Funeral of former SNP leader and Dundee East MP Gordon Wilson

© DC ThomsonFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell attend Mr Wilson's funeral at St Peter's Free Church in Dundee.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell attend Mr Wilson's funeral at St Peter's Free Church in Dundee.

The funeral of former SNP leader Gordon Wilson has taken place in Dundee.

Mr Wilson, who was 79, led the SNP between 1979 and 1990 and represented the Dundee East constituency from 1974 to 1987.

He died in Roxburghe House hospice in the early hours of June 25 at the age of 79.

Mourners at the funeral service at St Peter’s Free Church included First Minister Niclola Sturgeon and Mr Wilson’s successor as SNP leader, former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Deputy First Minister and Perthshire North MSP John Swinney delivered a eulogy at the service.

He said Mr Wilson’s leadership of the SNP through the 1980s helped a party on the verge of disintegration to survive and laid the foundations for its current electoral successes.

© DC Thomson
Former SNP leader, Gordon Wilson.

Mr Swinney added Mr Wilson had been a dedicated MP for the people of Dundee.

He said: “He loved being an MP in this city. He loved bringing justice to the homes and the workplaces of those he had the privilege to represent.

“He was angry about what the people of Dundee had to endure and he acted at all times to make their lives better.

“He took their cause to the House of Commons where he gained respect for the passion and energy he demonstrated in speaking up on behalf of the people of Dundee East.”

Mr Swinney added: “Earlier this year, at an event in Dundee, I had the opportunity to say, in front of Gordon and (his wife) Edith, the only conclusion that I think it is fair to say — that the existence today of a Scottish Parliament, the existence of an SNP Government and the existence of a more self-confident Scotland, is due to the foundations laid by Gordon Wilson.

“I am very glad he heard me say that.”

Reverend David Robertson, a personal friend of Mr Wilson, also paid tribute.

He said: “Gordon was a friend and a mentor to me.

“The whole of Scotland is a poorer place without Gordon Wilson, a politician of integrity and intelligence.”

Mr Wilson is survived by his wife Edith, daughters Margaret and Katie, and five grandchildren.

Prime Minister Theresa May also paid tribute to Mr Wilson in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

She said: “I am sure all members of this House will wish to both offer our condolences to the friends and family and colleagues of the late Gordon Wilson, but also to recognise the role that he played in politics in the UK, including in this House.”

Mr Wilson was a key was a key figure in the SNP for decades, serving as assistant national secretary from 1963 to 1964, national secretary from 1964 to 1971 and executive vice-chairman between 1972 and 1973.

During that time, he was a key figure in the party’s oil campaign, which coined the political slogan “It’s Scotland’s oil”.

Mr Wilson took over the party’s leadership following the failed 1979 referendum on Scottish devolution and the loss of nine of the party’s 11 MPs in the subsequent general election.

The party was riven by internal conflicts in the first four years of his leadership, including over the emergence of the left-wing 79 Group and the ultranationalist Siol nan Gaidheal.

He presided over several poor performances in the general elections of 1983 and 1987, but the fortunes of the party began to improve, notably with the victory of Jim Sillars in the Govan by-election of 1988.