Tom Buchanan death: Tributes for councillor

Tom Buchanan was diagnosed with a brain tumour last November. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Tom Buchanan was diagnosed with a brain tumour last November. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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TRIBUTES have been flooding in for one of the Capital’s “very brightest lights” after councillor Tom Buchanan died at the age of just 55 following a long battle with illness.

He passed away peacefully in his sleep in hospital early yesterday morning with his wife, Evelyn, by his side.

The senior SNP councillor left his post in charge of the Capital’s economic development after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour last November.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led the tributes to Cllr Buchanan, whom she praised as “one of the most talented councillors of his generation” who had “contributed hugely” to the city.

The 55-year-old was one of the most popular and widely respected councillors at the City Chambers, being held in high esteem across the party political divide. Colleagues admired the fact he was always able to put the interests of the city ahead of party politics.

Known for his work attracting new businesses to create jobs in the city, he had been heavily involved in regeneration work and efforts to tackle youth unemployment.

Labour’s former city council leader Donald Anderson said: “The city has lost one of its very brightest lights. Tom was an outstanding politician who focused on delivering all he could for the city and its people.

“He was pro-development because he understood the difference that jobs could make for Edinburgh residents and Edinburgh families, and Tom worked tirelessly to deliver all he could.

“He was also one of the nicest people I have ever met, and I know everyone’s thoughts are with Evelyn and the family as they deal with this cruel loss. Edinburgh has lost a great champion and we all owe him a huge debt.”

Cllr Buchanan was elected to the city council in 2007, representing the Liberton/Gilmerton ward, and quickly established himself as one of the leading figures in the coalition formed that year between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP to run the city.

He had been tipped as a future leader of the city’s SNP group.

In March 2011, Cllr Buchanan was diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent surgery at the Western General.

He stood for re-election two months later despite his illness and was returned comfortably. A scholarship fund for Edinburgh’s young people has been proposed in his memory.

Cllr Cardownie, the council’s deputy leader, said Cllr Buchanan’s loss would be keenly felt across the SNP and the city council as a whole.

He said: “The impact that he had in a relatively short time with the council, and as economic development convener, was second to none. In the midst of a worldwide recession, his drive and stewardship of the city economy left Edinburgh in a much better place than it would have been without his leadership.”

Cllr Cardownie said the pair had become “firm friends” during their six years working together, and that both enjoyed a few laughs in the corridors of the City Chambers.

He said: “I remember one day passing one of the function rooms and spotting a child’s high chair. Tom wasn’t the biggest of men you see – he had a very slight figure. He would have made a great horse jockey.

“I swiped the high chair and swapped it with his own office chair and then went back in to my adjoining room and waited for him to show. You could hear him roaring and laughing all the way down the corridor when he came back. He had a great sense of humour.”

Cllr Buchanan earned plaudits for the way he steered the city’s economy through tough conditions in recent years, and friends and colleagues said his keen work ethic was admired.

When the global financial crisis hit in autumn 2008, he was instrumental in setting up a council-wide economic resilience plan, which was approved with cross-party support.

He was also heavily involved in the successful bid to bring the Green Investment Bank to Edinburgh.

Council leader and Labour group convener Andrew Burns said: “Tom brought relentless energy and enthusiasm to his role as economic development convener, particularly to the council’s strategy for jobs.”

Cllr Buchanan helped set up Liberton Community Council in 2001.

Treasurer Peter Schwarz said: “Tom was a great stalwart of the community. I remember he once caused quite a stir at a gala day we held in the

Gracemount mansion house on Lasswade Road back in 2002. Community councils are supposed to be non-political so you can imagine everyone’s horror when he turned up with a great big bunch of SNP balloons. Tom leaves a very pleasant memory, nobody could criticise

him.”

The council said a by-election in Cllr Buchanan’s Liberton/Gilmerton ward would take place within three months. He is survived by his wife Evelyn and brother Sandy.

Committed public servant and avid hearts supporter

The premature death of Tom Buchanan has robbed Edinburgh of a doughty fighter for the city, a man who really cared about his fellow citizens, and worked long hours – he was often seen at his desk in the City Chambers before 7am – in his sterling efforts to improve the lot of business and industry in the Capital, and who was equally committed to assisting the young and unemployed, writes Martin Hannan.

The tributes and many expressions of grief yesterday from all sides of politics in Edinburgh were genuine and sincere, for even if they disagreed with him, his political opponents knew him as a decent and approachable man, a hard worker, a diligent councillor and a campaigner for the betterment of the city he loved.

Thomas Brown Buchanan was born in Lanark, the son of James and Jean Buchanan. The family moved to Stranraer and he was educated at the town’s High School. His further education began at Napier College of Commerce and Technology, now Napier University, in 1978. He gained a degree in commerce and marketing and then completed his studies in marketing at Galashiels College.

The initial move to Edinburgh brought Buchanan into contact with the two great loves of his life, his wife Evelyn, to whom he was devoted for nearly three decades of marriage, and Heart of Midlothian FC. After finishing his education, Buchanan moved into a career in sales and marketing, at which he excelled. A keen sportsman from his youth, Buchanan was a very eager golfer and a rugby fan. He loved cycling, and was never happier than when tending to his well-kept garden.