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Labour veteran Alistair Darling dies aged 70

The former Chancellor served under Gordon Brown and led the Better Together campaign in the Scottish independence referendum.

Alistair Darling served as Chancellor under Gordon Brown.
Alistair Darling served as Chancellor under Gordon Brown.

Former chancellor and veteran Labour politician Alistair Darling has died aged 70, a spokesperson on behalf of his family said.

Mr Darling had cancer and was being cared for at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

A statement issued on behalf of his family said: “The death of Alistair Darling, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and long-serving member of the Labour cabinet, was announced in Edinburgh today.

“Mr Darling, the much-loved husband of Margaret and beloved father of Calum and Anna, died after a short spell in Western General Hospital under the wonderful care of the cancer team.”

Alistair Darling, on Better Together duties, with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Image: Danny Lawson/PA

Alistair Darling was born in 1953 in London.

He was educated in Kirkcaldy and at the Loretto School, in Musselburgh, then at the University of Aberdeen where he graduated in 1976.

He became a solicitor in in 1978 before being admitted to the Faculty of Advocates.

In politics, he served as Chancellor under Gordon Brown, the long-serving Fife MP who was prime minister between 2007 and 2010.

Mr Brown, in a statement, said: “I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of Alistair Darling.

“Alistair will be remembered as a statesman of unimpeachable integrity whose life was defined by a strong sense of social justice and who gained a global reputation for the assured competence and the exercise of considered judgment he brought to the handling of economic affairs.”

Alistair Darlin was given an honorary degree in Aberdeen five years ago. Image: Kenny Elrick

‘Held in the highest esteem’

Reflecting on Mr Darling’s rise through politics, Mr Brown said: “He became best known as a popular and effective government minister, first as work and pensions, transport, and industry secretary and from 2007 to 2010 as chancellor of the exchequer where he guided the Treasury and the United Kingdom through traumatic financial events.”

Mr Brown added: “As the chair of the Better Together campaign for the 2014 Scottish referendum he was resolute and courageous in making the case for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. He was held in the highest esteem by me and all who worked with him for the way in which he handled the fall of the major banks and negotiated international agreements with fellow finance ministers.

“I, like many, relied on his wisdom, calmness in a crisis and his humour.

“Alistair’s family were central to everything he did. I send my deepest condolences to his loving wife Maggie and their children Calum and Anna. He will be missed by all who knew and respected him and benefited from the great work he did.”

Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown in Dundee during the referendum contest.

Mr Darling spent almost three decades as an MP and 13 years in government, also under Tony Blair.

After holding a series of government posts, including transport secretary and Scottish secretary in the Blair government, Mr Darling was appointed chancellor when Mr Brown took over at Number 10 in 2007.

While chancellor, he steered the UK through the financial crisis of 2008,

Mr Darling became a familiar face in the referendum debates before the vote in 2014, often going up against first minister Alex Salmond.

Mr Salmond, who quit the SNP leader job after losing the referendum, said today: “This is very sad news. Alistair Darling was a hugely significant figure in UK politics. I always found him an effective politician.

“He became Chancellor at an extremely difficult period but he presented as a calm and authoritative figure during the financial crisis.

“During the referendum campaign he was a  formidable opponent on behalf of the Better Together Campaign. However, outwith the political debates I can say we did not ever exchange a cross word. Alistair was an extremely courteous man.”

Humza Yousaf, the current first minister, said Mr Darling was a “giant of Scottish and UK politics”.

He added: “I disagreed with Alistair on big political issues, but what is much more important is the courteous and respectful manner with which he conducted himself throughout his political career. He will be hugely missed from our public life.”

‘Calm expertise’ in financial crisis

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he is deeply saddened.

“My heart goes out to his family, particularly Maggie, Calum and Anna, whom he loved so dearly,” he said.

“Alistair lived a life devoted to public service. He will be remembered as the Chancellor whose calm expertise and honesty helped to guide Britain through the tumult of the global financial crisis.

“He was a lifelong advocate for Scotland and the Scottish people and his greatest professional pride came from representing his constituents in Edinburgh.

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have benefited from Alistair’s counsel and friendship. He was always at hand to provide advice built on his decades of experience – always with his trademark wry, good humour.

“Alistair will be missed by all those whose lives he touched. His loss to the Labour Party, his friends and his family is immeasurable.”