A north-east MSP who “embodied politics at its best” has passed away aged 55.
Scottish Conservative Alex Johnstone, a fixture at Holyrood since 1999, died after a short illness.
Tributes have poured in for the Kincardineshire-born politician, who leaves behind his wife of 36 years, two children and six grandchildren.
Party leader Ruth Davidson said: “Alex’s passing is an enormous loss for the Scottish Conservative party, for the Scottish Parliament, and for Scottish public life generally.
“He was a big man with a big heart.
“He embodied politics at its best: trenchant in his views, always up for a political fight, but respected and admired by all sides of the political divide for his decency and generosity.
“The north east of Scotland could not have had a greater friend over the 17 years he served as their MSP. He was utterly devoted to championing the area.
“All our thoughts and prayers are now with Linda and their family.”
Mr Johnstone, who represented the North East region and was a candidate for Angus North and Mearns in 2016, had a successful career as a dairy and arable farmer.
He served in various roles including as the Scottish Tories’ chief whip, on the welfare reform committee and as party spokesman for infrastructure, housing and transport.
But he was probably best known for his lively performances in the Scottish Parliament’s debating chamber.
Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am very sad to learn of Alex Johnstone’s passing. Holyrood has lost one of its most well-known and well-liked parliamentarians, and he will be sorely missed.
“Alex was of course one of the Scottish Parliament’s original 1999 intake, and he quickly established himself as a champion of the north-east.
“He was never afraid to stand up robustly for the causes he believed in but always did so with good humour and respect for his political opponents.
“I would like to offer my condolences to Alex’s wife Linda, his family and his friends, and hope that they find some comfort in the warm tributes being paid to him from across the political spectrum and beyond.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale added: “Alex had a reputation around the Scottish Parliament as a great character. When our politics can feel divided, he was always quick to inject some much needed humour.
“Alex was a politician respected across the chamber, and I hope his legacy is one of goodwill in our politics.”
Richard Lochhead MSP said: “I spent many a journey in Alex’s great company travelling on the Aberdeen train to Edinburgh and back in the early years of Parliament as we were both part of the 1999 intake.
“One minute we would be having a laugh on the journey and then clashing in Parliament the next on rural affairs issues given his deep knowledge and affection for rural life.
“He was great fun and liked across the chamber and will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with his family at this difficult time following his untimely passing.”