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Former regional journalist loses cancer battle at 49

A former regional journalist and columnist who went on to launch a blossoming academic career has lost her fight with cancer at the age of 49.

Kirsty Milne started out as a BBC trainee and went on to become a leading writer, chronicling the early years of Scottish devolution for The Scotsman, as well as working for the Sunday Herald for a short time.

She also worked as editor of the New Statesman and freelanced for a several titles on Fleet Street before striking out in a completely new direction – academia.

Her burgeoning career in this area was cut short earlier this month, when she succumbed to lung cancer – despite never having smoked.

Former Scotsman editor Iain Martin, who now works for the Sunday Telegraph among other titles, has written a tribute piece for the paper, honouring a woman he says was “always the smartest person in the room.”

“On The Scotsman, she was a highly esteemed adviser to several editors, providing sensible counsel as she endeavoured to make sure the paper’s news coverage and leader columns were grounded and based on reality. When she was asked to write leaders herself, this often involved balancing competing demands and crafting an elegant compromise,” he says.

“In her own columns, her writing style – by turns cool, playful and always rooted in research – made her a delight for readers.

“But she also brought a sharp intelligence to bear and had that rarest of journalistic gifts: the ability to make those who might not agree with her view at least stop and think.”

Former Scotsman editor Iain Martin has paid tribute to popular columnist Kirsty Milne

Born in Middlesex and raised in Glasgow, Kirsty – whose father Alasdair Milne became director-general of the BBC – worked on the New Statesman for six years.

In a tribute piece for the New Statesman, one of her former colleagues there, Sarah Baxter – who is now the deputy editor at the Sunday Times – added: “Kirsty was a wonderful colleague, full of energy, mischief and fun.

“She loved political ideas and political intrigue, and wrote about them brilliantly.

“She was always insistent that her name was pronounced Keersty, not Kursty …  after being told off a few times, I’ve never been able to pronounce Kirsty any other way.

“She was my great friend and confidante at the Statesman, and I’ll miss her dearly.”

Kirsty returned to Scotland in 1999 to cover the devolution referendum, but, eager for further challenges, decided to change direction.

She was appointed Nieman Fellow in journalism at Harvard University in 2004, going on to study a masters in intellectual and cultural history followed at Queen Mary, University of London.

She then returned to the University of Oxford – where she originally graduated with a First Class degree in English – to begin a doctorate in 2006.