent Brexit event) or enormous (like the book he and I co-authoured which was due to leave the publishers next week).

“Few other academics have chosen to get so very engaged in the things that excite, enrage or delight them. Paddy was exceptional – and yet his serious interests were complemented by an equally large range of musical and cultural commitments.

“I can’t even imagine a Nordic Horizons meeting without thinking of Paddy twinkling away in the corner as our anchor. In a world where aggressive, self-assuming men get too far, Paddy was a lovely man, an enthusiast, a consummate expert on his hero, the late Hamish Henderson and an all round European at a time when that has never been more vitally needed.”

Friends have described Bort as a consummate internationalist who embraced Scottish intellectual and cultural life and made a real impact on both.

Read: The Silent Crisis: Failure and Revival in Local Democracy in Scotland (2012)

Pictures and video: Youtube

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