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Former trade union leader Jimmy Reid dies

Tributes were paid today to former Scottish trade union leader Jimmy Reid, who has died at the age of 78.

Mr Reid rose to international prominence when he led a “work-in” of thousands of ship-builders on the Clyde during 1971 and 1972.

He was described as an “iconic figure” who will be missed across the political spectrum.

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He died at Inverclyde Royal hospital in Greenock last night after falling ill at the weekend. He leaves behind a wife, Joan, and three daughters, Eileen, Shona and Julie.

Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Jimmy Reid was Clyde-built.

“He has been Scotland’s great rallying figure over the last four decades and was one of the few Scottish political figures who can genuinely say that they provoked real change for the better in society - always addressing both a Scottish and international audience.

“Above all, Jimmy was a warm, humorous and generous human being. Jimmy will be missed not just across the political spectrum, but throughout Scotland’s national life.”

Veteran left-wing politician Tony Benn described Mr Reid as a “great figure of the labour movement”.

The former Labour energy secretary told BBC Radio Scotland: “He built a really powerful and proud and self-confident group of people who decided to take over the yard and make it work.

“In the end, it came to a conclusion and the yard did continue. I haven’t seen him for a year or two but I’m very sad to hear that he has gone.”

Scottish Labour Party leader Iain Gray said: “Jimmy Reid was an iconic figure of our Scottish labour movement.

“Scotland will miss his voice, his testament to the worst and the best of our recent past and his hope for our future.”

Long-time friend and former Scottish Labour Party chairman Bob Thomson said: “Jimmy Reid was a courageous and steadfast fighter for working people and their families.”

The Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) dispute came to worldwide prominence as Mr Reid led the fight against Conservative plans to withdraw millions of pounds of investment in the yard, which would have seen 6,000 to 8,500 job losses.

The workers decided to manage and operate the UCS shipyards until the Government climbed down.

Mr Reid warned workers during a speech at the time: “There will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us - and it’s our responsibility to conduct ourselves responsibly, and with dignity and with maturity.”

The work-in saved the yard as Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath reversed his decision not to support the UCS.

Mr Reid was installed as rector of Glasgow University in 1972 and declared in a famous inaugural speech that “the rat race is for rats”.

A lifelong socialist, Mr Reid stood as a Communist Party candidate in 1974 and polled over 6,000 votes in the Dunbartonshire Central constituency.

He went on to join Labour, standing for the party in Dundee in 1979, before switching to the SNP. He also worked as a journalist and broadcaster.

He retired to the island of Bute and was living in Rothesay at the time of his death.

Scottish TUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “Jimmy was a source of inspiration to many in the trade union movement.

“His leadership in the dispute and ability to convince the workers that a sit-in, rather than strike action and losing control of the yard, would secure shipbuilding on the upper Clyde remains as a legacy to Jimmy and his colleagues.

“Throughout his life his never-ending interest in campaigning for just causes stretched from the Scottish Pensioners Forum to fighting for the causes of the oppressed throughout the world.”

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