Scotland politics

Tributes paid to former Scottish minister Sam Galbraith who has died

Sam Galbraith Image copyright PA
Image caption Sam Galbraith served as both an MP and MSP

Many tributes have been paid to former Scottish minister and Labour politician Sam Galbraith who has died at the age of 68.

The former neurosurgeon served as both an MP and MSP and held the post of education minister in Scotland's first devolved government.

Scottish Labour MP Alistair Darling described Mr Galbraith as, "a dedicated politician, and a very dear friend".

He was one of the world's longest surviving lung transplant patients, undergoing the procedure in 1990.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Galbraith's family, Mr Darling said: "Sam Galbraith died this morning in Glasgow's Western Infirmary after contracting an infection which proved impossible for him to overcome.

"Sam was a brilliant neurosurgeon, a dedicated politician, and a very dear friend.

"But above all, he was devoted to his family, to Nicola and their three daughters - Mhairi, Heather and Fiona - who are foremost in our thoughts."

Mr Darling added: "Sam was believed to be the world's longest-surviving lung transplant patient.

"It was extraordinary how he continued to contribute and achieve so much throughout the 25 years that he lived with his condition.

Image copyright PA
Image caption As education minister, Sam Galbraith had to cope with the fallout of the Scottish exams fiasco
Image caption Sam Galbraith was elected to represent Strathkelvin and Bearsden at Westminster in 1987

"Sam's professional life and immense talents were devoted to the care and betterment of others, through the National Health Service and in his deep political commitment. He was a great humanitarian.

"His work and his life touched countless lives."

Mr Galbraith's family also thanked staff at the Glasgow Western Infirmary for their care, as well as staff at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital, where he received his lung transplant.

He was not expected to live for more than two years after the procedure. Mr Galbraith was once quoted as saying that, having been so close to death, he was not overawed by the hurly-burly of political life.

The father-of-three, born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, and educated at Greenock High School and Glasgow University, was first elected to represent Strathkelvin and Bearsden at Westminster in 1987 and served as health minister in the pre-devolution Scottish Office.

Mr Galbraith - one of the world's leading brain surgeons before swapping the operating theatre for the political stage - was appointed education minister in Donald Dewar's first cabinet, after the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

Within months he had to defuse threats of a teachers' strike over pay.

'Distinguished neurosurgeon'

He also had to deal with the Scottish exams fiasco in 2000, which saw thousands of students, from Standard Grade through to sixth year level, affected by inaccurate or incomplete results.

He laid responsibility for the crisis firmly at the door of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, telling Parliament at the time: "Again and again I and my officials raised specific concerns. Again and again we were offered reassurances that - at the end of the day - were worthless."

Mr Galbraith also found himself with a central role in the long-running battle over a move by the Scottish government to scrap Section 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Image caption Sam Galbraith was among the first intake of MSPs when the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999

The row, which saw Scottish businessman Brian Souter fund a campaign aimed at keeping the clause, eventually drew to a close after Mr Galbraith accepted a recommendation that marriage should be spotlighted within the legally binding guidance for schools on sex education.

Mr Galbraith went on to serve as environment minister but later stepped down due to health reasons, although over the years continued to provide commentary on political issues of the day from outside the Holyrood bubble.

He also became known for being among those MSPs picked up for using colourful language in parliament, after being caught out using the word "bollocks" during a 2001 Holyrood committee meeting.

Former ministerial colleague, Lord Jim Wallace, said Mr Galbraith was a man he could "readily trust".

The Lib Dem peer added: "It was a privilege to work alongside him in coalition, and I very much wish to recognise the significant contribution he made, in helping our fledgling parliament to mature and work well for Scotland.

"My thoughts and condolences are very much with his family, as they mourn his loss."

'Gifted politician'

Also paying tribute to Mr Galbraith, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, said: "Sam was a wonderful man. A great doctor, an inspiring colleague and dedicated family man.

"We will all miss his vigour, his support and his candour."

First Minister Alex Salmond echoed the words of Ms Lamont.

He said: "Sam Galbraith was a devoted and gifted politician whose commitment to improving the lives of others never wavered, even though he faced living with his own serious health condition for the best part of 25 years. My thoughts go to his family and friends at this sad and difficult time."

Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick, added: "Sam was no career politician, a distinguished neurosurgeon with a hinterland beyond politics.

"He was one of the original 1999 intake of MSPs, but there was always a sense that parliament was robbed of his talents when he stood down in 2001 because of ill health."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also joined in with the tributes. In a statement, she said: "Sam Galbraith was a good public servant and an honest, decent man. Scotland is very much the poorer for his passing."