TRIBUTES have been paid to former Conservative candidate and talented rugby player Christopher Land, who has died aged 33.
Mr Land, who had just completed the first year of a law degree at Edinburgh University, was described by his family as “an extremely intelligent, intensely principled, charming, funny and very kind person”.
He was born in London but grew up in Edinburgh and was educated George Heriot’s School, then took Oriental Studies at Cambridge, where he captained the Robinson College rugby team.
A “superb” linguist, he spoke Spanish, Hindi and Mandarin and after graduation, he travelled widely and worked in India and China.
On returning to the UK he worked at a senior level for business risk agencies in London before coming back to Scotland ahead of the independence referendum in 2014 to support the campaign for the Union as day-to-day manager of the Hands Across the Border cairn project, which saw 100,000 stones placed on a site at Gretna.
More recently, he worked at the Scottish Parliament as senior parliamentary aide to Tory MSP Liz Smith.
He sought to foster good cross-party relations by starting a parliamentary rugby team organising games against the UK, Welsh, Irish and French parliaments and linking with charity The School of Hard Knocks, which uses sport to tackle unemployment, crime and poor health.
He stood as the Conservative candidate for Morningside ward in the 2017 council elections and for Glasgow North West constituency at the general election the same year, where he was delighted to increase the Tory vote by about 10 per cent.
His family has created a website in his memory, where many friends have left heartfelt tributes.
Ed Cairns, a former flatmate at Cambridge, said: “Chris was an intelligent, engaging and passionate man who made an impression on all he met and he has left us far too soon.
“When I picture Landy at his happiest, he is in his rugby kit. He was a committed captain and teammate. He put all he had into every training session and match. His team talks always channelled the Braveheart spirit and not a single player gave less than 100 per cent for him.”
Other university friends recalled how he enjoyed pointing out that like him, James Bond had taken Oriental Studies at Cambridge.
Murray Johnstone, a school friend, said: “Chris led a wonderful life. He achieved so much. I always enjoyed hearing about his work, whether it was security audits of hotels in Myanmar or managing the construction of the Auld Acquaintance cairn.
“I will miss him enormously. He was a fantastic bloke and I feel very grateful to have had the pleasure of his friendship.”
Alastair Hector, former headmaster of George Heriot’s School, said: “I have always thought of him as an admirable Herioter. He was a terrific representative of an able and hard-working year group from which he went to notable academic success at Cambridge, and a great contributor to school life. I have a picture in my mind of him coming off the field at the end of a particularly hard rugby match at Goldenacre, covered in mud but with his typical smile shining through despite the slog it had been.”
And Dorothy Mullen, his Spanish teacher, at Heriot’s, described him as “one of the finest linguists I ever worked with”.
Liz Smith, the MSP he worked for, praised his dedication and loyalty and said she was devastated by his death and described it as a "tragic loss"
And Dominic Heslop, a former colleague in the parliament, recalled his "infectious laugh, enthusiasm and immense patience when needed".
He added: "One of his greatest attributes was the fact that he was not a guy who was self-centred, unlike many involved in politics. I will remember a caring, considerate, funny, tolerant and beautiful person. Chris was also one of the brightest guys I have ever met and I was incredibly lucky to know him.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “This is a tragic waste of young life and a terrible shock. His family have our deepest condolences.”
In September, Mr Land appeared in court accused of stalking an SNP politician.
He leaves behind his parents, Moira and Ray, and two sisters.
The funeral had to take place with limited attendance, but the family hopes in due course to hold a memorial service for him.