New Year Honours for Falkirk district residents

Two Falkirk district residents have been recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours.

By Fiona Dobie
Friday, 31st December 2021, 10:31 pm
Martin Fairbairn, from Larbert, has been awarded a CBE in the Queen's New Year Honours.
Martin Fairbairn, from Larbert, has been awarded a CBE in the Queen's New Year Honours.

Martin Fairbairn, from Larbert, has been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to education.

The 58-year-old was, until recently, chief operating officer for the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and it was for his hard work and dedication in this role that he was given the prestigious accolade.

During his time at the SFC he was involved in work, which was at times challenging, to shape higher education funding and policy.

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Speaking about his CBE, Martin said: “I’m blown away and flabbergasted.

"I was genuinely not expecting it at all.

"Given the role I have had, I know how these things work and I certainly wouldn’t have expected to be nominated, let alone chosen.

"It’s been difficult keeping it quiet for the last few weeks.

"I’m completely bowled over.”

With a background as a chartered accountant, Martin became involved in higher education in the 1990s when he joined Stevenson College in Edinburgh as finance director.

He said: “When I started there I was very excited as I hadn’t had any contact with that sector.

"It was a rollercoaster ride back then, things were extremely tight financially, as they are now, but we developed new courses and gave students new types of areas to study in, such as personal care, which helped the financials too.

“I was blown away how colleges could change the lives of young people. I know it’s a cliche, but I saw it with my own eyes.”

Then in 2000, Martin moved to work with the Scottish Funding Council.

Originally he worked within the college sector, and four years later he became involved in working with both colleges and universities.

He was involved in work to reformat how money was divided up between colleges and universities and reshaping strategy on what was expected of colleges and universities, moving to a structure where each institution could tell the SFC what its students, communities and partner organisations needed, rather than being dictated to.

Martin explained: “The Scottish Funding Council is a bit of a back room organisation.

"When looking at dividing the money differently, some historical stuff meant I had to work very delicately with some institutions to steer them out of difficulty, and I’m delighted they all came through and survived really well.

"At the same time I was recasting what we were expecting of colleges and universities.

"Giving them their space to do what is right for their areas.

"It was a big gamble, but it was the right thing to do.

"When you look at the university sector in Scotland, it’s one of the most innovative areas in Scotland.

"There’s innovation in colleges too, but it’s a different side of innovation.

"More recently I was concerned with working with the board to help develop its voice.

"I have been really lucky to work with great people, and bright, committed people, in the Scottish Funding Council.

"I couldn't have done what I have done without support from chief executive Karen Watt and chairman Mike Cantlay.”

Fellow Falkirk resident and chief executive of Highland Spring, Les Montgomery, was also awarded a CBE in the honours list for services to the water industry, the environment and overseas aid.

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