FRIENDS, colleagues and political leaders have spoken of their shock and sadness following the sudden death of high-profile Scottish lawyer Paul McBride, QC.

From the archive: interview with Paul McBride, May 2011

Mr McBride, 48, was found dead in his hotel room in the city of Lahore in Pakistan yesterday morning by his colleague Aamer Anwar, with whom he was travelling on business.

Mr Anwar said he had become concerned when Mr McBride did not answer his phone, and hotel staff had to force the door to get into his room.

He said: "There was nothing suspicious, he was just lying in his bed. I'm absolutely devastated. I've lost a real friend."

News of the lawyer's death was greeted with shocked disbelief by those who knew him yesterday, as there had been no signs he was unwell when he left the UK.

The QC was one of the most highly regarded and highest-profile criminal lawyers in Scotland and was involved in the Moira Jones murder trial, the Rose-park care home fire fatal accident inquiry, and was famous for his work representing Celtic Football Club.

A statement issued on behalf of Mr McBride's family said: "Paul died in his sleep last night in a hotel in Pakistan." It added: "I understand Paul was found dead in bed this morning. He had been in Pakistan for a few days and I am uncertain when he was to return to Scotland."

First Minister Alex Salmond led the tributes last night, saying that Mr McBride would be "sorely missed" across all levels of Scottish public life. He said: "This is sad and shocking news. Paul McBride was an outstanding advocate, and a very substantial public figure in Scotland.

"Paul's genius lay not just in applying his first-class mind to the complex procedures of Scots law, but also his unrivalled ability to explain and promote the laws of Scotland to a wider public.

"His reservoir of talent was great indeed and I believe he had so much more to contribute to the law, and to the great debate on Scotland's future."

Johann Lamont, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, said: "Paul McBride was one of the finest legal minds of his generation. While we didn't always agree, I always thought of him as a thoroughly decent man. When he entered the political debate he was always challenging and his intellect greatly enriched it. He will be missed."

Scottish Conservative Party chairman David Mundell MP said: "He was a fiercely intelligent individual who was as passionate about politics as he was the law. Paul was a towering presence in Scottish public life, who was never afraid to speak out on the issues he cared about. Our thoughts at this time are with his family."

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "Cutting short Paul McBride's full and colourful life is so sad. Scotland will be a lesser place without him."

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said in a statement: "This is tragic news. Paul was a very good friend of Celtic and someone who cared passionately about the club. His passing is clearly a great loss and he will be sadly missed.

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Celtic are with Paul's family at this very difficult time."

Lord Reid, a former Celtic chairman, said: "He was a great colleague and friend and will be sadly missed well beyond his own family. My thoughts are with them."

As well as hitting the headlines for his legal work, Mr McBride became the focus of the media attention last year when he was targeted in a parcel-bombing campaign along with Celtic manager Neil Lennon and former MSP Trish Godman.

Two men, Trevor Muirhead, 43, and Neil McKenzie, 42, are currently

appearing at court charged with sending the devices. They deny all charges. The Crown Office said yesterday it was not for them to comment on whether Mr McBride's death would affect the ongoing trial.

Members of the legal profession also paid tribute. Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and Solicitor General Lesley Thomson, released a joint statement saying: "Paul was in the prime of his life. He lived life to the full and had contributed so much to the legal profession, the media and public life in Scotland. He had a fabulous intellect and was interested in so many things.

"He was a fearless advocate who was not afraid to speak out about injustice and intolerance. He will be sorely missed."

Solicitor Advocate Peter Watson, a close friend of Mr McBride's, said: "Paul McBride was a great advocate and gifted lawyer. Fearless in representing those facing the courts for those in trouble. For those who felt overwhelmed and felt they had no voice for them, he stood tall.

"Eloquent, engaging, funny and charming is how I remember my friend and colleague."

Brian McConnachie, vice-chairman of the Faculty of Advocates Criminal Bar Association, of which Mr McBride was a member, said: "I have known Paul for many years and I found the news of his death very hard to believe.

"He's been a good friend, and in common with other people, I was privileged to know him. He was an extremely generous man both with his money and with his time with other people.

"The world will be a much quieter place now that he is gone. And not in a good way."