Tributes flood in for dedicated politician Sam

Sam Galbraith
Sam Galbraith

Tributes have been flooding in for former Strathkelvin and Bearsden MP and MSP Sam Galbraith who died on 
Monday, aged 68.

The renowned neurosurgeon who swapped the operating theatre for politics back in 1987, passed away in Glasgow’s Western Infirmary after contracting an infection.

The Labour politician, one of the founding members of the Scottish Parliament, was believed to have been the world’s longest-surviving lung transplant recipient.

East Dunbartonshire Council leader Rhondda Geekie led the local tributes to Sam.

She said: “I was privileged to know Sam Galbraith and admired his straight talking, especially in debate.

“My thoughts are with his family and many colleagues who will miss this unique man.”

Provost Una Walker added: “He was a brilliant neurosurgeon and could have pursued a wonderful career in that field, but he was so passionate about people and wanted to do the right thing for them - which he always did.”

In 1990, suffering from lung-wasting illness fibrosing alveolitis, Sam was given only two years to live after the life-saving transplant at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

Seven years later, he won a landslide victory in the 1997 General Election with a staggering 16,292 majority for Labour in Strathkelvin and Bearsden.

At the time, he pledged to do all he could to protect the National Health Service.

In an interview with the Herald he said: “I have always had a passion for the NHS – it saved my life. I was days away from dying when I got my transplant.

“The last thing people want to worry about when they are ill is who is going to pay for their treatment.”

The father-of-three was born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, and educated at Greenock High School and Glasgow University.

When he was first elected to represent Strathkelvin and Bearsden at Westminster in 1987, he served as health minister in the Scottish Office.

He was later appointed education minister in Donald Dewar’s first cabinet, after the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

Within months he had to defuse threats of a teachers’ strike over pay.

He also had to deal with the Scottish exams fiasco in 2000, which saw thousands of students, from Standard Grade through to sixth year level, affected by inaccurate or incomplete results.

Sam resigned from politics in 2001 for health reasons and devoted his time to his family.

He leaves behind wife Nicola and their daughters Mhairi, Heather and Fiona.

Councillor Geekie said: “The Labour Party’s basic values were always at the core of everything he did and that was why he went into politics.”

Provost Una Walker added: “I worked with Sam before and after I was a councillor and he was always a fabulously funny, colourful character.

“He was passionate about justice and health – always striving to do what he could for people.

“I would like to extend sincere condolences to his wife Nicola and three daughters.”

Jo Swinson MP said: “Sam Galbraith was a well-respected MP and MSP for Strathkelvin & Bearsden.

“In politics, as in medicine, he was dedicated and determined.

“Many constituents have spoken warmly to me about how Sam was there for them when they had a problem. My thoughts go out to his family at this very sad time.”

First Minister Alex Salmond described Sam as “a devoted and gifted politician.

He said: “His commitment to improving the lives of others never wavered, 
even though he faced living with his own serious health condition for the best part of 25 years.”