Vivian Linacre, opponent of metrication who helped sow the seeds of Brexit – obituary

Vivian Linacre, who has died aged 93, was a property developer who became a vigorous anti-metric campaigner. Linacre formed the Imperial Weights and Measures Preservation Society to resist the compulsory metrication that was being pressed on the property trade. Noting that the British Weights and Measures Association had become moribund decades before, IMPS changed its name to that, and from 1995 the BWMA became central to the campaign to resist compulsory metrication when European Union’s weights and measures directive came into force.

Rather than resist metrication per se, the BWMA campaigned for the continuation of dual marking, which the EU had allowed for some time. When a Sunderland street trader, Steve Thoburn, was convicted in 2001 under the Weights and Measures Act after trading standards officers bought 34p’s worth of bananas from him weighed on imperial scales, the BWMA had its cause celebre – and although Thoburn’s three-year battle, which reached the European Court of Human Rights, was ultimately unsuccessful, it was believed to have helped to sow the seeds of Brexit. Linacre, who had no truck with Europe, became the UK Independence Party’s first candidate in Scotland, Nigel Farage acting as his agent, and the two of them served together on the fledgling party’s national executive.

Vivian Linacre was born on August 5 1928 in Liverpool, the third son of Bert, who worked for Woolworths, and Connie (nee Ellis), a stenographer. He attended Knotty Ash Primary School – alongside Ken Dodd – then Prescot Grammar School. The family moved to Birmingham and then Edinburgh, where Vivian attended George Heriot’s School and Edinburgh University.

In his final year he met the gay poet Edwin Morgan, who developed a strong attachment to him and over the course of four years sent him a series of passionate letters and poems.

Vivian Linacre sitting on the Imperial scales at wine merchants Berry Bros and RuddCredit: Christopher Cox

Linacre moved to London and established himself in property development, going on to be responsible for many town-centre developments in England and Scotland. He joined the Scottish developer Murrayfield, and then City Wall Properties in London. He became group property manager at Trust House Forte before tiring of corporate politics.

He returned to Scotland and set himself up on his own, beginning with a site he converted for Debenham’s in Princes Street, Edinburgh’s prime shopping thoroughfare, with developments following in Inverness, Erskine and Penicuik, and Co Durham. He drew on his experience to write several books, including How to Save Our Town Centres; Ground-Breaking, a history of commercial property development; The Marshall Place Conspiracy, about a historic property scandal, and a book about an Italian ancestor who fought for Napoleon, The Several Lives of Alberto Bioletti. Linacre was sitting in his bath when he had the idea of establishing an industry charity. “Estate agent” and “property developer” were, he thought, two of the most popular terms of abuse, and a charity could begin to change that.

The Scottish Property Industry Festival of Christmas, or Spifox, began life with a few dozen property professionals attending a concert in Edinburgh New Town followed by an industry lunch, and has grown to raise millions for Childline and other charities. Linacre was also Scottish chairman of the Scottish appeal committee for the 1987 UN International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. Late in his career he embarked on further property schemes, including a drawn-out effort to redevelop Perth City Hall.

When that was blocked he launched a successful campaign to save the Hall from demolition. Vivian Linacre married, first, Joan, a receptionist at the first firm he worked for in London. They had four sons but divorced, and he married, secondly, Margarethe.

She survives him with his sons.

On the last day of his life, Linacre heard the news that it will again be legal to sell goods using Britain’s traditional weighing system without any metrical equivalent being shown.

Vivian Linacre, born August 5 1928, died September 17 2021