LONG before a referendum was even on the cards, Bob Crow said he would support independence if he lived in Scotland.

"It could be a beacon to the rest of Britain to show that there can be a much more equitable distribution of wealth than there is at present," he said in 2010.

But the firebrand union leader will never know the outcome of September's vote.

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Tributes poured in at the news of his sudden death. George Galloway called him a working-class hero who "faithfully served the interest of those who elected him" and acted as a "daily reminder in the media that the working class is not dead".

Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter said he "commanded respect across the sector for his strength of belief in the causes he pursued".

Fellow union leaders also praised him. Grahame Smith, general secretary of the STUC, said Mr Crow led the RMT with "courage and distinction".

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said his death was "a huge loss to the RMT and to trade unionism".

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "Bob would take on anyone when he thought it was in the interests of working men and women and the confidence and certainty in which he made his arguments had to be admired."

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Bob Crow was a formidable and tireless champion for the workers and causes that he represented. His loss will be felt, not just by the RMT, but by all trade unionists, who have lost a fearless and effective campaigner."