Gordon Wilson steered the SNP through the turbulent years of the early 1980s to the calmer waters beyond.

His leadership from 1979 to 1990 was fraught with internal conflict, but he left the party in better shape on standing down.

The Govan-born 79-year-old first joined the party in the late 1950s while a student of law at Edinburgh University.


He was a leading figure behind the political pirate radio station Radio Free Scotland, which broadcast pro-independence messages to the nation until the mid 1960s, and later wrote a book about the station.

Mr Wilson worked as a solicitor before being elected as the MP for Dundee East in 1974, a seat he held until 1987.

Read more: Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson dies aged 79

He had worked his way up through the ranks of the party, 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".

In his years at Westminster he was the SNP's deputy group leader, oil and energy spokesman and joint devolution spokesman.

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.

Read more: Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson dies aged 79

Mr Wilson did not retreat from politics after standing down as leader, and went on to stand unsuccessfully in the 1999 European Parliament elections.

In addition to writing several books about his time in the SNP, he rose to prominence again as an active campaigner for independence in the run up to the Scottish referendum of 2014, setting up the think-tank Options for Scotland with Mr Sillars.