A young Tam Dalyell looks on as his family home is formally gifted to the National Trust for Scotland. Photo: NTS

A young Tam Dalyell looks on as his family home is formally gifted to the National Trust for Scotland. Photo: NTS

A major conservation charity has paid tribute to a former MP who has died.

The National Trust for Scotland said it was greatly saddened by the passing of Tam Dalyell, who sat as Labour MP for West Lothian and then Linlithgow for more than 40 years.

Born to an aristocratic mother, he was in his early years a Conservative party activist but became a socialist and joined the Labour party at the age of 24.

The NTS said: “Tam has been associated with the National Trust for Scotland since his parents gifted his ancestral home, the House of the Binns, in 1944.

“Famously, he is pictured as a kilted schoolboy standing in the background of the handover ceremony.”

The charity’s chief executive Simon Skinner said: “Tam was infuriating, opinionated and absolutely wonderful.

“Whatever his political achievements and status, he was to us, just ‘Tam’.

“He made a point of attending our staff conferences and AGMs, characteristically offering comment and opinion on how we should be running the Trust – and he was usually right.

“His presence at the House of the Binns, along with his beloved wife, Kathleen, who manages the property, ensured that visitors often enjoyed an experience that is rare for a historic house.

“They could be greeted by Tam, who would personally show them the various objects passed down by his family, as well as an astonishing array of mementoes from his long and eventful political career.

“We are all so sad at the news that Tam has passed away. We will miss him; there will never be his like again.

“Our thoughts are with Kathleen and the family.”

The House of the Binns. Photo: troy.afterburner CC-BY-2.0

The House of the Binns. Photo: troy.afterburner [CC-2.0]

The House of the Binns, in West Lothian, dates from the 17th century when the estate was bought by Edinburgh merchant Thomas Dalyell.

Tam Dalyell’s father Gordon Loch married Nora Dalyell and the MP inherited the baronetcy through his mother, though he never used the title.

The family gifted the house to the trust, but retained the right to live at the property, with Mr Dalyell’s widow Kathleen representing the charity and overseeing maintenance of the house.

Tam Dalyell was educated at Eton and Cambridge but was a long-serving Labour MP, first elected for his constituency in June 1962 and following boundary revisions, for Linlithgow from June 1983 to April 2005, when he retired from the Commons.

He was a fierce critic of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an opponent of British military actions and an advocate of Scottish MPs abstaining from purely English matters in Westminster votes, an issue that became known as the West Lothian question.

Mr Dalyell was also an arch critic of Labour PM Tony Blair’s decision to take the UK into the second Iraq war.

Before being elected, the politician undertook his national service as a trooper in the Royal Scots Greys.

In later life he also held the post of Lord Rector of the University of Edinburgh.

Tam Dalyell died aged 84 after a short illness.

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