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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 August 2005, 19:43 GMT 20:43 UK
First minister leads Cook tribute
Robin Cook
Robin Cook stepped back from front-line politics in recent years
Political leaders in Scotland have been paying tribute to the former Labour Cabinet minister Robin Cook who has died while hill walking.

First Minister Jack McConnell said he would miss the Livingston MP's "friendship and support".

The leader of Scotland's Liberal Democrats, Nicol Stephen, said the 59-year-old had great humour.

Mr Cook died after being taken ill while walking with his wife Gaynor on Ben Stack, in Sutherland on Saturday.

He was flown by helicopter to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, but attempts to resuscitate him failed and he was pronounced dead at 1605 BST.

Former foreign secretary Mr Cook first entered parliament as the member for Edinburgh Central in 1974.

But from 1983 he represented the constituency of Livingston.

Jack McConnell
Those suffering from injustice or disadvantage have lost a powerful voice
Jack McConnell
First Minister
The Labour MSP for the area, Bristow Muldoon, said that Mr Cook would be greatly missed by many people in Livingston.

He told BBC Scotland's news website: "This is a shattering blow for Robin to die such an unexpected and tragically early death.

"In the first instance I am concerned and my thoughts are with his wife Gaynor and his two sons."

Mr Muldoon said Mr Cook was a very "effective representative" for Livingston for more than 20 years.

He added: "He was highly respected among both political allies and opponents alike.

Close friend

"As well as being well-known nationally and internationally, he worked hard for the people of his constituency.

"I know that in recent years he loved to walk and holiday in the more remote parts of Scotland, when he wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of life he would go to a quiet and peaceful place for a proper break and relaxation."

Gaynor Cook at Raigmore Hospital
Gaynor Cook formally identified her husband's body in Inverness
Mr Muldoon said he knew Mr Cook very well and considered him a close friend.

Mr McConnell said in a statement following confirmation of the politician's death that he was "deeply shocked".

He added: "Robin Cook was one of the outstanding Scottish and Labour politicians of the late 20th century.

"He was always willing to challenge orthodox thinking and he was a great champion of less popular causes.

"He played a key role in making Labour electable again and he helped convince many that it was possible to be both pragmatic and radical.

"Those suffering from injustice or disadvantage have lost a powerful voice."

Horse racing

Mr Cook's agent, Jim Devine, said he had lost a good friend and Livingston had lost a first class constituency MP.

Mr Stephen said he would remember Mr Cook as "the most friendly, kindly and helpful of opposition MPs".

He added: "Robin Cook was not only one of the most influential politicians of his generation but a man who combined great humour, integrity and intellect in equal measure."

The Leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond MP said Mr Cook had been a considerable political force throughout his time in politics.

Photo: Undiscovered Scotland
Mr Cook was walking on Ben Stack when he collapsed
He added: "He will also be remembered as one of the most effective parliamentarians of his generation. His wit and wisdom will be greatly missed by MPs from across the House of Commons."

Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie, who fought against Mr Cook for the Westminster Edinburgh Central seat in 1979, described him as "a man of formidable intellect, a marvellous orator and a strong debater".

Outside politics, Mr Cook was a keen follower of horse racing, and an enthusiastic walker and cyclist.

He was appointed the shadow health secretary in 1989 and became the shadow trade and industry secretary in 1992.

In 1994, he became the shadow foreign secretary, a position he held until the 1997 election.

After Labour's landslide win, he entered the Cabinet as foreign secretary.

A Cabinet reshuffle after the 2001 Labour victory saw him replaced at the Foreign Office by Jack Straw, with Mr Cook instead given the job of Leader of the Commons.

He resigned that position in the lead-up to the conflict in Iraq in protest over Tony Blair's decision to go to war.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear some of the tributes paid to Robin Cook



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