VETERANS of Scotland’s anti-apartheid movement joined politicians and public figures to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela yesterday.
The former South African president was hailed as an inspirational figure whose indomitable spirit motivated an army of Scottish supporters of the African National Congress’s crusade during Mandela’s 27-year incarceration.
First Minister Alex Salmond described him as “a great statesman and a global icon” and highlighted his connection with Scotland.
In 1981, Glasgow became the first city in the world to award Mandela the Freedom of the City when he was still imprisoned on Robben Island.
Twelve years later the former prisoner was greeted as a superstar when he travelled to Scotland to accept the award.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown, who was a friend of Mr Mandela’s, said he was the “the greatest leader of our generation”.
“He showed that the real truth about courage is that you have a strength of belief for which you are prepared to die,” Mr Brown said.
“Because he was committed to racial equality, to freedom, to the dignity of every human being, he brought South Africa from the point at which violence was threatening to blow the country apart, to a multi-racial South Africa, and he did it without bitterness, without recrimination, without rancour.”
Yesterday, the South African national flag was flown at half mast alongside the Saltire outside the Scottish Government offices at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh.
“The death of Nelson Mandela marks the passing of a great statesman and a global icon, so it is only appropriate that we here in Scotland, a land Mr Mandela had great affinity with, mark his passing appropriately,” said Mr Salmond.
He added: “He was also someone who had a longstanding commitment to and friendship with Scotland”.
The Lord Provost of Glasgow, Sadie Docherty, said: “The world has lost a true political and moral icon. Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to bringing freedom, justice and equality to the people of South Africa.
“His beliefs cost him years of his own freedom but his vision for peace and democracy prevailed. He will be sadly missed by a city which had the greatest of respect for him.”
Michael Kelly, lord provost in 1981, said the mood in Glasgow was not as it is now and that he had to convince people to support the Freedom of the City award. When Mr Mandela came to Glasgow in 1993 he told Mr Kelly that hearing of the support he had in Scotland, and across the world, had given him great encouragement.
“I asked him if he knew about the protests and demonstrations and awarding of the Freedom in Glasgow and he said ‘Yes’.
“He told me there was a very sophisticated grapevine [in Robben Island], that the authorities were trying to convince him that his case had been forgotten, but knowing he was made a Freeman of Glasgow and things like that kept him going, because he realised the fight was worldwide and there were plenty of people supporting him.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “Nelson Mandela was a giant of our age. He healed his nation and, in doing so, inspired millions. He showed the world that reconciliation could be a more powerful force than retribution.”
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said that Mandela had inspired many young Scots with his struggle against the apartheid regime, despite his struggle often appearing insurmountable.
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Lorna Hood, said Mr Mandela’s life would be marked by the ability to forgive even in the most testing of circumstances.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, the Archbishop of Glasgow, said: “I will remember Nelson Mandela not only for his courage and his ideals. Rather I will remember him for the great example he gave of the power of forgiveness. And from his forgiveness great hope grew.”
Professor Alan Miller, of the Scottish Human Rights Commission said Mr Mandela “epitomised the human spirit”.
George Adam, the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, said Mr Mandela’s campaign for freedom and democracy had a global impact and his legacy would “inspire generations to come”.
Judith Robertson, chairwoman of the Scottish Refugee Council, said the charity was “deeply grateful” that Mandela had been its patron since 1995 and would continue to take “hope, inspiration and dignity” from his life.