Ray Perman BA MBA FRSE


Ray Perman started his working life as a journalist on newspapers. including The Times and the Financial Times, before co-founding the business magazine company Insider Publications Ltd in 1983. The business was sold to Trinity Mirror plc in 1999.

From 2011 to 2017 he chaired the James Hutton Institute, a scientific research organisation working in the fields of environmental sustainability and food security, and from 2014 to 2017 he was Director of the David Hume Institute, which commissions research and organises seminars on economic, political, social, and business issues affecting Scotland.

From 2005 to 2013 he was chair of the Access to Finance Expert Group, which advised the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on policy relating to small business and start-up finance. He was a member of the board of Scottish Enterprise from 2004 to 2009 and chair of Social Investment Scotland, which makes loans to the social economy, from 2001 to 2009. He is a former member of the court of Heriot Watt University and chaired three small companies including his son's live-streaming and digital media business.

Ray is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a trustee of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, which makes grants to help students take up places at university. He is also a trustee of a small experimental theatre company.

He was born in London, but has lived in Scotland since 1975. He is married to the journalist and editor Fay Young. They have three sons. In his spare time he plants trees, paints and was for ten years the bass player in a blues band.

He is the author of HUBRIS: How HBOS Wrecked the Best Bank in Britain (2012) and a biography of the Gaelic scholar John Lorne Campbell, The Man Who Gave Away His Island (2010). His financial history of Edinburgh, The Rise and Fall of the City of Money, was published in 2019. His latest book, James Hutton: The Genius of Time, is a biography of the father of modern geology.

Election statement

I got off to a bad start with the University of St Andrews. As an undergraduate I was thrown out after two years for failing one too many exams. I was devastated at the time and it was a spur to go on later to get two degrees from other universities. But it has given me first-hand experience of what a scary place university can be for some students - particularly those, like I was, from working class homes with no tradition of higher education.

That was a long time ago and student support has improved out of all recognition since. The enviable record that this university has for scoring highly on surveys of student satisfaction and wellbeing is one of the elements - along with excellence in teaching and research - which make it so admired and successful.

If I am elected as Senior Lay Member of Court I would work to help maintain those three pillars of success. But difficult times are coming, with the economy forecast to be in recession for up to two years. St Andrews' high reputation and good management have ensured that the University has the resources to come through the next few years in good shape.

But some students and staff - academic and non-academic - may not be so fortunate. Some are already facing financial hardship because of increased living costs. Any university is only as good as its staff and students. To protect the University's reputation and future it should use its strength to help those in difficulties through hard times.

Every crisis throws up opportunities as well as threats. A small university, able to move quickly, can seize these chances - whether accelerating the move to Net Zero by bringing forward investment to reduce our energy consumption, or improving diversity by widening horizons when recruiting new students and staff.

I hope to be able to work with all staff and students and the Rector, Dr Leyla Hussein, to help her achieve her goals.

Protecting biodiversity is crucial too and St Andrews already sets an inspiring example with ambitious plans for managing the University’s open space for wildlife. We can do a lot on our own, but much more by making the right partnerships, bringing together the skills of our own staff and students with experts from external organisations. As COP27 showed, there is no time to waste.

The next few years will be demanding, but they could also be very exciting. With experience of serving on a university court and chairing a scientific research organisation, I think I have the skills to play a part in guiding the University. I ask for your vote.