The words “gentleman” and “friendly” were the most common to be found in the many tributes paid to veteran politician Sir Alex Fergusson, who died on Monday, aged 69.
His place in Scottish political history was assured when he was made the third Presiding Officer of the new Scottish Parliament, steering it through some stormy waters between 2007 and 2011.
Mr Fergusson ran the family farm in Barr, South Ayrshire, for many years prior to his election as a Conservative MSP in the first term of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, representing Galloway and Upper Nithsdale.
Born in Leswalt, Wigtownshire, he was educated at Eton College and spent two years in New Zealand, mainly involved in agricultural work, returning to complete an ONDA in Agriculture at the Scottish Agricultural College at Auchincruive and was a farm management consultant before moving to Barr.
Mr Fergusson remained an MSP until the 2016 elections when he retired politics.
In 2007, with a minority government in power, the parliament turned to Alex Fergusson as an ‘honest broker’ and voted him in as its third Presiding Officer, following in the footsteps of David Steele and George Reid.
He resigned the Tory whip to carry out his new task in a manner which won him respect from all parties at Holyrood. After his term, he was re-elected and rejoined the Conservative benches, doing the job he liked most, represneting his rural constituents.
He died at home after a short illness and is survived by his wife and three sons.
Among the many tributes to him was one from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said: “Alex was a much-loved member of the Scottish Parliament – as a politician he had the rare gift of being able to argue his own case forcefully while at the same time always remaining on warm and friendly terms with his political opponents. As Presiding Officer, Alex always presided with courtesy, good humour and formidable attention to detail.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson described Alex Fergusson as “a true gentleman” and “a true champion of rural Scotland”, especially his former constituency where he was a strong advocate of the creation of the Galloway national park.
South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: “Alex was a real giant of a man in every way and will be very sorely missed by those who had the privilege of knowing him.”