HUNDREDS of mourners paid their respects yesterday to a "big-hearted and determined" young soldier who died in mysterious circumstances in Afghanistan.

Highlander Scott McLaren, of the 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS), was laid to rest at a service in his native Edinburgh. The 20-year-old was found dead with gunshot wounds hours after going missing in Helmand on July 4.

Family, friends, members of the Royal Regiment and veterans of the British Legion attended the funeral at Mortonhall Crematorium, where his coffin was carried into the service by fellow soldiers as a piper played Flower Of Scotland.

Tributes to Highlander McLaren, who was from Sighthill, were read by Captain Gordon Law of 4 SCOTS, his uncle Duncan Smithyman and his 16-year-old brother Ross.

Addressing mourners, Captain Law said: “Scott was the perfect example of what makes a soldier great. He was a stalwart of his team. He was cool under pressure and unrelenting in the face of the enemy. Those that didn’t know Scott often thought he was a quiet young lad. And for those that did he was a very keen lad.”

He added: “He quickly became the most reliable and conscientious member of the team.”

Captain Law said Highlander McLaren had a “genuinely big heart” and while quiet, was the “master of the one-line put-down”. He said: “He was a man who put 100% into everything, whether it was work or friendship. He had a fierce determination that was rare to see in one so young. Whatever the challenge, whatever the task, it was always Scott McLaren who was standing at the end.”

Captain Law said Highlander McLaren had “only just begun to shine” and his death left a hole in the battalion and the regiment.

His tribute was followed by Mr Smithyman, who went on to recount memories of family holidays with Scott and spoke of how proud he was when his nephew joined the Army. Highlander McLaren’s brother Ross also shared memories of his sibling.

Highlander McLaren’s parents, James and Ann, sister Kirsty and brothers James and Ross were joined by members from the Royal Regiment, although most of the 4th Battalion are still in Afghanistan.

His colleagues there also held a service to remember him at their headquarters in Helmand.

At the service in Edinburgh, led by Rev Angus MacLeod, chaplain to the forces, mourners sang I Vow To Thee My Country, Christ Is Our Light and Abide With Me. Three shots from a firing party marked the end of the service, before piper Corporal Neil McNaughton played Happy We’ve All Been Together.

Highlander McLaren’s dis-appearance sparked a 17-hour search. It is understood he was killed by enemy forces but the circumstances of his death are unclear.

The Taliban said they captured him during a firefight with foreign troops in the province’s Babaji district and he died in crossfire shortly afterwards. But this version of events could not be corroborated and Nato said a battle was not reported in the area.

Temporarily attached to 1st Battalion The Rifles battle group, Highlander McLaren was deployed to Nato checkpoint Salaang to help secure a vital bridge in the northern area of Nahr-e-Saraj.

He joined the Army in August 2009 and underwent his initial training at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick and was posted to B Company (4 SCOTS), based in Bad Fallingbostel, Germany. Highlander McLaren was deployed to Afghanistan in April 2011.