THE former leader of the Scottish Liberal Party Lord Russell-Johnston collapsed and died in a Paris street yesterday.
Colleagues last night paid tribute to the former MP for Inverness, describing him as a proud Scot who was passionately pro-European.
Lord Russell-Johnston, who would have celebrated his 76th birthday today, was suffering from bone marrow cancer and was receiving chemotherapy, but continued to work for the Council of Europe on human rights issues.
His estranged wife Joan last night said:
"Although Russell and I were estranged for over ten years, we remained very close. It was entirely amicable but he had a political commitment to Europe and was eager to pursue it. If he had a choice for a city to spend his last days, it would have been Paris. He loved it.
"Russell told me he was unwell on my birthday on 1 January this year but it wasn't until later this year that he discovered how nasty it was.
"But typically, he carried on serving people despite his treatment. We don't know what the arrangements are for his funeral yet. It has all been a big shock."
The acting leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Michael Moore MP, said: "Russell Johnston's death is a terrible loss, not only to his family and friends, but also to Scotland.
"He was one of the giants of Scottish Liberalism in the last quarter century and stood out with his passionate advocacy of Home Rule and commitment to internationalism.
"His fierce pride in Scotland and its values, and his compassion for his constituents and fellow Scots was echoed in his longstanding involvement in the human rights work of the Council of Europe."
Liberal democrat leader Nick Clegg said the former MP, who represented Inverness from 1964 to 1997, would be sadly missed.
He said: "Russell-Johnston was an institution in his own right. A long-standing MP in the Highlands, a liberal to his fingertips, a member of the House of Lords, a member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe for many years, and a former president of that assembly. But above all a committed, lifelong pro-European.
"Just last week, on the last occasion I saw him, he was pressing me on the latest European issues of the day. He will be sorely missed, not only by his friends, family and colleagues but by all those people whose lives he touched throughout Europe."
Current Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness, Danny Alexander, said: "Russell was a Highlander and a Liberal. He was an immense servant and iconic figure in the area during his 33 years as an MP.
"As I know from personal experience he touched the lives of many constituents.
"He will be sorely missed by colleagues in Westminster and across Europe where his contribution to bringing peace and stability to Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall came down will be remembered in history."
Veteran Liberal and long-term colleague Sir Menzies Campbell said:
"As leader of the Scottish Liberal Party and as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats he was a distinguished and effective communicator.
"Scottish and European politics have lost a distinguished man of integrity and wisdom."