JACKIE Baillie, a key figure in the Better Together campaign, has been made a dame, in part for having put “the good of the country first”.

Coming as one of the honours handed out in the King’s birthday list, Baillie was made a “Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” – the first sitting MSP to be handed such a title.

Baillie, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, has represented Dumbarton at Holyrood since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999.

She was a director of the Better Together campaign during the 2014 independence referendum – though she later said her party had been “wrong” to get involved.

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Baillie told a Scottish Labour conference event in March 2022: “We had been telling everybody for years that the Tories were terrible, and we co-operated with them.

“Don't get me wrong, there was a greater issue at stake, which was the future of the United Kingdom, but I think we were wrong to have done that.”

Baillie’s contribution to the campaign seemed to be noted in the UK Government’s reasoning for awarding her the damehood.

In a statement accompanying the announcement, the UK Government said: “She works tirelessly in her local communities and represents all in her community irrespective of politics.

“She has not always taken politically convenient or comfortable positions, but instead has always put principle and the good of the country first.”

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard told The National: “It’s hard to see how the ‘good of the country’ is served by an outdated and feudal honours system.”

He added that it was a “system which has recently been brought into further disrepute by Boris Johnson and his corrupt Tory cronies”.

Baillie said the award had come as “quite a shock”, telling the PA news agency: “I understand I was nominated by constituents and when you have represented people for 24 years this is such a humbling experience. And so I was delighted to accept on that basis.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack put out a lengthy statement congratulating the Scots who had been recognised in King Charles’ birthday honours list, but Baillie was not mentioned.

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Jack (above) did mention Rangers “legend John Greig’s CBE”, the MBE awarded to “national treasure Ken Bruce”, and Orkney Council leader James Stockan, who was given an OBE.

The Tory MP went on: “I also pay tribute to the many Scots who have been recognised for their selfless and unstinting charity and voluntary work. The length and breadth of Scotland, the commitment of so many unsung heroes keeps local communities not just alive but thriving. I am very pleased that so many of those committed citizens have been recognised today.”

Elsewhere in the honours list, there was recognition for those in the arts world. The chief officer and artistic director of Scottish Ballet, Christopher Hampson, and Scottish Opera chair Peter Lawson were both made CBEs.

Sally Magnusson, a presenter on BBC Scotland’s Reporting Scotland news programme, was made an MBE for services to people with dementia and their carers.

And wheelchair tennis star and Paralympic gold medal winner Gordon Reid becomes an OBE for services to tennis.

Three current and former Police Scotland officers have also been recognised for their “dedication to public service”.

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Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham and retired assistant chief constable Kenny MacDonald were awarded the King’s Police Medal, while retired detective inspector Simon Broadhurst became an MBE for his service to the police force.

Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone, who was previously awarded the Queen’s Police Medal, said: “These awards are tribute to their dedication to public service and the communities of Scotland. I am hugely grateful for their professionalism and quality.”

In England, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw was knighted in the King’s Birthday Honours for political and public service.

Bradshaw was only the second MP to be openly gay when elected in Exeter in 1997, and has said he regards his knighthood “as a thank-you” to all those who supported him.

The list was published after King Charles handed his wife Camilla Scotland's highest chivalric honour: The Order of the Thistle.

The move sparked outrage north of the Border, with republican campaigners branding it "cronyism with a crown on top".