These pensioners have spent most of their lives campaigning for the SNP. And they wouldn't change it for a thing...


The National:

GERRY Fisher is a well-kent face on the SNP conference circuit. Formerly an employee of Wall’s confectioners, he has been an SNP supporter since the end of the Second World War. Known for his knowledge of conference debating mechanisms, he hit the headlines after taking on Finance Secretary Derek Mackay at last year’s party conference.

“My interest in the movement started at a very early age in terms of home rule. It was the lead-in word for independence in those days. That carried on during the war in 1944 when I was 14. I went to Glasgow University in the late 1940s and joined the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association (GUSNA), which was formed by John MacCormick.

“In the late 1960s, I was living in London and I heard the news that Winnie Ewing, who was also a member of GUSNA, had won the by-election. I used to have lunch with her every Tuesday and worked on her supplementary questions to Harold Wilson, as well as on some motions.

“She told me that I should really join the party. By then I had come to the conclusion that the SNP were the best vehicle for home rule. I joined and three weeks later I was elected convenor of the London branch. We had 200 members by then.

The National:

“I have only missed one conference. In 1988, my second wife and my son who was three were driving to the Inverness conference. We met a Canadian tourist going south on the Pitlochry bypass. He was on his honeymoon. His wife and my wife were killed. My son didn’t have a scratch.

“The hardcore, the ones who stayed with the battle were a collection of hardcore nuts like me to whom the idea of being a minority was not important as long as our principles were right.

“The party of today still has a constitution and rules which say that the aim of the party is to return the sovereignty of the Scottish people. The major battle I have been waging is to convince the majority of the membership that it is a matter of fact that being a member of the EU does not represent independence for Scotland.

“I have stuck to my original principles and those have to be fought for outside the party and within it, if need be.”


The National:

MACQUEEN is a party legend in his Kelvin and Maryhill branch. A desert rat who served at the end of the Second World War in Egypt and on the Italian front, he is an ardent campaigner and has been a party candidate on multiple occasions. MacQueen features on a well-known picture of an SNP demonstration outside the then-Labour Party headquarters in Park Circus in Glasgow in the 1980s, and crops up regularly elsewhere in the party canon through the years.

“I joined in 1948 after I left the army. I was in north Italy and Egypt during the war.

“The first meeting I attended was the only branch in Glasgow – West Branch.

Back then people laughed at you. To them, you were living in a fairy land. They thought we’d never get independence. You had the usual reasons. ‘Too small, too poor’.

“We had to work through that. The next branch to open was in Springburn which brought us to two. The party has changed completely since then. I fought 12 local elections where we couldn’t possibly have won any of them. We had about 10% of the vote. You fought as a matter of course. You didn’t expect to win at that point, you were just laying the ground, so to speak.

“I ended up in Barlinnie on remand for voting twice and got fined £30. Parties used to chalk the street back then with slogans and the like. We used emulsion paint, which lasted longer. We got up to all sorts of things.

“I think people are doing very well even though things are a bit of a shambles with Brexit. We are all steaming ahead and Nicola is doing really well. We have all of these MPs and MSPs and councillors. We never had that in my day.”


The National:

A FORMER primary school headteacher of nearly 30 years, Whitehead has been vice-president of the Association of Headteachers and is currently a trustee of the City of Glasgow College Foundation. She has also worked on the Ethics Committee of the University of Strathclyde and as an independent assessor for the Commissioner for Public Appointments. She is a non-executive director at The State Hospital in Lanark.

“I first became involved in 1964. My mother told me that George Leslie was coming to speak at a meeting in Glasgow and we went along. My mother and I both joined on the same day.

“I have been a member ever since – without interruption – which is 55 years now.

“Although my mother was older, she became the party treasurer in her constituency. She couldn’t get out and about easily, but she was an accountant so they brought all of the money and things to her. She always made sure their books were tickety-boo.

“I was active in Straven. We had a solid membership there and owned our own rooms which was amazing in a wee place like that.

“The reaction we got back then was very mixed. You’d get those who were Unionist through and through and nothing would stop them. I didn’t just campaign in my local constituency, so I campaigned all over the place. Kids used to run after you and shout ‘SNP: Scottish nose pickers’ and you were even spat on.

“I borrowed my dad’s car once and got a brick through the windscreen. I had parked in Mosspark Boulevard to go and do some leafleting and came back to the car and the brick was through the window. That was a good area too. You didn’t expect that sort of thing.

“I was furious and embarrassed because it was his car, but it didn’t stop me.

“We had a lot of councillors in East Kilbride and the party began to rise, which gave you a really good feeling. We actually had councillors – people taking part in politics. You got a lot less opprobrium and sneering and all the rest of it after that.

“I was a teacher, and I remember going for an interview to become a headteacher. Someone said, ‘I’m sure you won’t be wearing your SNP brooch’. Everyone knew perfectly well I was an SNP activist, so I didn’t see the point in that. I got the job so there you go.

“I think we need to keep getting out there. There isn’t enough action. I think that a wee bit of complacency has crept in. When you get somewhere, you don’t need to strive as much. We will achieve independence because of the work we all did. Without independence, what would we stand on the doorsteps and talk about? I enjoy it all. It keeps you on your toes.”


As told by journalist and broadcaster Dorothy Grace-Elder​

FISHER was a founding member of the SNP and died in Ayr Hospital aged 82 in 1994. She ran the Scottish Centre, a book shop specialising in international magazines, on Hope Street with her husband.

Fisher surprised her party colleagues when when she left £200,000 to the SNP for use in General Election campaigns when she died. She was also an aunt of Sir Russell Hillhouse, who was permanent under-secretary at the Scottish Office.

Reportedly, he was not left so much as a penny from her will. At the time of her death, SNP MSP Alex Neil remembered her as a “dedicated nationalist” who would be “sorely missed”. He added that Fisher “was a great worker and inspiration to the younger generation”.

Then-party treasurer, Tom Chalmers told The Herald that Fisher “was known to fellow nationalists as well-off but we did not realise she was so wealthy”. “It is a welcome addition and used properly in a General Election campaign it could make a big difference.’’

Fisher as remembered by journalist and broadcaster, Dorothy Grace-Elder: “I wrote about Isa in my ‘Rattling the Cages’ column in Scotland on Sunday. “I remember her telling me about canvassing with her husband in Maryhill during the blitz. The bombs were falling in Clydebank and the building was shaking around them.

“They huddled together on the stairs, clutching their leaflets. I asked her why she was out on the doors during all that and she said that she ‘just wanted to make sure the flame was still burning’.

“When we won the referendum on having a Scottish Parliament, I raised a glass to her, thinking ‘this is for Isa’. Alex Salmond asked me who I had been toasting, and when I told him, he said he’d been thinking about her too.

“She ran a lot of campaign canteens over the years. She stayed with me for a few of them and would be up with the dawn to get everything ready. She kept the party fed.

“Isa was a very logical woman, I don’t think she would have believed how bad things have gotten at the moment. I think she would see Brexit as the last straw, she’d say we’d been held down long enough.”