1.) My first ever synthesiser

I went to piano lessons at the time when I could probably just about walk. I always had aptitude for music and I’ve loved it from an early age.

My dad was a wonderful accordion player and he played in a three-piece band around the workmen clubs in west Fife and he always encouraged myself and my brother to pick up instruments. He covered the house in instruments. We had a piano, an organ, we had drum kits, we had guitars. My dad was fantastic in encouraging us to practice and perform and take a real interest in music.

The one I wanted more than anything else though was a synthesiser. I grew up in the 70s so there were lots of new guys like Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson with keyboards and synthesisers and I really wanted a bit of that.

So, I saved up and got myself one, an early one, and it could only play one note. But what I could do with this was fascinating and I developed a great interest in electronic keyboards ever since then.

2.) My mum becoming a teacher

My mum and dad were from mining families in Kelty and got married in their early 20s and they had my brother before they were 24.

They worked in a variety of poorly paid jobs. My dad had quite a crippling disability which meant he could only do the least demanding manual jobs although he did end up working in the Rosyth dockyards.

I think my mum realised it was going to be up to her to be the main breadwinner of the house. Once myself and my brother were dispatched to primary school she went off to night school to get the necessary qualifications to become a teacher. I never felt so proud of her when I saw her at Callendar Park with her graduation gown and a diploma, being offered a job in a school in Dunfermline. Here was this girl from a huge family of Kelty miners becoming a teacher.

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It was her example that if you set yourself a mission and you have the necessary dedication and confidence you can achieve anything and I always look back on that as spurring me on to do what I wanted to do whether that was politics or music.

My mum is still alive, she’s in her mid-80s now, and she’s still a force of nature. It’s great to have a mum who’s such an example who’s still alive and available to have these chats with.

3.) Queen Anne High School in 1977

I know it’s probably hard to believe this. But I was actually quite a shy and retiring child until I got into my mid-teens. I wasn’t particularly academic and I was probably sitting in the classroom daydreaming or composing tunes in my head.

But by fourth year, in my mid-teens, everything changed. It was 1977 and punk rock came along and we were going to have anarchy in the UK and institutions were there to be challenged.

And because I was good at music and I was in bands I became one of the cool kids at school.

I got my first ever gig at one of the school discos and it was great. I stayed on at school till I was in sixth year. Not because I was pursuing any great academic career just because there was nothing else to do. So 1977 was such a big year for me.

It was a defining year for me as a young man. There was a couple of other things that happened in 1977 that as a politician I’d best leave aside but it was a fantastic year that set out where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.

4.) Getting asked to be in Big Country

The National: Big Country in Moscow in the 1980s. Left to right; Mark Brzezicki, Tony Butler, Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson. Picture: PA/PA Archive/PA Images

Dunfermline had an amazing music scene. Everyone was in a band in the late 1970s. Bands used to come in and play as part of the touring schedule.

The top among Dunfermline were The Skids and we used to follow them all around Scotland. My first band The Subject was starting to get a bit of attention and Stuart Adamson, The Skids’ guitarist, used to come along and watch us and we were eventually asked to do a couple of support slots for The Skids.

Then he left The Skids and he came to me and asked me to be a member of his new band – they went on to become Big Country.

The songs we rehearsed for about a year were the songs that appeared on The Crossing which went on to sell three million copies and got a Grammy in America for best international album.

But it all went wrong of course. We went on tour with Alice Cooper and it ended up disastrously in all sorts of acrimony. And that was the end of my career in Big Country. But everything that happened in my life followed that conversation with Stuart Adamson.

Stuart tragically died in 2001 and I remember being profoundly affected by all of this and all of the things that run through your head – like if I’d somehow managed to stay in Big Country could I have made a different to Stuart, these useless thoughts that you have.

Stuart was perhaps the best guitarist Scotland has ever produced. It was an absolute delight to play with him and he leaves behind a body of work that any band or musician would be proud of and I still miss him to this day.

5.) Murray House school of Community Studies

Because my mum was from one of these huge mining families she had, she had five siblings, her youngest brother, my uncle Harry, wasn’t much older than me. He was a member of the Communist Party and I loved listening to him talk about his political activism.

He was a community worker and he went to the School of Community studies at Murray House College in Edinburgh and he encouraged me to think about going there to study community education.

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I somehow managed to collect the necessary qualifications to get in there. I went straight from school into Murray House. And I loved every minute of it. I learned politics there and half the time we were on these practical placements working in a community development projects or with workers or tenants groups, and it was great and I learned so much about community political activism.

