Scotland politics

Funeral of 'hero' MND campaigner Gordon Aikman is held

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Media captionFuneral tributes to "true hero" Gordon Aikman

The funeral of prominent motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner Gordon Aikman has heard him described as a true hero.

Mr Aikman, who raised more than £500,000 with his "Gordon's Fightback" campaign, died aged 31 on 3 February.

Politicians including Nicola Sturgeon, Kezia Dugdale and Alistair Darling joined Mr Aikman's husband Joe Pike for the service in Edinburgh.

Celebrant Caroline Lambie, who also married the couple, told mourners "there was no-one like Gordon".

Image copyright MND Scotland
Image caption Mr Aikman (left) with his husband Joe Pike
Image caption Gordon Aikman's coffin is brought to the funeral service

Ms Lambie, from the Humanist Society of Scotland, said that it was natural to mourn.

She added: "In a way, we are mourning that our lives will never be the same without him."

People arrived at Warriston Crematorium in Edinburgh to a recording of Highland Cathedral, played by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

Image copyright PA
Image caption First Minister Nicola Sturgeon paid tribute to Mr Aikman
Image caption Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale comforts a fellow mourner

The coffin was taken into the service to the strains of Forever Young by Bob Dylan.

The service heard an account of Mr Aikman's diagnosis with MND, and his successful campaign of fundraising for research into the condition.

His husband read the poem Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep.

Image caption Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson paid their respects
Image copyright PA
Image caption Former prime minister Gordon Brown attended the service

The celebrant told the congregation that while the pain of losing Mr Aikman would diminish over time, the light he had brought into their lives would not.

Ms Sturgeon, who agreed to double the number of specialist MND nurses after meeting Mr Aikman, said she was filled with admiration for his tenacity.

She said: "Gordon faced up to his diagnosis with incredible courage and dignity.

"His campaign to raise awareness of MND and achieve better care and treatment for those diagnosed was inspirational and will make a huge difference for others in the future."

Image caption Former chancellor and Better Together campaigner Alistair Darling

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale also spoke about her memories of close friend Mr Aikman.

She said: "Today I'm saying goodbye, but also thank you.

"Gordon gave us all something so special. He gave us his friendship, his courage and the determination to make things better for those who follow.

"He did so much good in such a short space in time. We miss you terribly but pledge to honour your life in how we now choose to live ours - to savour every day."

'Greater hope'

Alistair Darling, who worked with Mr Aikman on the Better Together campaign in the lead-up to the Scottish independence referendum, described him as a true hero.

Referring to his involvement in a charity ice bucket challenge, the former chancellor said: "It takes some convincing to get me to agree to have a bucket of cold water over my head but I did it because Gordon was an inspiration.

"Truly, we have lost a hero but he leaves us greater hope that one day there will be a cure. That was what he wanted. We will not forget him."

Mr Pike said it was "so painful" to say goodbye, but said the service was about celebrating Mr Aikman's achievements.

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Media captionTributes paid to MND campaigner Gordon Aikman

He said: "Life is never without Gordon and never will be without Gordon.

"He is gone but I, like so many others, now see life through Gordon's eyes.

"He has made me a better person because, even when he was dying, Gordon taught us all so much about how to live."

The cremation service was followed by a celebration of Mr Aikman's life in Edinburgh city centre.

Mr Aikman, from Edinburgh, was diagnosed with MND in 2014 while he was director of research for the Better Together campaign in the Scottish independence referendum.

He went on to win cross-party support for his campaign calling for funding to find a cure for MND and for specialist nursing care.

He was awarded a British Empire Medal in 2015 and an honorary doctorate from Edinburgh University for his work to transform care for people with the disease.

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