Scotland politics

Scottish tributes made to Charles Kennedy

A selection of Charlie Kennedy's campaign rosettes Image copyright Scottish Liberal Democrats

Tributes from across the Scottish political spectrum have been made to former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

The former MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber died in his home in Fort William on Monday, aged 55.

No cause of death has been given but police said it was not suspicious.

He has been described as "a lovely man", with "rock-solid principles" who was able to bring a "light touch" to politics.

A statement from his family said they were devastated to lose a "fine man and loving father".

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon was among the first to pay tribute, tweeting that she was "sad beyond words to hear the news."

She added that Mr Kennedy was "a lovely man and one of the most talented politicians of his time. Gone too soon."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Charles Kennedy and Willie Rennie on the campaign trail together

Liberal Democrat colleagues have been speaking of their sense of loss at his death.

Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said he was "absolutely devastated" by the news.

He said: "I only met him 12 days ago in Glasgow to discuss the future of his political career because he had so much yet to give.

"It was that cheeky smile, that Highland voice, and just a few well chosen words. He was able to catch my political heart and many people right across the nation."

He added: "His wise counsel and gentle encouragement is something I especially valued. I will miss him so much."

'Unique character'

Sir Malcolm Bruce, the former MP for Gordon, told Sky News that Mr Kennedy's death had come as a shock to the party.

"The thing people remember about Charles is he was able to bring such a light touch to politics," he said.

"All of us really want people to reflect on what we've lost - a politician of his own type and quite unusual among other politicians."

Former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott told BBC Radio Scotland: "He was a unique character who brought the best of our discourse and our discussions of what we should be as a country together and I just think the loss is incalculable, not just to the party but to the wider politics."

Senior figures from the Labour party have also been paying tribute, with some saying they tried to persuade Mr Kennedy to join Labour due to their respect for him.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Mr Kennedy "was a man who effortlessly combined rock-solid principles with a personality that was always open to argument and ready to listen", and that "he will be remembered as one of the most gifted and personable leaders of our time."

"He was a man who had even greater potential that will now forever remain unfulfilled and his loss will be felt deeply by all of us, particularly those who care about progressive values," he added.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said that Scotland, and the whole United Kingdom, "has lost a political giant."

"Although we came from different political traditions, Charles was a man I was proud to call a friend. When I was first elected to the House of Commons back in 1997 as a young 29-year old, Charles was one of the first people to offer me support and guidance. He didn't have to, but he did. That's just the kind of man he was," he added.

'Universally liked'

In a blog post remembering "a very good friend", former Labour head of press Alistair Campbell wrote that he was "shell-shocked and saddened to the core" by Mr Kennedy's death.

"He spoke fluent human, because he had humanity in every vein and every cell," Mr Campbell wrote.

Paying tribute to Mr Kennedy as she made a speech in Brussels, First Minister Ms Sturgeon said that her fondest memory of him was when they both "skived off" to see Trainspotting whilst on a study trip to Australia in the 1990s.

"Charles was one of these rare people in politics. He was a brilliant and effective politician - perhaps one of the most talented politicians of his generation - and yet somehow he managed to be universally liked," she said.

"There's no doubt this morning that our country is poorer for his passing."

'Transcended party politics'

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond said that Mr Kennedy's finest moment came with his opposition to the Iraq war in the face of "enormous pressure."

"Charles' ability, and perhaps because of the constituency he represented in the west Highlands, was that he had a circle of friends - people he knew and trusted - beyond the 'magic circle' of politics.

"Therefore, when it came to a decision when the establishment was facing one way and the people were facing the other way, he took the side of the people," he said.

Image copyright University of Glasgow

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said that Mr Kennedy "was a politician who transcended party politics and his gentle warmth always conveyed an intelligent humanity when he spoke".

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said he had known Mr Kennedy for over 30 years.

"He was a genuinely nice man and his sense of humour and fun will be hugely missed," he said.

The University of Glasgow, where Charles Kennedy studied then later served two terms as rector, also paid tribute.

Principal and vice chancellor Prof Anton Muscatelli said: "He contributed an enormous amount, and was a friend to all who came into contact with him.

"The thoughts and prayers of all at the University of Glasgow are with Charles' family at this dreadfully sad and tragic time."

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