Scotland politics

Gordon Aikman: Scholarship to commemorate MND campaigner

Gordon Aikman Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Aikman died earlier this month after being diagnosed with MND in 2014

A new £25,000 scholarship to support improvements in motor neurone disease (MND) care in Scotland is to be set up in honour of campaigner Gordon Aikman.

Mr Aikman died earlier this month at the age of 31 after raising £500,000 for MND research following his diagnosis with the disease in 2014.

The scholarship will fund people who are developing improvements in the way people with MND are cared for.

It was announced by Health Secretary Shona Robison at Holyrood.

Ms Robison also said she had asked the Chief Scientist's Office to work with the NHS to take forward discussions on how to bring MND clinical trials to Scotland.

'Inspirational figure'

She was speaking during a Holyrood debate on the contribution Mr Aikman made to public life and to further raise awareness of MND.

Mr Robison said Mr Aikman had been instrumental in bringing about changes to the law around voice therapy and doubling the number of MND specialist nurses working in the NHS.

She added: "Gordon was an inspirational figure and I want to make sure that the momentum he created - and the good work that followed from that - continues to be taken forward, even now he's gone."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ms Robison met Mr Aikman's husband Joe Pike at Holyrood to discuss the scholarship

Mr Aikman was diagnosed with MND while working as director of research for the Better Together campaign ahead of the Scottish independence referendum.

He went on to win cross-party support for his Gordon's Fightback campaign, calling for funding to find a cure for MND and specialist nursing care.

Lawrence Cowan, a close friend of Mr Aikman and the chairman of MND Scotland, said: "Gordon's campaigning transformed MND care in Scotland. With this scholarship we can help inspire people to keep transforming MND care for years to come.

"It will help bring people together, try new things and ultimately improve how we fight back against this cruel disease."

'Find a cure'

Gordon's husband, ITV journalist Joe Pike, said: "We are delighted that this scholarship will continue Gordon's legacy. We must also work hard to make Scotland an international centre for clinical trials into MND.

"It is vital we find a cure for the disease that robbed Gordon of his future, and continues to affect hundreds of families across the country."

Motor neurone disease is a rare condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system, leading to muscle weakness, often with visible wasting.

As the condition progresses, patients find physical tasks such as walking, speaking, swallowing and breathing increasingly difficult- and eventually they may become impossible.

The Scottish government said the Gordon Aikman Scholarship will be open to health and social care professionals, as well as those affected by MND and their carers.

It will be open for applications later in 2017.