Sir Jackie "close to crime" 04 | 11 | 2010

    SIR JACKIE STEWART may have carved his name and reputation in the world of motorsport, having contested 99 grands prix and won three Formula One World Championships, but the 71-year-old Scot admitted he could easily have slipped into the world of drugs and crime simply because of his dyslexia.

    The Dumbarton pensioner, still one of the world's most instantly identifiable figures in world motorsport, was back in Scotland to launch Dyslexia Awareness Week in his role as president of Dyslexia Scotland.

    And Sir Jackie, speaking in Edinburgh's Central Library, laughed at his situation of being surrounded by books, and the written word.

    "Libraries are places I never entered when I was young," the 1969, '71 and '73 world champion admitted. "Yes, there was a Carnegie library in Dumbarton, but I would never have dared go in because it would have shown up that I couldn't read and I was so embarrassed not to be able to read or write or spell.

    "I also never joined the Cubs as I thought I would be found out to be dumb or stupid, which is what happened at school." But Sir Jackie, who won 27 grands prix through his illustrious career, said he believed the change in schools since his childhood had been 'magnificent'.

    "Scotland is a very good example to almost every other country in the world in the progress we have been able to make in the past three or four years," Sir Jackie, who praised the current Scottish Government for bringing in new rules stipulating every student teacher must learn about the condition, continued.

    But while he also applauded the introduction of the Additional Support for Learning Act which ensures every child has a right to a diagnosis of any learning difficulty, he warned that implementation of the rules across Scotland varied widely from council to council.

"It's definitely not being carried out as well as it could be," he said. "There are 32 local authorities in Scotland and there is no doubt some are better than others. It's an absolute scandal over the longer term if we don't help them, because if you can't read and write, you can become violent.

"I know because I was very close to living that life when I was about 14. If there had been drugs around at that time I could easily have turned in that direction, but sport saved my life and stopped me entering a world of crime."

    Sir Jackie though does mix with criminals, but it's as an ambassador for Dyslexia Scotland. The veteran is a regular visitor to Edinburgh's Saughton Prison where he encourages inmates to take literacy lessons.

    "If the inmates are taught to read and write when they are in prison, they leave with a much better chance of rejoining society in a positive fashion. Before going through those improvements, most of them couldn't even fill in a job application form. Having said that, right now I couldn't fill in a drivers' licence application form. It's like a jungle for me."

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    Jim McGill

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