Ex-Conservative leader David McLetchie dies

David McLetchie. Picture: Toby Williams
David McLetchie. Picture: Toby Williams
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Lothians MSP and former Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie has died.

It is understood the 61-year-old passed away in the early hours of this morning at the St Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh. The MSP for Lothian had been ill for some time.

An MSP since the start of devolution in 1999, he served as party leader for the first seven years of the Scottish Parliament.

He later returned to the frontbench and also represented the Tories in the organising group of the cross-party anti-independence Better Together campaign.

Tributes to David McLetchie

He was diagnosed with cancer last year. He was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June.

He is survived by his wife, Sheila, 65, and son, James, 32, stepchildren Stuart and Catriona, and four grandchildren.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said: “The dignity, courage and good humour with which David faced his illness was inspirational and his passing leaves a large hole in Scottish public life, in the Scottish Conservative Party and amongst those who were closest to him.

“First and foremost my deepest condolences go to his wife Sheila and their family.

“David had so much left to give and it is difficult to describe just what his loss at such a relatively young age means to all who knew him.”

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said Mr McLetchie had been “an extremely effective leader of the Conservative group in the first Parliament, allowing it to punch politically well above its actual numbers”.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont MSP said Mr McLetchie’s death would be ‘a huge loss to the Scottish Parliament’.

Former Labour chancellor and Better Together chairman Alistair Darling joined the tributes to the Tory MSP, saying he “made an immense contribution to Scottish politics throughout his life”.

Mr McLetchie’s involvement in Scottish political life began 45 years ago when, as a teenager, he first became active as young Conservative.

Since then he has gone on to hold several senior positions within the party, including a seven-year stint as leader of the Scottish Tories, before standing down in 2005.

More recently, he has fulfilled the role of Conservative chief whip and business manager and, after being returned to Holyrood at the 2011 Scottish elections, he has worked as the party’s justice spokesman.

Born in 1952, Mr McLetchie attended Leith Academy and George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh before attending Edinburgh University where he gained a law degree, graduating in 1974. He qualified as a solicitor in 1976 and joined Tods Murray WS in Edinburgh, becoming a partner in 1980.

Outside politics Mr McLetchie was a keen golfer and an avid football fan, holding a season ticket at Hearts but also making frequent trips to St James’ Park to watch Newcastle United.