He was born and raised in Greenock. He served as a priest until 1994 when he become a director of the Christian Socialist Movement. He was elected MP for Greenock and Inverclyde in 2001, following legislation which had removed the ban on priests being elected, and rose to be a junior minister.
David Cairns was openly gay.
- http://lgbtlabour.org.uk/mps LGBT Labour retrieved 26 March 2011
- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/politics-obituaries/8505522/David-Cairns.html Politics Obituaries - David Cairns, 10 May 2011 The Telegraph
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/may/10/david-cairns-obituary Guardian obituary