Scott, Sir William Dalgeish (1890–1966), MP and barrister, was born 12 November 1890 in Scotland. He was educated at Edinburgh University, where he won a Thow scholarship, two medals, and the Dalgety prize. After further study at the London School of Economics, he was admitted to the English bar. He joined the board of inland revenue in 1920 and became involved in Irish affairs on joining the staff of the chief secretary for Ireland in 1920. At the time of partition he, like many Dublin-based protestant civil servants, chose to move north to serve in the administration of the new government of Northern Ireland. Appointed assistant secretary at the Ministry of Finance in 1921, he was promoted to the position of permanent secretary at the Ministry of Commerce in 1924 at the exceptionally young age of 34. During his twenty years at the ministry he assumed a number of related positions, including industrial insurance commissioner (1924–44) and chairman of the electricity commissioners for Northern Ireland (1924–40).
The outbreak of the second world war brought him into the centre of wartime planning, and as coal controller (1939–42), regional representative of the Board of Trade (1940–44), and regional controller at different times of the ministries of supply (1940–44), production (1942–4), and aircraft production (1943–4), he made a significant contribution to the coordination and expansion of Northern Ireland's war effort. On 1 July 1944 he succeeded Sir Wilfrid Spender (qv) as permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance and head of the Northern Ireland civil service. He served for almost nine years in this capacity till his retirement at the end of March 1953 at the age of 62. Conferring the honorary degree of doctor of law on him at QCB in 1953, Professor J. L. Montrose, dean of the faculty of law, suggested that Scott had contributed to two great achievements in Northern Ireland – the establishment of the new postwar social structure and the acceptance by the UK government of the principle that the people of Northern Ireland were fully entitled to amenities equal to those enjoyed by all other citizens of the UK (Times, 17 Oct. 1966).
On his retirement Scott became director of the Provincial Bank of Ireland and Ulster Pension Trustees Ltd, and the following year he was appointed as the NI representative of the Federation of British Industries. He was also chairman of the Northern Ireland Coal Importers Association. In the public sphere he served on a committee on teachers’ salaries (1954), and as a member of the joint exchequer board he was appointed (1956) to serve on a two-member economic commission set up by the British government to examine the finances of Malta. He also acted as a chairman of various bodies, including the governors of Ashleigh House School (1958–61), the Ulster Scot Historical Society (1957), the central council of the Irish linen industry (1957), and the Linen Independent Research Association (1957–63). Awarded the CBE in 1924, he was knighted in 1946 in recognition of his public service. His recreations included walking and reading, and he was also a member of the Junior Carlton Club and the Ulster Club (Belfast). He married (1922) Margaret, eldest daughter of Dr A. M. Burn of Timarie, New Zealand, and Harrow-on-the-Hill. He died 15 October 1966 in a Belfast clinic and was survived by his two sons, Dr Gordon Scott, resident in Canada, and Colin Scott, who worked in the linen industry in Belfast.