The University of Strathclyde has recently appointed Mairi Spowage as Professor of Practice and Director of its prestigious Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI).
Mairi takes up the role after being Acting Director for the last year.
Mairi’s father, the late Donald Macaskill, was from Stornoway and lived on Seaview Terrace. She is the granddaughter of the late Ginger and Dena Macaskill and has many relatives still on the island.
A former deputy chief executive of the Scottish Fiscal Commission and Head of National Accounts at the Scottish Government, Mairi's areas of expertise include economic policy, economic statistics, national accounting, public sector finances and economic and fiscal forecasting.
Professor Spowage leads on the FAI’s work with partners across business, the public and third sector and is regularly asked to give evidence on economic and fiscal matters at Parliamentary Committees, and also recently been appointed to be the Budget Adviser to the Finance and Public Administration Committee for 2021-2023 and as an Office for National Statistics (ONS) Fellow and member of the Economic Experts Working Group (EEWG).
A Mathematics and Statistics graduate of the University of St Andrews, Professor Spowage joined the University of Strathclyde in 2018 as a visiting researcher before becoming Deputy Director in 2019.
Professor Spowage said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be appointed as the permanent Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute.
“The FAI has established itself as the leading economic research unit in Scotland and its expertise is highly respected, sought and utilised across the UK and beyond. Our research shows the power of economics to bring insights to the challenges and opportunities facing society.
“As a key part of the Economics Department, we are proud to work with our colleagues across Strathclyde Business School to ensure that our world-class research has a real-world impact on policymaking."
The Strathclyde University unit counts everyone from the Northern Ireland Executive to Celtic FC as a client and produces regular commentary on Scotland’s public finances. But in its 45-year history, it’s never had a woman in the top job before.
“It maybe shouldn’t have taken this long,” Spowage told the National newspaper. “It shouldn’t be such a big thing, but after 45 years they finally appointed a woman.
Educated at Clackmannanshire comprehensive Alva Academy, Mairi enrolled at St Andrews University in Fife in 2000. “I went the year before Prince William came and it was actually not that posh then, but it got really posh in my second year,” she says. “There weren’t an awful lot of people from my background there. It was quite eye-opening.”
Spowage joined the civil service through a fast-track programme in 2005. She returned from her third period of maternity leave in 2013, with her husband looking after the children. The move sparked questions from men and women at work. “It’s not uncommon for women in the civil service to go to part-time hours, which I wouldn’t criticise, but given the job I had, I felt I couldn’t do that part-time.
“And I was the main breadwinner, I had to come back full-time. You would get some people being quite surprised that you were back, almost like it’s not right to have ambition when you have three kids under four. It was like, ‘my husband is at home with the kids, is that not alright?”