Catherine MacLeod looks at Donnie Munro, folk-rock singer and would-be MP

IF DONNIE Munro were ever to get to the House of Commons, the Palace of Westminster would be a much-enhanced place. That he is going to enter the political fray at all can only enrich it.

Donnie Munro, whom Labour have chosen to fight Ross, Skye, and Inverness West, is the antithesis of the cynical, professional politician. His heart is on his sleeve, he has no side, he is no party apparatchik, he

has never played polit-

ical games, and he has joined the fray only because he wants to make the world a better place.

Corny, maybe, but true.

Munro has been dealt a good hand. He can sing and paint, and will say it is

painting he likes most of all. He is a first-class mimic and can make his friends laugh until they weep. He is confident, with the certainty of being sure of his roots, and what he does is always underpinned by his values of right and wrong.

His songs and his art have never been divorced from his politics, and that is the way he believes it should be. Brought up in a council house in Portree on Skye (which his parents never bought because they believed the availability of good public housing was vital) in the midst of a

secure and loving family, he went to art college in Aberdeen in the seventies.

He returned to Skye every holiday to work and to play, and his tales of both are legion. He taught in Edinburgh and then Inverness, where he is fondly remembered by pupils and teachers alike. After a great deal of well-meaning advice against joining the band (what indeed happened to his super-annuation?), he went on the road with Runrig, and the story of the band is history.

The loss of his parents within months of one another in 1989-90 was a tremendous blow to Munro. They were a great influence on him. Though he was obviously adored, there was never any likelihood of him being allowed to get above himself.

Fortunately, by the time his parents died he had married Teresa McGough, a clever, loving, politically aware Glaswegian, and they had children of their own.

They have now made their home in Skye, an ambition of Munro's ever since he left it. If it is his family he holds most dear, it is from Skye and Sgiathanachs he gets his political inspiration.

Only last month, delivering the annual Sabhal Mor Ostaig Lecture, he paid tribute to the community in which he was brought up: ``My own politics were nurtured through the influence and example of the West Highland community, a community based upon common cause and a profound sense of social justice and equality, where corporate responsibility was an instinct, not an imposition.''

Like many others of his generation in the West Highlands, and Skye in particular, Munro was greatly influenced by the West Highland Free Press. He claimed the radical nature of the paper, founded amongst others by Brian Wilson, the first Free Press editor and now a Labour MP, as much as any single factor, allowed them to believe the established order could be challenged.

Munro explains: ``When the Free Press arrived it was terrific. We waited eagerly for it every week, and it seemed to re-awaken a radicalism that for one reason or another had been allowed to fade away.''

He is motivated. What he dreams about for the Highlands and Islands reflects his vision for the rest of Scotland and the United Kingdom.

``We want new hope, life, opportunity, and economic regeneration into the heart of our communities.''

He calls on Governments ``to employ all the useable vehicles at our disposal: our politics, our music, our poetry, our arts, technology, and education but most of all our commitment to be involved''. Munro's decision to stand for Parliament was not reached lightly. Even though he passionately believes that ``the only way change is made possible is by being willing to be involved in the process of change'', he still swithered.

He finally made up his mind to stand on the day of John Smith's funeral. ``For a long time I was involved in Labour Party initiatives, particularly during my time as Rector of the University of Edinburgh, but it was on that cold day standing outside Cluny Church, moved and saddened as were so many at the death of John Smith, that I decided in that silence it was time to stand up to be counted.''

He is saddened that there is so little public participation in the political process. He is intent on changing

this in the Highlands and hopes to contribute to a membership drive in the rest of the country.

Believing that ``a new beginning will not be ours due to some miraculous event'', he says he is standing for Parliament ``with a passion to engage and organise in a manner which re-invigorates our local communities, seeking to remove cynicism and replacing it with

genuine desire, with genuine aspirations to re-engage the values of the Highland

communities through political organisation''.

Munro wants to dream. ``We cannot, of course, live by dreams alone . . . but if the vehicle carrying our hopes for the future is driven only by a pragmatism devoid of vision then we may arrive at our appointed place to discover only emptiness and a hollow reality.''

He believes the years of Conservative rule have created ``a society which recognises only cost but fails to recognise worth''.

That is what he wants to change.

That is why, most of all, he wants to be a politician.