TRIBUTES have been paid to Danus Skene, the SNP candidate who challenged Alistair Carmichael in Shetland in last year’s General Election, after his death at the age of 72.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Sad to hear Danus Skene has passed away. @theSNP have lost one of our finest. My thoughts with his family and friends.”

Her husband, the SNP chairman Peter Murrell, said: “A gentleman and a scholar. He’ll be sorely missed.” And Environment Secretary

Roseanna Cunningham added: “Sad to hear of Danus Skene’s death. He fought the good fight for a long time.”

Skene died early yesterday morning in London after undergoing surgery.

Carmichael said his death was sad news and a loss “across the political spectrum”.

The Liberal Democrat MP said: “I know that Danus had not kept good health for some time, but when I spoke to him last month he appeared to be on the mend and was clearly enjoying time with his family who were then in Shetland.

“He was a very intelligent man who was passionate about his politics, but was always reasoned in his argument.

“He will be missed by his many friends across the political spectrum and throughout Scotland and also in Africa where he had a long-standing and very practical commitment.”

Skene also fought the Scottish Parliament election earlier this year while recovering from heart surgery, but lost to sitting MSP Tavish Scott, who added: “I am sad to hear that Danus Skene has passed away and would express my condolences to his family, friends and party colleagues here in Shetland.”

Robbie McGregor, Skene’s local party convener, said he had lost a good friend, and the SNP had lost a “loyal and able servant”.

“I won’t forget that he showed tremendous character in fighting the election following his recent illness. He was just a lovely guy,” he said. “I’m certainly going to miss his humour, and I’m sure Shetland will miss the contribution he made to island life, and we in the SNP will miss the contribution he made to Scottish independence.”

Reflecting on Skene’s health difficulties during the Holyrood campaign, he added: “Danus thought he had let us down in some way, and that in some way he wasn’t able to fight it properly – but that was far from the case.

“His standards were so high. He was concerned he couldn’t spend every hour of every day knocking on doors, so that left him quite frustrated. But I had no issues with the campaign he fought.

“I am deeply sorry that I and the SNP have lost a good friend and servant. Our thoughts at this time are with his family to whom we extend our deepest sympathy.”

Gerry McGarvey, Skene’s Labour opponent in last year’s poll, said: “He was truly a gentleman and a scholar, and his death marks the passing of a particular kind of politician and politics.”

Skene, who was born in Dundee, was a teacher of history and modern studies before becoming an education official with Tayside Regional Council. He worked abroad in Israel and Kenya, and then served on the board of the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

In last year’s election, Skene slashed Carmichael’s majority from 9,928 to 817 votes, and in the Holyrood poll he took 23.1 per cent of the vote, coming second to Scott.