Charles Kennedy's poignant last article urged Liberal Democrats to fight back with 'gusto' after the 'night of the long sgian dubhs'

Former Lib Dem leader, who has died aged 55, wrote a final article a day after his party lost all but eight of its MPs

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Indy Politics

Among Charles Kennedy’s last public words came in a poignant article a day after the Liberal Democrats had lost all but eight of its seats in the House of Commons, including his own.

Thanking his members of staff, he called on his party to “build with thought and care,” while also arguing “with gusto” in favour of Britain’s membership of the European Union. He promised to be “actively engaged myself”.

And finally he urged the Lib Dems to echo the spirit of the party’s opposition to the Iraq war to make sure the party’s voice is heard in the fight for the “two Unions” – the UK and the EU.

“We did so over Iraq; we can do so again,” he wrote. “Let us relish the prospect.”

In a final article for Liberal Democrat Voice, titled ‘The night of the long sgian dubhs’ – referring to the single-edged knife that is worn as part of traditional Scottish Highland kilt – he wrote:

I am very fond of political history. If nothing else, we can all reflect on and perhaps tell our grandchildren that we were there on “The night of long sgian dubhs!”

I would very much like to thank my home team. They have been so energetic, dedicated and selfless to the task. Indeed, with them, I would like to thank the very many over the years who have made possible the previous seven successful general election campaigns locally.

I spare a thought for, and this is true of so many constituencies, for members of staff. It is one thing for elected representatives to find themselves at the mercy of the electorate; it is quite something else for the other loyal and skilled people who, sadly, will in due course be searching for employment. I wish them well and stand ready to help. I am sure that their professionalism will stand them in good stead.

It has been the greatest privilege of my adult and public life to have served, for 32 years, as the Member of Parliament for our local Highlands and Islands communities. I would particularly like to thank the generation of voters, and then some, who have put their trust in me to carry out that role and its responsibilities.

Locally, I wish my successor the very best. The next House of Commons will have to finalise the Smith Commission package, giving effect to the referendum “Vow” over further powers. I am saddened not to be involved in that process.

However, from the perspective of the Highlands & Islands, the case for more powers being returned to us which have been lost to the Central Belt over the past five years, has to be heard as well.

On the national picture, I am indeed sorry to learn of Nick’s decision but respect entirely his characteristic sense of personal, political and party principle.

The eligible candidates must reflect with care and collectively before we rush into the best way forward – out of this political debris we must build with thought and care.

Nick, I do hope, will be able to contribute with gusto to the great European debate which is now looming.

It is one, as a Liberal Democrat, in which I wish to be actively engaged myself.

The next few years in politics will come down to a tale of two Unions – the UK and the EU. Despite all the difficult challenges ahead the Liberal Democrat voice must and will be heard.

We did so over Iraq; we can do so again. Let us relish the prospect.