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Donald Dewar Friday, 13 October, 2000, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
United in grief for Dewar
Henry McLeish addresses chamber
Leading politicians spoke of a friend and colleague
Dressed in black suits and wearing black ties some of Scotland's leading politicians delivered their personal tributes to the country's first minister Donald Dewar.

Presiding Officer David Steel led the special Scottish Parliament session in Edinburgh - two days after the death of the 63-year-old.

Watching the ceremony from the public and VIP galleries were 300 guests - members of the public, Westminster figures including Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, and Baroness Smith, widow of the former Labour leader John Smith, and her three daughters.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: Listens to tributes
With heads bowed and in an already hushed chamber, MSPs observed a minute's silence for the architect of devolution.

Then leaders, from both ends of the political spectrum, spoke with one voice about their late colleague and parliamentary sparing partner.

Sir David was the first to rise to his feet and pay tribute to Mr Dewar.

The short speech was filled with stories which highlighted the first minister's humour, dedication and determination.

"He elevated the profession of politician. As an occupation, politicians are often derided, but politics is the most responsible of roles. You are dealing with people's lives," said Sir David.

Thousands of tributes

The Liberal Democrat brought laughter to the chamber when he recalled two stories about Mr Dewar's well-documented eating habits.

He also read out some of the thousands of tributes which had been penned by ordinary Scots in dozens of condolence books around the country.

Acting First Minister, Jim Wallace, was the next to deliver his eulogy.

He told the packed chamber: "He was a loyal man, loyal to friends, colleagues, his party and most to Scotland, our thoughts are with his closest friends and those who loved him first Marion and Ian.


Donald was a man whose legacy we see around us - a man who changed a nation, and changed it for the better

John Swinney, SNP leader
"I had the privilege of working with him in government, it was built in not only a written agreement but on trust.

"He made a difference for people here in Scotland, he loved Scotland, its places, culture, art, history and even its football team - and most importantly he loved Scotland's people.

"He argued with a passion that people in poor areas should have the same opportunities and chances as others in more well off areas.

"It is difficult enough for politicians to earn respect, but it takes a very special person to win respect and affection."

The occasion was all too much for some - at one point Labour MSP Wendy Alexander buried her face in her handkerchief and wept.

The new leader of the Scottish National Party, John Swinney, said: "Donald was a man whose legacy we see around us - a man who changed a nation, and changed it for the better.

"What greater tribute can there be?"

Wendy Alexander sobbing
The occasion was too much for Wendy Alexander
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, David McLetchie, focused on Mr Dewar's efforts in achieving devolution - a move which the Tories had fought robustly.

"He was a towering figure - he was committed to serving his fellow Scots. It is a goal we all share, whether we differ with its means.

"Achieving a Scottish parliament was a personal goal of his - no one did more to advance the case based on passion and good argument. He put devolution beyond doubt and changed the political landscape for ever

"His place in history is assured."

Labour MSP Henry McLeish also spoke about his party colleague - he said "Donald was our friend".

'One of us'

"Donald was never one of them, he was one of us. There was no title he was prouder than the title he shared with us - member of the Scottish Parliament.

"Donald's was a life rooted in Glasgow, his foremost responsibility was his constituency, he thought of others first and himself last.

"Although desperately ill, he was determined to get on with his duties.

"He was courageous, selfless and kind to others to the last," said Mr McLeish.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"This was a sombre affair"
Political correspondent Elizabeth Quigley
"Hardly a word was spoken as MSPs, MPs and members of the public gathered in the chamber"

AUDIO/VIDEO AUDIO/VIDEO
A man's a man
An audio tribute to Donald Dewar
AUDIO/VIDEO  real 14k
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Key stories

The tributes

Filling the void

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

12 Oct 00 | Scotland
12 Oct 00 | Scotland
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