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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Blair unveils Dewar memorial
Donald Dewar's statue
The statue has been erected in Glasgow
Prime Minister Tony Blair has paid tribute to the founding figure of Scottish devolution by unveiling a statue commemorating Donald Dewar.

Mr Blair recalled him as a "transforming moderate" and said: "His compassion, his fundamental decency and his deep sense of social justice defined his entire approach as a politician."

Mr Blair was speaking at the unveiling of a nine foot bronze statue of Scotland's inaugural First Minister, erected outside Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall.

Mr Dewar's bespectacled figure, with its characteristic stoop and crumpled suit, gazes southwards across the city centre and towards the suburbs beyond.

Wendy Alexander
Wendy Alexander attended the ceremony

The unveiling, watched by a crowd of several hundred, was also the first public gathering of Labour MSPs in Scotland since the sudden resignation on Friday of Wendy Alexander.

Both she and First Minister Jack McConnell, with whom she was said to be at odds over her workload for the enterprise, lifelong learning and transport, were present.

Speaking to reporters later, the First Minister down-played their reported differences.

"We are all good friends in the Labour Party and the Parliament," he said

"We all have to make sure that we focus on the policies and that we see these policies through.

'It's magnificent'

"That is what Donald Dewar would have wanted - to make sure that we deliver a socially just Scotland.

"That was his dream and we can perhaps make it reality."

He brushed aside suggestions that the timing of Ms Alexander's departure was particularly awkward, saying: "Today is a much more important event than any of that.

"Today we are remembering Scotland's first First Minister, the man who was ultimately responsible for creating a Parliament that thousands of people campaigned for."

Meanwhile Ms Alexander, declined to talk to reporters about her resignation but praised the statue of Mr Dewar, created by artist Kenny Mackay, 35, whose workshop is in Mr Dewar's former constituency of Glasgow's Anniesland.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair paid fulsome tribute to Mr Dewar

"I think it's magnificent, the setting and the angle of it," she said.

"It's wonderful but it's not what he was when he was at his most exhausted."

At the unveiling, Mr Blair, who as a young MP once shared an office at the House of Commons with Mr Dewar, said: "His political career was very much a triumph of substance over style.

"Substance was all that ever mattered to him. With Donald, style never stood a chance."

'Towering figure'

The Prime Minister said that the unassuming and self-effacing Mr Dewar, who died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage after little more than a year in office, could well have been "mortified" to learn that his likeness would be cast in bronze.

"But his embarrassment would have been misplaced," said Mr Blair.

"He was a man who achieved so much in his life and has such a special place in the history, not just of Scotland, but of the UK.

"He was without doubt one of the towering political figures of his generation."

Mr Blair declared: "He symbolised the fact that you can be moderate and radical.

"He stood at the heart of progressive politics and what he achieved was truly remarkable.

"For all that he was a moderate figure, he was a transforming figure as well."

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Political editor Brian Taylor
"The prime minister unveiled the statue"
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The tributes

Filling the void

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See also:

03 May 02 | Scotland
15 Jan 02 | Scotland
11 Oct 01 | Scotland
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