FORMER Labour chancellor Alistair Darling has died aged 70 after a short illness, his family have confirmed.

Darling served as chancellor of the exchequer under Gordon Brown from 2007 to 2010. 

The veteran Labour MP passed away after being treated for cancer at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, it was announced on Thursday. 

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Born in London, Darling went to the independent Loretto School in Musselburgh and graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1976 with a legal degree, later becoming a solicitor.

He first entered politics as a councillor on Lothian Regional Council in 1982, later elected as an MP for Edinburgh Central in 1987. 

Darling was one of the figureheads of the Better Together campaign during the independence referendum in 2014, notably going against then-SNP leader and first minister Alex Salmond in televised debates. 

A statement issued on behalf of his family said: “The death of Alistair Darling, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and long-serving member of the Labour cabinet, was announced in Edinburgh today.

The National:

“Mr Darling, the much-loved husband of Margaret and beloved father of Calum and Anna, died after a short spell in Western General Hospital under the wonderful care of the cancer team.”

Darling served as a Labour MP from 1987 to 2015 and was chancellor during the financial crisis of 2008.

He retired from the House of Lords in 2020 just five years after being appointed a life peer.

Politicians from across the political spectrum, including Humza Yousaf, Alex Salmond, Gordon Brown, Patrick Harvie and Jeremy Hunt, paid tribute as the news broke on Thursday afternoon.

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The First Minister wrote: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Alistair’s passing. He dedicated his life to public service and was a giant of Scottish politics.

“My thoughts with his wife Margaret, children, family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.”

Meanwhile, former Labour prime minister Brown praised his role in the Better Together campaign.

He said in a statement: “As the chair of the Better Together campaign for the 2014 Scottish referendum he was resolute and courageous in making the case for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.

The National:

"He was held in the highest esteem by me and all who worked with him for the way in which he handled the fall of the major banks and negotiated international agreements with fellow finance ministers."

“I, like many, relied on his wisdom, calmness in a crisis and his humour.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who was Tory leader while Darling dealt with the global financial crisis as chancellor, said the Labour politician was a “thoroughly kind and decent man”.

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As prime minister, Cameron was in No 10 during the Scottish referendum campaign in which Darling played a leading role.

He said: “We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for chairing the Better Together campaign ahead of the referendum in 2014. He led the campaign with great distinction and tenacity, securing Scotland’s place in our Union.

“He has left us far too early. My thoughts and prayers are with Maggie and his children, Calum and Anna.”

Former Better Together campaign chief Blair McDougall, who was selected to run as a Labour General Election candidate earlier this week, paid tribute on behalf of the group. 

In a statement, he said that Darling was "more than just a comrade-in-arms" and was "truly loved by the whole team". 

"He was calm, wise and, perhaps surprisingly for someone with such a sober public image, incredibly funny and warm," it read. 

"He was the tall tree under which we all sheltered in an often-turbulent campaign. We knew as a team we were protected by him, and we felt such loyalty towards him in return."

McDougall added that Darling was leader of "the longest and arguably most important political campaign in UK history".

"Our campaign strategy was based on the knowledge that we would be led by someone who personified the seriousness of the choice people paced," he said. 

"In an age when politics could seem so small and petty, he was a giant."