Tributes paid to fallen Highlander

SEVERAL hundred mourners gathered yesterday to pay their respects to a "big-hearted and determined" young soldier who died mysterious circumstances in Afghanistan.

The funeral of Highlander Scott McLaren was held in his native Edinburgh.

The 20-year-old, of the 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was found dead with gunshot wounds hours after going missing in Helmand on July 4.

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Family, friends, members of the Royal Regiment and veterans of the British Legion attended the funeral at Mortonhall Crematorium, where his coffin, draped with a Union flag and a wreath of poppies, was carried into the service by fellow soldiers as a piper played Flower Of Scotland.

Tributes to Highlander McLaren, who was from Sighthill, were read by Captain Gordon Law of 4 Scots, his uncle Duncan Smithyman, and his 16-year-old brother Ross.

Addressing mourners, Captain Law said: "Scott was the perfect example of what makes a soldier great. He was a stalwart of his team. He was cool under pressure and unrelenting in the face of the enemy.

"Those that didn't know Scott often thought he was a quiet young lad. And for those that did, he was a very keen lad."

He added: "He quickly became the most reliable and conscientious member of the team. Always happy to take on extra work and always happy to volunteer."

Captain Law said Highlander McLaren had a "genuinely big heart" and while quiet, was the "master of the one-line putdown".

He said: "He was a man who put 100 per cent into everything, whether it was work or friendship. He had a fierce determination that was rare to see in one so young. Whatever the challenge, whatever the task, it was always Scott McLaren who was standing at the end."

Captain Law said Highlander McLaren's death had left a hole in the battalion and the regiment, adding that he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

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The soldier's body was greeted at the crematorium by bikers from the Royal British Legion Riders, a branch consisting of civilian members, veterans and serving soldiers.

Rider Karen Homes, a former member of the Royal Medical Corp, said: "We are just here to pay our respects to a fallen soldier, to Scott. We want his family to know there are people out there who support them."

Thirteen members of his unit, who flew in from their base in Germany on Sunday, lined the route for the hearse. Another six acted as pallbearers.Among the floral tributes was one which read "F1", the nickname given to Highlander McLaren by his unit in reference to both his surname and his athletic prowess.

Those paying tribute included Major James Cross, who said: "He was a man who always saw the best in people and never had a bad word to say about anybody.

"As a soldier he consistently strove to excel in whatever task he undertook."

Major Justin Barry said: "Highlander Scott McLaren will be remembered as the quiet, yet fiercely dedicated and loyal, member of the company who would think nothing of putting himself at a disadvantage as long as it benefited someone else."

Maj Barry added: "Generous to almost a fault with his money, expertise or just willingness to listen to an issue or concern, whatever the time of day, he was the team member who revelled in the camaraderie that the army offers, the one you could rely on to complete a job without complaint or hesitation."

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