Monday, August 27, 2012

Donald Gorrie 1933-2012

This weekend Scotland lost one of its greatest liberal figures. Donald Gorrie, Mr Edinburgh, passed away on Friday.

Sadly, I never knew him that well, although, of course, I admired from afar his work on issues like sectarianism, alcohol, third party right of appeal in planning decisions and showing how STV would work in the Scottish Parliament.

He was a good role model of how to behave  when you're in a coalition you're not really happy with. He was never destructive, but he spoke up when he wasn't happy and spent his time developing ideas. He had that winning combination of the sharpest of minds, the most liberal of hearts and the most determined of mindsets.

Many tributes have been paid to him.

Paul Edie worked with Donald on the Council for many years. On polling day in May, he went to greet Donald when he went to vote. He compared Gorrie to another great liberal:
He was a man who had a strong sense of morality and  his politics were very much shaped by his sense of right and wrong. He had so much in common with  the great Liberal hero Gladstone in that regard and like the Grand Old Man he became more radical the older he got
Dan Falchikov remembered that Donald, like me, was relaxed on the idea of an independence referendum and thought we made the wrong decision in 2007.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who worked closely with Donald between 1997 and 1999 when Willie was the party's chief executive, and subsequently when he went to work as Chief of Staff for the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament, paid a warm tribute to him:

With a liberal backbone made of steel Donald Gorrie dedicated his life to challenging the establishment.
A highly effective councillor and parliamentarian he revelled in the battle for fairness, opportunity and justice.
Donald was never afraid to be a lone voice and his boundless energy was evident throughout his thirty six years of public service.
The Liberal Democrats will forever be grateful for the life of Donald Gorrie. We will miss him.
Our thoughts are with his wife Astrid and his family.
Secretary of State for Scotland Mike Moore said:
He was a great liberal and a fearless campaigner. Scottish politics is poorer without him.
Andrew Page admires Donald's principled and prescient approach.

Gorrie’s individuality and commitment to principle became quickly evident in his opposition to the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition at Holyrood.  While there were, at the time, strong working relationships between the two parties and the respective leaders (Donald Dewar and Jim Wallace) Gorrie was more suspicious of Labour authoritarianism and centralist tendencies. 
The obituary in today's Scotsman sums all the themes in the various tributes we've heard very well.

His approach to party politics, like his approach to his own politics, was governed by independence. He was independent of mind, he wanted his party to be independent (particularly of coalitions with Labour) and he wanted MSPs to be as independent as him.
As he left parliament, his colleagues acknowledged that the Scottish Parliament was lessened by his departure and that his rather old-fashioned values of service to ideas and people above party had brought a sense colour, depth and wisdom to the institution which only he could bring.
On Twitter, a search for his name brings up recurring mentions of words like gentleman, principle, independent and kind from all across the political spectrum. For posterity, I've collected them into a wee Storify thing.

He had been married to Astrid for 55 years and she, and the rest of Donald's family, are very much in my thoughts today.

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