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It was left to Bruce Robertson, Highland's education, culture and sport director, to welcome delegates with a small refreshment. When Robertson's remit was expanded, a West Highland councillor asked him what he knew about sport.

"Well," said the director. "I played football against Alex McLeish (the Rangers manager) when he was 16. I beat the world champion at squash (Peter Nicol) when he was 10. I taught the former Open Golf champion (Paul Lawrie) everything he knows - about history. And I support Aberdeen."

The councillor thought about it. "So you've got some ground to make up then."

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