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Motor neurone disease campaigner Gordon Aikman dies at 31

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with motor neurone disease patient and campaigner Gordon Aikman, who has died aged 31. Picture by Jane Barlow, Press Association 

THE "inspirational" motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner Gordon Aikman has died aged 31.

Mr Aikman was just 29 and working as director of research for the Better Together side during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign when he was diagnosed.

His husband Joe Pike announced his death on Twitter, saying: "My beautiful husband GordonAikman has died. We are all heartbroken. He was my best friend, my soulmate and the love of my life."

Following his diagnosis, Mr Aikman formed the Gordon's Fightback campaign, successfully lobbying the Scottish First Minister to double the number of MND nurses and fund them through the NHS.

He also raised more than £500,000 for research to help find a cure for the terminal condition.

His family said in a statement: "We are heartbroken. 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."

Mr Aikman received a British Empire Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2015 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in the same year for his work to transform care for people with MND and his efforts to find a cure.

Following campaigning by Mr Aikman and the charity MND Scotland, MSPs also backed changes to the law that will give people who are at risk of losing their voice as a result of a medical condition the right to access voice equipment on the NHS.

Mr Aikman worked as a senior adviser to the Scottish Labour Party, and figures from across the political spectrum have paid tribute to him.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: "I am utterly bereft. 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. I will keep Gordon's husband Joe and all his family in my thoughts and prayers. The wedding of Gordon and Joe was one of the happiest days of my life. I will treasure those memories.

"I will miss Gordon's smile, his laugh, his energy, his brilliant dance moves and terrible singing voice, and his positive outlook on life despite the hand he was dealt towards the end.

"I will miss his advice and I will miss campaigning with him to advance the causes dear to us. But most of all I will miss just spending time with my friend.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "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 MND Scotland and achieve better care and treatment for those diagnosed was inspirational."

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This may cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided. There is currently no cure or effective treatment for the illness.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: "I am deeply saddened to hear of Gordon's death. The work he put into raising awareness and funding for the disease that so cruelly took his life was remarkable.

"Few people are able to unite politicians from across the spectrum but Gordon's enthusiasm for life did just that. My heart goes out to his husband Joe and his family and friends."

Edinburgh University Students' Association also paid tribute to Mr Aikman, who was its vice-president for societies and activities in 2007/2008 and its sabbatical officer.

Current societies and activities vice-president Jess Husbands said: "Throughout his time as a student and sabbatical officer at the University of Edinburgh, Gordon was dedicated to supporting the welfare of those around him.

"Being diagnosed with MND did nothing to hinder his inspirational work, but rather he continued to dedicate his career to helping others. Our thoughts are with his family and close friends at this time."

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, said: "I was very saddened to learn of the untimely death of Gordon Aikman.

"Although I did not know him, it was impossible not to be impressed by his courage and determination in the face of motor neurone disease.

"In my pastoral work I have supported several people who have suffered from this condition and so I have glimpsed something of what an overwhelming disease it is for the person as well as their family and friends.

"Although Gordon's body was eventually defeated by the condition, nothing defeated his spirit nor his desire to achieve better care for others.

"Gordon was an inspirational human being and his family and friends are in my thoughts and prayers."

:: Anyone who would like to support Mr Aikman's campaign can do so at GordonsFightback.com, or text MNDS85 £10 to 70070.

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