Fund In Memory Of MND Campaigner
22 February 2017, 17:27 | Updated: 22 February 2017, 17:29
A new £25,000 scholarship to improve care for people with motor neurone disease (MND) will be set up in memory of campaigner Gordon Aikman.
Health Secretary Shona Robison announced the scholarship at Holyrood and said she hoped it would continue the pioneering work of the 31-year-old, who died earlier this month.
After being diagnosed with the terminal degenerative disease in 2014 aged 29 while working for the Better Together campaign, Mr Aikman formed the Gordon's Fightback campaign and raised more than £500,000 for research to find a cure.
He also successfully lobbied the First Minister to double the number of MND nurses and secured a change in the law so people at risk of losing their voice as a result of a medical condition can access voice equipment on the NHS.
During a Scottish Parliament debate celebrating Mr Aikman's life and campaign, Ms Robison said: ''Gordon valued the relationships he formed with all of those involved in his care including professionals and was constantly striving to seek out those treatments and approaches that would improve the quality of his own and other people's lives.
''That's why I'm delighted to announced today that I've established a scholarship programme in honour of Gordon.
''The Gordon Aikman Scholarship will fund professionals or individuals with knowledge of MND to take forward research into new and better ways of caring for people with the condition.''
She added: ''I very much hope it will continue to drive forward the improvements in MND care that Gordon had kick-started in Scotland and will be a fitting tribute to his memory.''
The Health Secretary also revealed plans for a research event on how to bring MND clinical trials to Scotland.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, a close friend of Mr Aikman, told parliament she would concentrate on his achievements and further work, highlighting his efforts meant the waiting time for MND patients to be fitted with a feeding tube in NHS Lothian had dropped from 22 weeks to two.
She urged the Scottish Government to improve the NHS IT system to help carry on Mr Aikman's work as the current set-up could mean an MND patient's wish to die at home was overlooked due to system incompatibility.
Mr Aikman's husband Joe Pike watched the debate in chamber with family and friends and said: ''We are delighted that this scholarship will continue Gordon's legacy.
''We must also work hard to make Scotland an international centre for clinical trials into MND.
''It is vital we find a cure for the disease that robbed Gordon of his future and continues to affect hundreds of families across the country.''
MND Scotland chairman and close friend of Mr Aikman Lawrence Cowan said: ''Gordon's campaigning transformed MND care in Scotland.
''With this scholarship we can help inspire people to keep transforming MND care for years to come.
''It will help bring people together, try new things and ultimately improve how we fight back against this cruel disease.''