The passing of a true campaigner

ON November 6, 2011, Ernie Walker lost his long battle against cancer. Our thoughts and prayers are for his wife, Joyce, his extended family and his many friends.

Ernie Walker was the consummate professional. He spent a lifetime working in a series of senior management posts within the NHS in Scotland and in England.

In 2005 he became involved in the campaign to stop the downgrade of St. John’s Hospital. Services were being centralised in Edinburgh, and a campaign began to protect services in West Lothian.

As political priorities began to taint the original campaign, Ernie led a break-away group supported by another recently lost campaigner, Marion MacKay, and their dedicated supporters.

In 2007, Ernie and the others in the group took the decision to field candidates in both the local council and Holyrood elections. That single decision changed the face of Scottish politics far beyond the wildest dreams of the Stop the Downgrade Campaign, or SDC as it was more commonly known.

The first issue the SDC had to address was the establishment of a political party. After many long hours of discussion and debate, the Action to Save St. John’s Hospital Party was born. The next task was to find “willing volunteers” to fight the council elections. Three were elected.

But what was significantly more important was Ernie’s contribution. Despite debilitating illness, Ernie took up the fight for Holyrood.

Few people stand for election in the hope of not getting elected but Ernie was a pragmatist. He realised that he had an uphill struggle, just as he did with his illness. But he met both with equal measure of good cheer and gritty determination.

In 1993, Ernie was quoted in the national media as saying “being nice is hard work”. No-one needed to work less at being nice than him.

Ernie Walker showed, through word and deed, that with a steely determination in the face of considerable adversity, change for the better can be achieved. And he did it all with a smile. We hope that his legacy will be honoured by those whose political futures have been aided by his hard work and commitment.

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