John Farquhar Munro 1934-2014
|Charles Kennedy and John Farquhar Munro|
John was elected to the new Scottish Parliament in 1999, and held his seat until retiring in 2011. A keen sailor, a fisherman and a Gaelic speaker, he was an ideal Highland MSP. A passion for such issues as land reform, crofting, ending tolls on the Skye bridge made him an authentic voice for Highland interests in Holyrood.
This, naturally, should not have been surprising given that he lived in Glen Shiel, Lochalsh, for the entire duration of his life. He served as a councillor for 33 years and was the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the Highland Council prior to his being elected to Holyrood. He used his experiences in crofting and local government to his advantage in the new parliament. As one of the first intake of new MSPs, John quickly made a reputation for himself as one of the awkward squad in joining with Donald Gorrie and Keith Raffan to oppose the Labour-Lib Dem coalition. He inevitably ruffled more feathers when he openly criticised the executive for its failure to support a bill granting Gaelic equal status to English. Furthermore, he also (rightly in my view) openly supported an independence referendum during the last parliament in spite of the official Lib Dem position.
There were times when he came close to leaving the party he loved so much - most notably when he threatened to resign if the Skye bridge tolls were not removed. He also expressed his support for Alex Salmond in the 2011 elections. For all his awkwardness, however, he was an honest voice of liberalism and political integrity - albeit one who, at times, struggled with some of the choices the Scottish Liberal Democrats made.
Many will remember John Farquhar Munro as an energetic and sometimes abrasive MSP, but he deserves much more credit than that. A tireless campaigner, he was instrumental in helping to win Ross, Cromarty and Skye for Charles Kennedy and the Alliance from Hamish Gray in 1983. He also did a great deal to further Gaelic education and culture, as well as to improve appreciation of the particular needs of Highland rural communities.
Most obviously, John Farquhar Munro was his own man. He was a man of absolute principle and a liberal after my own heart. We need more like him in politics, and Scotland - and the Lib Dems - are poorer for his passing.