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Scottish Secretary, John Reid MP
"He is unparalleled in Scottish politics"
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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Concern for 'father figure' Dewar
Dewar and Reid
Mr Dewar (right) with Scottish Secretary Dr John Reid
Messages of goodwill and support have flooded in for Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar, who lies critically ill in hospital.

Mr Dewar, who underwent heart surgery earlier this year, was taken ill after a fall outside his official residence in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

He had continued working but was taken to hospital after complaining of feeling unwell.

Doctors said his condition rapidly deteriorated and a further examination revealed internal bleeding inside his head.

Reaction has come from all quarters:

Scottish Secretary Dr John Reid described Mr Dewar as a "father figure" for Scotland and its parliament.

John Reid
John Reid: "A very, very serious situation"
He told the BBC's Newsnight programme: "Donald made his name in United Kingdom politics but he is unparalleled in Scottish politics, not just among those who support the Labour Party but people of all political persuasions.

"I think that the Scottish Parliament, when people look back on it, will be associated with two names in Scotland.

"One of them, of course, is John Smith who we was tragically taken from us, and the other one is Donald Dewar and that is why tonight so many people... will be pressing their fingers together, crossing them very tightly, and hoping and praying Donald will be able to battle his way through this, but I can't overestimate to you how serious the situation is. It is very, very serious indeed."

Mr Blair was taking a "great interest" in Mr Dewar's condition, he said.

"Tony knows that whatever differences there ever have been with Donald Dewar in politics he is widely regarded by the adjective decency and I think that Tony has a tremendous respect for that decency that has always been associated with Donald Dewar in politics.

"He has been kept briefed very regularly throughout the day and, if necessary, throughout the night."

Newly elected leader of the Scottish National Party, John Swinney, and his predecessor Alex Salmond, sent their good wishes.

Mr Swinney said: "The thoughts of the whole Scottish Parliament will be with Donald Dewar and his family in hoping for a full recovery."

Mr Salmond said: "Like everyone else I wish Donald Dewar all the best and hopefully he will make a full recovery."

The Scottish Tory deputy leader Annabel Goldie said she had been "deeply saddened" to hear of Mr Dewar's illness.

She added: "Donald Dewar is a towering figure in Scottish politics and the current situation is a matter of profound concern.

"I am sure I speak for everyone in the Scottish Parliament when I say that our thoughts are very much with his family at this extremely difficult time."

Sir David Steel, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, said he was being kept closely informed of Mr Dewar's condition.

He added: "We are all desperately concerned for Donald and praying for his recovery."

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell, a friend of Mr Dewar's since their days as students in Glasgow, said: "He was such a commanding figure in the Scottish political scene.

Menzies Campbell
Menzies Campbell: "Dewar has star quality"
"You only had to walk around with Donald Dewar to realise just how much respect and affection the people have for him.

"His work schedule over the last two or three weeks was pretty considerable - no half-measure where Donald was concerned.

"Politics had become a very large part of his life, some people argued too much of his life. It was what he liked doing best and what he did best.

"He has got, in political terms, what you might call star quality. He is literally head and shoulders above the people round about him."

Mr Campbell added: "I am crossing my fingers and praying for a miracle."

Welsh Assembly First Secretary Rhodri Morgan described Mr Dewar as a "politician of great standing".

He said: "I had a long and supportive telephone conversation with Donald about our plans for the Labour/Liberal Democrat partnership last week and he could not have been a better friend, colleague and adviser.

"As soon as I phoned, he left an important briefing meeting to talk to me and I could not have tapped into a better source of expert and friendly advice on the advantages and disadvantages of partnership government.

"He is a good friend to Wales, as well a politician of great standing," he said.

Home Secretary Jack Straw said he was "deeply shocked" when he received the news about Mr Dewar.

"He is a singular individual, a giant of British politics, whose political skills and intellect are of the highest quality, but his integrity is what has marked him out," he said.

"In many ways he has been the father of Scottish home rule, and all of us are hoping and praying for his recovery."

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11 Oct 00 | Scotland
Vigil at Dewar bedside
10 Oct 00 | Scotland
Dewar on life support machine
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