HE survived notorious dictator Saddam Hussein ordering a hit on his life and being captured by Sudanese militants - and he credits his unbeatable nerve to growing up on the streets of Maryhill.

Alastair McPhail has brokered peace deals in some of the most hostile warzones in the world in his role as an ambassador and now he’s hoping to bring peace to a war-torn West African country.

Glasgow Times: Presenting credentials to South Sudan President Salva Kiir MayarditPresenting credentials to South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit

He said he may have been “typecast” as a tough guy because of his Glasgow roots.

“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,” said Alastair.

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“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.”

He told how his mother was incredibly impressed with his first flat in Rome on a diplomatic posting, remarking: “It’s a long way from Maryhill.”

Glasgow Times: Alastair in the West Bank Alastair in the West Bank

Alastair added: “She had her purse nicked, as often happens in Rome and we had to go to a police station to report it.

“The Head of Security at the Embassy took us to the Chief of police’s office, this room with gold leaf chandeliers and everything.

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“The guy was wearing braid and he said to me ‘Oh, your Excellency’ and my dad said ‘Yer whit?’. So, I think the family have always been proud of me.”

He was born in the north of the city and left when slum clearances forced thousands out of decaying tenement buildings.

“For the annual Queen’s Birthday party, I’m always in my kilt and weirdly at the last one, it turned out the military piper performing at it was from Maryhill,” he said.

"When our Defence Attache told him about me, the piper said, ‘There can’t be. There’s no such thing as an ambassador from Maryhill’.”

While he was posted to the UK Embassy in Ankara between 1996 and 2000, Alastair was “the only foreign” diplomat going into northern Iraq on a regular basis to speak with Kurdish fighters.

He said: “I had a bounty on my head from Saddam Hussein, although that was a far from exclusive club.

“He didn’t get me, but he did kill a friend of mine. He and his girlfriend were both shot, but she survived.

“That’s why I was so strict on radio silence the whole time I was there.”

Later, he was moved to Sudan, where he was an original member of a mediation group formed by the UK, the US and Norway which tried to secure an end to the civil war in the country.

“It wasn’t unusual for the UN helicopters I travelled in to be shot at and once we were taken by the Sudan armed forces,” Alastair added.

“They weren’t violent towards us, but they did have us confined for a few hours and they were preparing to take us somewhere else when we were released.

“I was proud of my country because it was the UK that got us out. We were in an area that is still disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan, but it all ended well, although William Hague did say to me ‘I wasn’t sure I was going to see you again’.”

Now, he is working to help resolve the volatile situation in Ethiopia, where an eruption of violence in Tigray led to an outright civil war between the region and the Ethiopian government.

Alastair was involved in brokering a deal between Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met with his G7 counterparts in London earlier this month and they put pressure on Eritrean forces to pull out of the troubled region.

He said: “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.”

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

The £15.4m in relief aid in response to Tigray, is in addition to a £105m package of support that the UK provided in 2020 to support efforts to respond to the triple threats of Covid-19, climate change, and locusts, which are having a devastating impact on the country.