Monday, 28 July 2008

Lochaber No More: Russell-Johnston Dies

Lord Russell-Johnston of Minginish died last night of bone marrow cancer on the eve of his 76th birthday. He had been Liberal MP for Inversness from 1964-83 then for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber from 1983-97 when he was elevated to the other house. From 1974-99 he served as leader of the Scottish Liberal Party before becoming the inaugural President of the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 1988-94.

He was as Ming Campbell summed up a proud European and proud Scot and this showed in his concerns in both houses. Even his last utterance recorded in Hansard, only 11 days ago, relates to the EU. As well as Europe one of his key concerns was the treatment of the blind in our society and as a result he was the RNIB Parliamentary representative for 20 years.

Last October he also showed his strong stance of equality for gay rights when he spoke out against the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church when Patriarch Alexy II called homosexuality an illness at a human rights conference. Being almost Wildian in his juxtaposed retort Russell-Johnston said:

"Being a long-standing heterosexual I have no physical understanding of it, but
I am certain, however, that people of the same sex in loving relationships
should be respected."

The current incumbent to the closest seat to Russell-Johnston's Danny Alexander paid his tribute by saying:

"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 was a committed European."

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