For many years, I have read the West Highland Free Press, a newspaper which campaigns fearlessly for the interests of the West Highlands and its people. The paper’s priorities are perhaps best encapsulated in the Gaelic slogan on its masthead: “An Tir, an Canan sna Daoine” – ”The Land, the Language, the People”.
The paper was founded in 1972 by, among others, the journalist Brian Wilson and his columns (perhaps the longest running political column by any politician in Scotland?) have always been a highlight of the paper. Frank, well-argued, pointed, and often downright mischievous or partisan, they have always caused me to stop and think about the topic under discussion.
Recently, Brian gave me invaluable assistance in the writing of my book, The Poor Had No Lawyers. After a break of a couple of years, I started reading the Free Press once more and was drawn once more to his column. I take a close interest, of course, in issues of land and power which are topics close to Brian’s heart.
In the lead up to the May 2011 Scottish elections and in their aftermath, it struck me that here was an important political voice which was only available to readers of the Free Press. I thought that it should be heard more widely and am delighted that Brian accepted my proposal to publish his weekly column on a new website, Brian Wilson Writes.
The aim of the website is to publish all of his columns back to 1972. This archive will provide a fascinating insight into the public life and politics of the West Highlands and beyond. What is unique in Wilson’s writing is his roots and passion for the West Highlands and its land, language and people together which his experience as a politician operating at the highest level in UK politics.
At a personal level (and for the record), I should stress that I do not always agree with Brian Wilson’s opinions (life would be rather dull if I did) although that is part of the column’s appeal. Most of the time, however, I find myself in broad sympathy with his arguments. Always, I find his writing stimulating and informative.
Scottish politics needs a quality of debate over the coming years as Scotland makes up its mind on its future. Brian’s writings on topics such as (to take a few recent examples) rural school closures, the Crown Estate, and the politics of the media are informed by his own long career as a journalist and as a politician. They provide valuable and unique insights into topics of very contemporary concern.
Enjoy the collection as it grows.