First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “utterly heartbroken” at the death of a former MSP who helped her take her first step into politics.
Kay Ullrich was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, representing the West Scotland region, before stepping down in 2003.
Serving on the SNP front bench during her stint in parliament, Ms Ullrich is credited with bringing a young Nicola Sturgeon into the party.
Then 16 years old, the future first minister approached the former MSP to see if she could help in her 1987 general election campaign in Cunninghame South.
Ms Ullrich fought a number of elections before her eventual win in 1999, including an attempt in 1983 for Cunninghame South, as well as Motherwell South in 1992 and Monklands East in 1994.
On Monday, the First Minister described Ms Ullrich as a “valued mentor”.
She said: “I am utterly heartbroken to hear the news of Kay Ullrich’s death. My thoughts and love are with her husband, Grady, her children, John and Shelly, and her beloved grandchildren.
“Kay was a huge personal influence on me and was absolutely instrumental in helping to shape my early career.
“A lifelong advocate of independence, it was through Kay that I first became involved with the SNP, and her role in helping me take my first steps into active politics is something that I have never forgotten and will always treasure.”
She continued: “She was a valued mentor, role model and friend whose kind advice, insights and wisdom I learned so much from. She was someone I looked up to for many years, and whose passing now leaves a huge void in many people’s lives, my own included.
“Kay was an outstanding person, deeply loved by many, and those of us who today mourn her loss will continue to be guided by the principles of compassion and integrity which ran through everything she did in life.”
Ms Ullrich served as a shadow health minister before moving to become chief whip under John Swinney when he was SNP leader in the early 2000s.
News of Ms Ullrich’s death has prompted tributes from a number of SNP politicians, including ministers in the Scottish Government, former presiding officer Tricia Marwick and former first minister Alex Salmond. Swinney, now the Deputy First Minister, also paid tribute to Ms Ullrich on Twitter.
He said: “Very poignant to be told by @NicolaSturgeon during @scotgov Cabinet of the death of Kay Ullrich, a stalwart of @theSNP and of independence.
“Kay was one of our vibrant heroes – a great friend and ally in good times and in tough times. Love and condolences to her family.”