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Isles liberals pay tribute to Charles Kennedy

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott have paid warm tribute to Charles Kennedy following the former Liberal Democrat leader’s sudden death at the age of 55.

Carmichael said he was sad to hear the news on Tuesday morning and highlighted both Kennedy’s personal warmth and his principled opposition to the Iraq war.

“He was a man of great humour who, more than anything else, could enjoy a joke at his own expense,” Carmichael said.

“At 55 he still had an enormous amount to offer his country. Much has already been said about his personal warmth as an individual and his ability, as a result, to connect with voters.

“All that is undoubtedly true but I hope that he will be remembered for a lot more. His political judgement on the decision to go to war in Iraq was a textbook example of how to balance political principle with the demands of national political office.

“Likewise, his determination not to be drawn into the inquiries set up after the war by the then Labour government set him apart from the political establishment. I shall miss him greatly.

Scott said Kennedy came to Shetland back in 1999 to speak at Scott’s constituency dinner prior to the inaugural Scottish Parliament elections. The following morning they took a trip on a salmon boat for some fresh isles air and “Charles was in his element – it was a memorable weekend”.

Under Kennedy’s leadership, the Liberal Democrats strongly opposed the Iraq war in 2003. He argued “with patience, determination and logic that the case had not been made” and his warnings were “prescient”.

During campaigns down the years, Kennedy readily offered advice to his party colleague – including the delivery of a “political tour de force on the Highlands, nationalism and Britain” during a three-hour drive to Inverness when Scott was “parliamentary bag carrier” to Jim Wallace in the late 1980s.

That guidance continued when Scott became leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in 2010: “He was incredibly helpful. In 2010, when the Lib Dem MPs decided to form a coalition with the Tories, it was Charles who caught me as the London meeting was breaking up.

“I despaired at the pact with the Tories. I guessed at the likely political fallout in Scotland. The nationalists and Labour salivated at the prospect and the rest is now history. Charles spoke against the formation of that coalition. Had his colleagues listened to him there would be many more Lib Dem MPs still in the House of Commons.”

Scott added: “I struggle with the thought of not having Charles to phone, to laugh with and to analyse the politics of our country.”