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Sir Thomas (Tam) Dalyell of the Binns


1932 - 2017

Politician. Born Thomas Loch in Edinburgh, Dalyell's father adopted his wife's surname in 1938 and it was through his mother than Tam inherited the Baronetcy of the Binns in 1972. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy, Eton and Kings College, Cambridge. He went on to train as a teacher at Moray House (Edinburgh) and taught briefly at Bo'ness High School (1961-2). Dalyell was elected as Labour Member of Parliament for West Lothian in 1962 and when that seat was abolished in 1983, Dalyell went on to serve for Linlithgow.

Dalyell was known as an intelligent, if mildly eccentric, politician, who is not afraid to take on highly controversial issues and speak against the policies of his own party. These have included asking awkward questions relating to the sinking of the Argentinian Cruiser, the General Belgrano, the Lockerbie bombing, the Gulf War, the Kosovo campaign, student fees, freedom of information, air traffic control privatisation and the invasion of Iraq. He opposed the plans for Scottish Devolution, seeing them as inevitably leading to the breakup of the United Kingdom. In 1977, he asked the famous 'West Lothian Question' which related to the over-representation of Scotland in the Westminster Parliament and the ability of Scottish members to vote on exclusively English issues, whilst Scottish issues would be dealt with in a separate Scottish Parliament following a process of devolution. This question taxed the minds of governments over many years.

Dalyell has written widely on political issues and has published several books, including Devolution: The end of Britain? (1977), One Man's Falklands (1982), Thatcher's Torpedo (1983), and Dick Crossman: A Portrait (1989). He also wrote a column the magazine New Scientist from 1967 to 2005.

In 2001, Dalyell became the 'Father of the House', that is the Member of Parliament with the longest continuous service, and retired from Parliament four years later. He held honorary degrees from the University of Edinburgh (1994), City University, London (1998) and Heriot-Watt University (2011).

He lived at the House of the Binns in West Lothian. He died after a short illness, with a memorial service was held at St. Michael's Parish Church in Linlithgow.


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