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John Morrison

Solicitor and former leader of East Dunbartonshire Council;

Born: June 14, 1962; Died: December 22, 2012.

An APPRECIATION

I first met John Morrison in 1982 when we were both undergraduates at Glasgow University. For me he was a friend and a 30-year source of support, honest advice and, above all else, fun.

John was raised in Cromer Street, Ruchill, where he lived with his parents Jackie and Irene and two brothers Allan and Scott.

Morrison family parties on New Year's Day, to which we were all invited as university friends of John's, were the best of Glaswegian hospitality. Drink and banter flowed with music provided by John's father on his piano accordion. The pride that was felt by this close-knit family for their talented son was evident.

John was educated at Ruchill Primary and North Kelvinside secondary. A talented and hard-working pupil, he had ambitions as a debater and as a footballer. As a footballer he was said to be fearsomely fast and unco-ordinated but it was as a debater that he made his mark.

He competed in a prestigious schools debating competition, taking the scalps of many private school teams along the way to the 1980 competition final. At Glasgow University, debating offered him a niche in the life of the union which he took and made his own. His reception from a full gallery in the union debating chamber would have fazed a less able man but for John the shouts of "Stand up!" (mocking his height) only fired him up.

In the parliamentary debating system at Glasgow University, everyone had a constituency name. John's was Hobbit and that's how he was universally known to his university contemporaries. It was a tag he was (understandably) keen to throw off in his later years as a lawyer and a council leader but for those of us who went far enough back with him, the occasional use of the H-word was tolerated.

Debating skill can be an empty one without political convictions. John confounded those who presumed that from his background he would be an automatic recruit for the Labour Party. He joined first the SDP and the Liberal Democrats, contesting several council and parliamentary elections.

Electoral success did eventually come when he was elected to East Dunbartonshire Council in 1995. In 1999 he became deputy leader of the council and in 2003 was made leader of the Liberal Democrat majority administration.

The situation which the party inherited in 1999 was not a healthy one with the council in serious financial difficulty. By taking difficult decisions they were able to turn it round, earning John the respect of both fellow councillors and officials. It was other less significant decisions that were to cause greater difficulty for John and his colleagues and in 2007, along with several others, he lost his seat on the council. After leaving elected office he renewed his focus on his professional career as a solicitor and at the time of his death was legal services manager for Glasgow City Council.

John married Margo Stoten in 1990 and the couple had a daughter, Kirsty, in 1991. In 2006 they separated and later divorced. In 2007 he formed a relationship with a new partner, David Evans, to whom he announced his engagement in November. John was then able to rebuild good relations with Margo, allowing them both to share a pride in the achievements of their daughter Kirsty.

John is survived by his mother Irene, his partner David, his brother Allan and his daughter Kirsty. The family lost his brother Scott in 2009.

His sudden death was as shocking as it was unexpected. His many friends have spoken about a man who was kind and witty and always went out of his way to make outsiders feel included – using his natural gift for mimicry to put people at their ease. We are all left with a 5' 3" Hobbit-shaped hole in our lives that we know we shall never fill.

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