Tributes to Tam Dalyell - a ‘political giant’

Sir Tam Dalyell, who passed away yesterday
Sir Tam Dalyell, who passed away yesterday

The man known for raising the ‘West Lothian Question’ in the UK Parliament, Tam Dalyell, has passed away at the age of 84.

Sir Tam, the former Labour Linlithgow MP who spent 43 years as an MP, died following a short illness his family said.

Tam Dalyell and wife Kathleen following the birth of their son, Gordon Wheatley Dalyell at Simpson's Memorial  Maternity Pavilion in 1965

Tam Dalyell and wife Kathleen following the birth of their son, Gordon Wheatley Dalyell at Simpson's Memorial Maternity Pavilion in 1965

He represented West Lothian from 1962 to 1983, then Linlithgow from 1983 to 2005 at Westminster.

The Leader of the Labour-led West Lothian Council administration, John McGinty, paid tribute to a man he describes as one of “outstanding integrity”.

He said: “On behalf of everyone associated with West Lothian Council I would first like to express my sincere condolences to Tam’s family, in particular his wife Kathleen, at this very sad time.

“Tam was a man of outstanding and extraordinary talent and a political giant both in West Lothian and across the UK.

‘The title of his autobiography summed Tam up to a tee: The Importance Of Being awkward’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

“Persuasive, highly intelligent and a man of outstanding integrity, his contribution to West Lothian, his constituents and the wider UK political landscape was immense.

“He will be sadly missed and mourned by us all.”

Sir Tam was also known for his dogged questioning of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the sinking of the General Belgrano during the Falklands War with Argentina.

The family statement said: “Tam Dalyell devoted his life to public service in Scotland, in the UK, and beyond.

A young Tam Dalyell enjoys a joke with his supporters before his debate with William Wolfe, the prospective SNP MP in February 1966 - debate took place in Linlithgow Town Hall

A young Tam Dalyell enjoys a joke with his supporters before his debate with William Wolfe, the prospective SNP MP in February 1966 - debate took place in Linlithgow Town Hall

“He made an enormous contribution in many spheres. He will be much missed both publicly, and more importantly personally, by his family and many friends.”

Sir Tam was born in Edinburgh in 1932 and grew up in the family home the Binns just outside Linlithgow.

He was known to be outspoken on a number of matters and for his opposition to devolution, formulating the West Lothian Question asking why Scottish MPs, such as himself, should have the right to vote purely English legislation in the House of Commons after devolution, while English MPs would not be able to vote on Scottish matters.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who Sir Tam backed in his Labour leadership campaign, led a chorus of tributes to the political legend.

He said: “The title of his autobiography summed Tam up to a tee: The Importance Of Being Awkward.”

“But he was much more than that. Tam was an outstanding parliamentarian, a socialist and internationalist, and a champion of the underdog, here and abroad.”

Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown said: “For four decades Tam Dalyell was one of the truly great characters of Scottish political life.

“He was a leader – widely respected and admired for his insight, his integrity and his eloquence.”

Sir Tam was educated at the Edinburgh Academy, Eton and Cambridge before winning a by-election in West Lothian and entering the House of Commons as Labour MP. He inherited a baronetcy, but he never used the title.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “The Labour movement has lost a giant. Tam Dalyell was one of the most influential MPs, writers and thinkers of his generation.”

In 1963, he married Kathleen, the elder daughter of the late Baron Wheatley, one-time Lord Advocate and a former Labour MP for East Edinburgh. They had a son and a daughter.

His final book The Question of Scotland – Devolution And After, was published last year.