Scotland

MND campaigner Gordon Aikman dies

Gordon Aikman
Image caption Gordon Aikman was diagnosed with MND in February 2014

Motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner Gordon Aikman has died, aged 31.

He was diagnosed with the disease in 2014 while he was 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.

His efforts raised more than £500,000 for research into MND.

In a statement, Mr Aikman's family said they were heartbroken by his death.

'Truly inspired'

They added: "Gordon was beautiful, kind, funny and utterly determined.

"He achieved more in the few short years after his diagnosis with MND than many of us do in a lifetime.

"Gordon's campaigning and fundraising has truly inspired people, changed lives across Scotland and we are so proud of him. We will miss him terribly."

On his Twitter account, Mr Aikman's husband Joe Pike said he had lost his soul mate. He wrote: "My beautiful husband @GordonAikman has died. We are all heartbroken. He was my best friend, my soulmate and the love of my life."

Image caption Mr Aikman's campaign has led to meetings with senior politicians such as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

After meeting Gordon Aikman in November 2014, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that there would be a review of motor neurone disease care in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon later announced that the NHS in Scotland would begin to fund specialist nursing and double the number of MND specialist nurses.

The first minister tweeted her sadness at the news of his death. She wrote: "I'm so terribly sad to hear that @GordonAikman has died. He faced adversity with incredible courage and did so much good for others.

"Gordon's campaign to raise awareness of @MNDScotland and achieve better care and treatment for those diagnosed was inspirational."

Mr Aikman received numerous awards for his campaign work including a British Empire Medal. His inspiring example featured in a BBC Scotland documentary last year.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said Mr Aikman's death had left her "utterly bereft".

She said: "Although we all knew time was precious, Gordon's death comes as a shock.

"I have lost a best friend and the world has lost a man who made it a better place."

'Find a cure'

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown added his voice to the tributes. He said: "Gordon Aikman was so courageous and so determined to do good even when struck down by a fatal illness. His incredible efforts to help others will continue to inspire our country.

"I know that even in his last few days he was working hard to raise funds for his charity and only thinking of what more could be done to promote the cause of other sufferers."

Gordon Aikman's JustGiving crowdfunding appeal began with the stark message: "I'm dying. And fast.

"That - in short - was what my doctor told me when I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. It is not the news you expect when 29 years old.

"MND is a progressive, neurodegenerative condition that eats away at your body until you can no longer walk, talk, eat or breathe for yourself.

"There is no cure. Soon it will kill me. That's why I am doing all I can while I can to raise money for MND Scotland: a great charity that funds research into the disease.

"It'll be too late for me, but we can and we must find a cure for the next generation.

"With your help I can turn a negative into a positive."

'Real hero'

Ahead of the Scottish independence referendum, the leader of Better Together, Alistair Darling, took the ice bucket challenge to raise money for Gordon Aikman's campaign.

The former chancellor described Mr Aikman as a "real hero".

Following news of his death, he said: "Gordon was highly intelligent, courageous and above all a good friend to everyone he knew. We will miss him terribly.

"Gordon was determined to do everything he could to help to tackle MND. He was a real hero."

The head of MND Scotland, Craig Stockton, paid tribute to the campaigner, calling it a privilege to have known him.

He added: "In the face of a devastating diagnosis, at the age of just 29, Gordon turned his grief into a drive to fight for the rights of others affected and to fund a cure.

"In addition to his campaigning and fundraising efforts, Gordon has played a pivotal role in raising awareness of MND and the daily challenges people with the illness can face, through his own personal experiences."

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