Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson’s “profound contribution” to Scotland has been remembered at a funeral service in Dundee.
Mourners gathered on Wednesday at St Peter’s Free Church to celebrate the life of the leading nationalist, who died last month at the age of 79 after a short 1illness.
Mr Wilson was leader of the SNP between 1979 and 1990, during which time he steered the party through turbulent years of division and rebuilt it, laying the foundations for later success.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney, delivering the funeral eulogy, said he would be remembered as a “rebel” with a lifelong devotion to the cause of Scottish independence.
Paying tribute to Mr Wilson’s wife Edith and daughters Margaret and Katie, he said: “Earlier this year, at an event in Dundee, I had the opportunity to say, in front of Gordon and 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.
“Gordon Wilson was crucial to creating the Scotland of today. We all thank Edith, Margaret, Katie and their families for enabling Gordon to make the profound contribution he was able to make.
“We hold them in our hearts as we give thanks for Gordon’s magnificent life in the service of Scotland and this great city.”
Mr Wilson worked as a solicitor before being elected as the MP for Dundee East in 1974, a seat he held until 1987.
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’’.
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.
Mr Swinney said: “Without a shadow of a doubt, he left the SNP in a stronger position than when he assumed its leadership in 1979.
“The party had been rebuilt. It was attracting greater electoral support. He was overjoyed at the Govan by-election win in 1988 and could see that better times lay ahead.
“The conclusion is, therefore, clear. Whether it was the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s, whether it was the way he gave the SNP firm direction or the way he cradled the party in the palm of his hand, Gordon Wilson was utterly pivotal to the survival and success of the SNP.”