Tributes to David McLetchie

Tributes have been paid from across the political spectrum to former Scottish Conservative leader and Lothian MSP David McLetchie who died today.

The coffin of former Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie is carried from St Columba's Church. Picture: PA
The coffin of former Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie is carried from St Columba's Church. Picture: PA

The Prime Minister David Cameron joined Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson in paying respects to “one of Scottish politics’ most formidable intellects”.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said: “The dignity, courage and good humour with which David faced his illness was inspirational and his passing leaves a large hole in Scottish public life, in the Scottish Conservative Party and amongst those who were closest to him.

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“First and foremost my deepest condolences go to his wife Sheila and their family.

“David had so much left to give and it is difficult to describe just what his loss at such a relatively young age means to all who knew him.

“As leader, he ensured the Scottish Conservatives played a central role in the fledgling Scottish Parliament’s development and it is thanks to him that the Scottish Conservatives were able to establish themselves at Holyrood following defeat at Westminster in 1997.

“David was a ferocious debater who could deploy his famous wit to the most telling effect and his finely-tuned legal brain was invaluable when it came to dissecting weak legislation or the arguments of his opponents.

“But such was his conviction and his good humour, that even those he dismantled on the debating chamber floor were happy to share a drink and discussion with him afterwards.

“David had friends in every political party and he was often the fulcrum of some of the most unusual alliances in order to improve, force or block a piece of legislation.

“He enjoyed family life and life away from politics.

“He was an avid golfer, followed both football and rugby and he was always the first to insist that any Conservative night out incorporated a healthy dose of Karaoke.

“As a genuinely imposing character in Holyrood, the value of his presence to the whole institution could not be under-estimated and I particularly appreciated the encouragement and sage advice he offered me.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I was deeply saddened by the news of David’s death. David has been an immense figure in Scottish politics and a towering strength to our party in Scotland. He will be sorely missed.

“When devolution came, he picked up the reins and made sure that the Scottish Conservatives had a strong voice at Holyrood.

“He was one of Scottish politics’ most formidable intellects and finest debaters. All he did was carried out with dedication and conviction and his passing leaves a gap in the lives of all who knew him.

“My heartfelt condolences go to Sheila and his family.”

Malcolm Chisholm, a Labour MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith, tweeted: “Very sad to hear of David McLetchie’s death. A very able politician who will be much missed in Scottish Parliament.Condolences to his family.”

Shirley-Anne Somerville, a former Lothians MSP for the SNP, tweeted: “Very sorry to hear news about David McLetchie. Happened to be the first to meet me on my first day as an MSP. A gentleman, great humour & attention to detail”

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie MSP, said: “A towering figure in this new Scottish parliamentary age, David will forever be regarded as a public servant who made a difference. Whether as party leader or foot soldier he commanded immediate respect and trust from friend and foe alike. I will miss his humour and intelligence.”

Scottish Conservative Chairman David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, said: “David McLetchie made an outstanding contribution to Scottish politics and public life and will be greatly missed by our party.

“He ensured that the Scottish Conservatives were ready and able to take up the challenges of the creation of the Scottish Parliament and was one of the big beasts of the post devolution era.

“He was renowned as a formidable debater and wit, and was quite simply great company.

“He always showed me great personal kindness and I will always be grateful to him for supporting me in my transition from business to politics as a new MSP.”

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said Mr McLetchie had been “an extremely effective leader of the Conservative group in the first Parliament, allowing it to punch politically well above its actual numbers”.

He said he got to know him best during the spell in the SNP’s minority administration when Mr McLetchie was Tory business manager

Mr Salmond said: “There his talents excelled, always negotiating hard in his party’s interest but also fairly in the interests of the Parliament and effective government - his word was his bond.”

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont MSP said Mr McLetchie’s death would be “a huge loss to the Scottish Parliament”.

She added: “We will remember his passion, drive and determination. Despite his failing health, his commitment to representing his constituents in the Lothians meant that he continued his work in Parliament.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie described Mr McLetchie as a “towering figure in this new Scottish parliamentary age”.

He added: “David will forever be regarded as a public servant who made a difference. Whether as party leader or foot soldier he commanded immediate respect and trust from friend and foe alike. I will miss his humour and intelligence.”

Hi son James McLetchie said on behalf of the family: “The family are devastated at the loss but are immensely proud of the courage and dignity which he showed during his illness. He will be greatly missed.”