Obituary: Allison Hunter, Scottish National Party political organiser

Allison Hunter
Allison Hunter
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Born: 8 January, 1942, in Glasgow. Died: 23 July, 2013, in Glasgow, aged 71

ALLISON Hunter was a nationalist, inter­nationalist, unilateralist, proud Glaswegian and patriot.

Born in 1942 to Govan couple Thomas and Anne Anderson, her family moved to Ruchazie after their home was demolished to make way for the Kingston Bridge across the Clyde.

Allison attended Centre Street Primary School in Kinning Park and Albert Road Academy in Pollokshields before training at Jordanhill Teacher Training College as a primary teacher.

She then taught for a number of years in London and Glasgow, before becoming one of Scotland’s most influential political organisers.

The last few years of her life she spent as a highly respected Glasgow City councillor, serving the area of the city where she had attended primary school six decades earlier.

Above and beyond all of her public roles, of course, Allison was a daughter, sister, wife – she married Ian Hunter in 1963 – mother and grandmother. She was proud of her family, and they of her, and we can only imagine the loss they are now feeling.

But political parties are like large, extended families and, for the SNP, there is no doubt that Allison was one of our most formidable and best loved ­matriarchs. The sense of loss that we all feel at her passing is deep.

Her contribution to SNP success was massive. It was the work she did as National Organiser, based in party headquarters, from 1990 to 2002 that laid the foundations for our historic election victories of 2007 and 2011.

Alex Salmond was the public face of the SNP throughout the 1990s but within the party’s ranks that decade belonged to Allison Hunter. There are few of today’s MSPs, councillors and organisers who were not trained and mentored by Allison.

She first came to national prominence as election agent to Jim Sillars in the 1988 Govan by-election. It was here I first met the woman who became known to a whole generation of young nationalists as Auntie Allison.

We revered and feared her in equal measure.

As one of the many tributes posted on Facebook, the day after her death from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, recalled, Allison had a particular way of bending party activists to her will. She would open a conversation with the words: “I have a very special job that I would really like you to take on for me.” And though you knew she had just landed you with one of the less desirable tasks of political campaigning, you would go off to do it with a sense of pride at having been specially chosen. But that wasn’t just her way of getting things done. It was also her way of saying that everyone in a campaign, no matter their role, is valued.

Allison was not to be messed with. Perhaps it was the schoolteacher in her, but anyone who stepped out of line would feel her wrath – such as the time some high-spirited young Nationalists, including myself and at least one other member of the Cabinet who shall remain nameless (look away now, Fiona Hyslop) tried to smuggle some cans of beer into a party event that was to be strictly alcohol free. We were caught by Allison, got a severe dressing-down and had the beer duly confiscated.

Allison retired from party headquarters in 2002, but her work for the SNP didn’t stop then – the nature of it simply changed. And it is from this point that my massive personal debt to Allison started to 
accumulate.

She became the convener of my local constituency party, a post she held to the day of her death. She was my election agent in 2007 when I won Govan.

She was critical to that victory, not just because of her legendary organisational skills, but also because of the support, advice and encouragement she gave me. With it, she became the election agent who had won Govan twice (she was also a double by-election winner, serving as agent to John Mason in Glasgow East in 2008) and we were all so proud that, on the same day, she was elected as councillor for the Govan ward.

Allison was an outstanding councillor – she loved the community work and the communities she represented loved her. When I was campaigning in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, I lost count of the number of people who said they were voting SNP not because of anything I had done, but because of something Allison had done.

Allison didn’t seek the limelight in politics. When she became leader of the Glasgow SNP council group in 2011 – her most high-profile public role – she did so, not for personal glory, but out of a sense of duty to the party she loved.

She did an exemplary job, leading the SNP to a result that increased our number of councillors in the City Chambers. Only now that we know she had just won her first battle against breast cancer, do we have a real sense of the personal commitment she was making.

Allison would have loved to have been around to campaign for a Yes vote next year. The rest of us will now redouble our efforts to do so in her honour. But she rests knowing that she more than played her part in getting us to where we are now.

I will miss Allison Hunter more than I can say – as a friend, colleague and mentor. I am proud to have known her. Her SNP family owes her a huge debt.

She is survived by Ian, sister Anne, and children Fiona, Mhairi and Roy as well as grandchildren Kathleen and Andrew. Our thoughts are with them.