I met Russell Johnston only on a few occasions - I arrived in Inverness just a year before he retired as MP for the area. However, he is someone I had a great deal of respect for and his passing yesterday leaves the Lib Dems, the Highlands and the wider world much poorer.
I suspect almost anyone who ever met him would describe Russell as a true gentleman. He was also a Liberal to his core and a passionate pro-European and internationalist, as shown by his work in later years for the Council of Europe.
I recall hearing him speak only once, at the adoption meeting for his successor as the Lib Dem candidate in Inverness, Stephen Gallacher. However, I have read a collection of his speeches and, although that can only give a flavour of what a speech must be like to hear, it was clear that Russell was always an eloquent and insightful speaker and a real champion of liberal values.
Like anyone, he wasn't without his faults, and in political terms the local party organisation certainly withered on his watch to such an extent that by the time he stepped down in 1997, it would have been almost impossible for any Lib Dem candidate to have successfully defended the seat.
But Russell deserves to be remembered as someone who gave a great deal to his constituents and was successful in pressing for a wide range of improvements to the Highlands. He will be much missed by a lot of people.
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