26 August 2012

Remembering Donald Gorrie

I was very sad to hear of the death of Donald Gorrie last night.

Donald was the  dominant figure in Edinburgh Liberal politics from his election to the then  Town Council in 1971 representing Corstorphine.

He first came to public prominence as an athlete. The 880 yards was his distance and he competed for Scotland at this level.

Donald served  in local government between 1971 and 1997 when he was elected as the first ever Liberal Democrat MP in Edinburgh and the first Liberal since WWII. 

Donald was the Liberal group leader on both district and regional councils when I was first elected to the region in 1994.  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.

I always like to tell people that I have more fingers in pies than I have  fingers. Donald made me look  like a beginner in that regard! He was involved in everything. President of the Edinburgh Athletics Club, he was involved with the Association of Youth Clubs, Diverse Attractions and he was a great champion of youth setting up the hugely successful 6VT Youth cafe when he was a councillor.

In 1997 Donald finally was elected to Westminster but served only one term before going on to serve in Holyrood from 1999 until 2007. His main reason for getting elected to Westminster was so that he could hep set up the Scottish parliament. He made an instant impact being  named as the new parliaments  first backbencher of the year and busied himself with various issues from the Holyrood building fiasco to raising the issue of sectarianism and ensuring that this was finally tackled. I also recall he was the first politician I ever heard raising the issue of Hospital Acquired Infection.

He retired in 2007 but then  was involved in more local groups. He became the secretary of the Friends of Corstorphine Hill and  chair of the Corstorphine Dementia Project.

The list of  groups Donald helped  is too numerous for me to list here as are his many achievements. 

He was so energetic - a real force of nature.  Personally as a young activist and then councillor his counsel was always worth listening to. He was perhaps the most influential figure in my  development as a politician.

A great man, a giant of Edinburgh Liberalism and a man who was always more interested in doing things than being things. Scottish politics has lost one of its most colourful and principled characters.