Motor neurone disease campaigner Gordon Aikman dies aged 31

Aikman successfully lobbied Scottish first minister to double number of MND nurses and fund them through NHS

Motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner Gordon Aikman has died aged 31.

Aikman was just 29 and working as director of research for the Better Together side during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign when he was diagnosed with MND.

He formed the Gordon’s Fightback campaign following his diagnosis, and successfully lobbied the Scottish first minister to double the number of MND nurses and fund them through the NHS, as well as raising more than £500,000 for research.

His death was announced by his husband, Joe Pike, on Twitter on Friday morning. “My beautiful husband @GordonAikman has died. We are all heartbroken. He was my best friend, my soulmate and the love of my life,” he wrote.

My beautiful husband @GordonAikman has died. We are all heartbroken. He was my best friend, my soulmate and the love of my life.

— Joe Pike (@joepike) February 3, 2017

MND is a progressive and debilitating disease that attacks the brain and the spinal cord. It leads to weakness and muscle wasting and can affect how patients talk, eat and breathe.

Aikman’s family said in a statement: “We are heartbroken. Gordon was beautiful, kind, funny and utterly determined. He achieved more in the few short years after his diagnosis with MND than many of us do in a lifetime.

“Gordon’s campaigning and fundraising has truly inspired people, changed lives across Scotland and we are so proud of him. We will miss him terribly.”

Aikman, a former Scottish Labour party staffer, received a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2015 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in the same year for his work to transform care for people with MND and his efforts to find a cure.

On Friday, figures from across the political spectrum paid tribute to him. The Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, said: “I am utterly bereft. Although we all knew time was precious, Gordon’s death comes as a shock. I have lost a best friend and the world has lost a man who made it a better place. I will keep Gordon’s husband Joe and all his family in my thoughts and prayers. The wedding of Gordon and Joe was one of the happiest days of my life. I will treasure those memories.

“I will miss Gordon’s smile, his laugh, his energy, his brilliant dance moves and terrible singing voice, and his positive outlook on life despite the hand he was dealt towards the end. I will miss his advice and I will miss campaigning with him to advance the causes dear to us. But most of all I will miss just spending time with my friend.”

Dugdale added that everyone in the Labour party would be “forever grateful” for Aikman’s commitment to the movement, particularly during his time working in the Scottish parliament and his pivotal role in the Better Together campaign.

“Gordon’s constant determination to do good for others was an antidote to a world so full of fear and anger. I hope that will be his legacy,” she said.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, and the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, also paid tribute on Twitter:

Terribly sad. A generous, determined and gentle man. He has left a great legacy.

— Willie Rennie (@willie_rennie) February 3, 2017

So sad this morning to hear of the death of Gordon Aikman, a brave & beautiful man. My thoughts are with his husband @joepike & wider family

— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonMSP) February 3, 2017

We are all heartbroken for you, Joe. Love and thoughts are with you and all of Gordon's family.

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) February 3, 2017

Former prime minister Gordon Brown called Aikman “so courageous and so determined”. “His incredible efforts to help others will continue to inspire our country,” he added.

Former chancellor of the exchequer and Better Together leader Alistair Darling, who took the ice bucket challenge to raise money for Aikman’s campaign, said: “Gordon was highly intelligent, courageous and above all a good friend to everyone he knew. We will miss him terribly.”


Nadia Khomami

The GuardianTramp

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