Motion of Condolence

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd September 2013.

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Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

This is another sad day for the Scottish Parliament as we gather to reflect on the loss of David McLetchie, whose untimely death we deeply regret. On behalf of the Scottish Labour Party, I not only offer our sincerest condolences to his family and friends, who must feel his loss most fiercely, but recognise that David was a man who had a huge impact on people across this chamber and far beyond.

As has been said, David was another of the 1999 group of MSPs who were given the task of lifting the Scottish Parliament from the dry words of a parliamentary act to a living, breathing part of Scotland’s political, economic and social landscape, and he was a key player in helping the Scottish Parliament become that place.

Again, as has been said, David was a great parliamentarian, fierce in debate and unrelenting in deconstructing arguments that might have displayed any hint of inconsistency. He was logical and rational, with a devastating turn of phrase. I still remember to this day the feeling of stress when, serving as a minister, I would see him rise to his feet in that languid way of his to deliver what we all feared would be the killer question. Although his wit and withering scorn were his greatest weapons, I believe that he deployed them not to belittle but to make his case. Yes, he was tough in debate, but it was always the argument, not the person, he was pursuing.

Of course, David McLetchie was far more than simply a debater. In committee, his passion to make the Parliament work, interrogate legislation and develop policy was at its most evident. Always willing to do the heavy lifting, he took his job seriously, regardless of whether that work would be recognised or heralded by others. I believe that he simply wanted to make a difference.

David McLetchie always made you think. It was rather unsettling for a Tory to do this, but I often found him challenging me to test my own assumptions rather than to presume them to be a self-evident truth. It is a useful lesson for us all, I think. I recall his capturing in a wonderful phrase the weakness of some of us in Scotland’s political environment when he said that we may now be living in a Scotland where that which is not banned will be compulsory.

David was a man of intellect and wit with interests far beyond politics, and his life and legacy are hard to describe fully. What do I think when I think of David? At heart, when I think of David, I smile. For all our political differences, his humanity, compassion and interest in people were far stronger. He valued people, listened and revealed a warmth and friendship that could never be limited by party boundaries. Across this chamber, we shall miss his wisdom, his commitment and his love for life.

In conclusion, I want to echo the words of the Presiding Officer. If there were ever a testimony to the person David McLetchie was beyond this place, the man who was not simply a politician, it was to be found in the words of his son James who, at his funeral, bravely and compellingly described what David meant to his family through tough and happy times. It is testament to the way that this man—this husband, father and son—lived his life that those who knew him best could speak so powerfully of his goodness and love for them.

We shall miss David and our thoughts today are for this good man taken too soon and for those for whom this loss is so much greater still. [Applause.]