Thursday 17 March 2011

Papers of Gordon Wilson, former Chairman of the Scottish National Party

We have recently completed the listing of the papers of Gordon Wilson (MS 315), the fourth Rector of the University of Dundee and one of the key figures in the history of the Scottish National Party.

Robert Gordon Wilson achieved national prominence when he was elected as MP for Dundee East in February 1974, marking the first time the Labour Party had lost that seat since its creation in 1950 and the first time Dundee had elected a non-Labour MP since 1935. Wilson performed well in his first years in parliament and in 1979 he was one of only two SNP MPs to retain their seat. The same year he became Chairman of the Scottish National Party (which was the equivalent post to party leader), a role which he held until 1990. During this period the party made significant gains in local government elections in 1984 and 1986. Although Wilson (narrowly) lost his own seat in 1987 general election, the SNP was able to gain three seats from the Conservative Party that year.

Gordon Wilson with Congressman Paul Tsongas
Wilson’s papers include material relating to some of the important issues Wilson tackled whilst a Member of Parliament, such as the reorganisation and floatation of the Trustee Savings Bank, and details of local politics in the Tayside area. There are also many photographs in the collection which chronicle the whole of Wilson’s parliamentary career.

The photographs include shots of Wilson campaigning throughout Scotland and images of him doing day-to-day constituency work. The collection also includes material relating to a parliamentary exchange visit to America in the 1970s when he was the guest of the Massachusetts Congressman Paul E. Tsongas. Tsongas would later be Bill Clinton’s main challenger for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States of America in 1992.

Dr Kenneth Baxter

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