Gordon Wilson, obituary: former SNP leader who coined the slogan ‘It’s Scotland’s oil!’

Gordon Wilson led the Scottish National Party throughout its turbulent 1980s, helping the party move from the fringes to the mainstream of Scottish politics before handing the reins in 1990 to Alex Salmond.

Wilson also sat in Westminster for the SNP from 1974-87, where he spoke out passionately on behalf of Scottish independence.  He was perhaps best known for coining the phrase “It’s Scotland’s oil!”, which became the party’s campaign battle cry. The slogan could be seen on buses, car stickers, T-shirts and mugs as Scots laid claim to the North Sea oil off their shores.

“No more shall Scotland take her orders, policies, instructions from London,” he once said. “We are a nation. Soon we shall become one of the free nations of the world.”

A lawyer by profession, Mr Wilson also spent some of his spare time as a pirate radio presenter, pioneering Radio Free Scotland from his flat by muscling in on a BBC radio frequency. The station became a significant and popular outlet for the nationalist movement. He was seen as a unifying figure in a divided party and was credited with “professionalising” the SNP by whipping its bickering factions into shape. Although by then not directly involved in the SNP, the 2014 independence referendum was his dream, although the result was not as he wanted.

Born in Govan on Glasgow’s Clydeside in 1938, Robert Gordon Wilson was the son of Robert Wilson, a butcher’s delivery van driver. After his parents moved to the Isle of Man to run a boarding house, young Gordon, as he was always known, attended Douglas High School on the island before studying Law at the University of Edinburgh and working as a solicitor for the firm TF Reid in Paisley, Glasgow. It was at university in 1959 that he joined the SNP, at a time when the aim of the party’s candidates was usually to retain their deposits rather than win seats.

He worked his way up through the ranks of the party, finally becoming leader (chairman) in 1979….

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