6.) Joining Runrig

The National: UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01:  ROYAL ALBERT HALL  Photo of Pete WISHART and RUNRIG, Pete Wishart (keyboard player)performing on stage  (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns).

This is probably my most significant one. I always knew I was gonna get back into music. It was a mutual friend that asked me to audition for a band that he actually sold the t-shirts for – he actually had one of the t-shirts on.

I knew nothing about Runrig at that point. And when I auditioned we immediately hit it off. They were looking for a more rock sound at that point. They were big fans of Big Country and what they had achieved and were looking for this rock sound to help get them to the next level.

I loved what they were all about and I immediately got the cultural aspect and the politics that they’re about. I loved being with them and working with them and getting involved in the full Highland Gaelic cultural agenda.

The first album I worked on with them was The Cutter And The Clan and it was a breakthrough album which led to us getting a major record deal with Chrysalis Records. That meant we got bigger gigs, we got a massive budget to go into the studio and record further albums. And we went on to become the biggest band in Scotland and in the late 1980s, and early 90s.

I had 16 wonderful years with Runrig. I did everything I wanted to. I sometimes wonder why I gave it all up to go to politics. It was a fantastic time and I’ll never ever regret the time I spent with the band.

7.) Being elected as an MP

Throughout the 1990s, I was getting a bit more involved in political activism. I became a member of Scottish National Party, I was elected on the National Council and by the mid-1990s I was vice-convener for fundraising.

Donnie Munro, who was in the band, had already stood for Parliament in 1997 for the Labour Party.

Conversations at the back of the bus around that period wasn’t all about sex and drugs and rock and roll, it was about Scotland’s constitutional question.

I was meeting up with colleagues and politicians and it was Alex Salmond that really encouraged me to stand as a parliamentarian.

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At first he tried to convince me to stand in a by-election in Paisley in 97/98 but there was unconcluded work with Runrig.

By 2000, I was ready to think about going both feet into politics. And the opportunity came along when MPs stood down to focus on the Scottish Parliament and there were six vacancies across Scotland. I immediately took to North Tayside.

I always thought I would win that one but took a big gamble and chance. I was never so relieved to be elected with a majority of 1200 at that point and I’ve gone on to win five elections.

8.) Loch Lomond

Few bands get to headline a gig like we did in 1991 when we played on the banks of Loch Lomond to 50,000 people.

Tickets sold out on one day. I think Loch Lomond announced Runrig had really arrived. Then we had five top albums, tours across the UK and Europe, a Top of The Pops appearance. We were Scotland’s biggest band and our lives changed forever.

We had every opportunity to go to the next level which would be America. We were offered a number of proposals to take us out there and I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we took that opportunity but there was a real reticence to go down that particular road.

We all had young families and kids and that was so important for us. We were comfortable in what we had achieved.

Of course the song, I’m always associated with it now. If you go to Murrayfield or Hampden it’s the version of Loch Lomond that I played on that plays when the teams come on to the pitch. If I am at a wedding people try and drag me to the floor insisting I sing the song.

I have the voice of a frog. I say to people, “you do not want me to ruin your wedding singing Loch Lomond” but I always oblige. It’s a song that will always follow me around the rest of my life and it’s something I’m not in the least bit embarrassed about.

9.) Independence referendum

The National: All Under One Banner march for independence, Arbroath. ..Photograph by Colin Mearns.Saturday 2 April 2022.

That's what I got into politics to do.

I was one of six MPs at Westminster and I was the chief whip and constitution person so it was left to me to do most of the debates. We had to stand tall and put the case forward in the face of severe provocation from 640 other MPs.

I am mightily impressed and immensely frustrated that we came so close to winning. When we won all but three of 59 seats in Scotland at the 2015 General Election we knew this was unfinished business.

I think that the referendum gave us all this huge belief that this was possible, this was inevitable, that this is something that we were actually going to do.

10.) A Friday night at Greyfriars’s pub

IN 2005 my boundaries changed from North Tayside to Perth and North Perthshire. I was living in Dunkeld at that time and I moved down to Perth and worked as hard as I possibly could to get into my new patch.

But there was one evening I found myself in a rare night out in the Greyfriars pub in Perth and I remember being lobbied and hassled by this pushy but intriguing woman who demanded to know what I was going to be doing for the lecturers at Perth College. She was the EIS rep and I found her absolutely captivating.

I kept going back every Friday night in the hope she would take the opportunity to continue to remonstrate with her Member of Parliament. And we got to know each other and Sara and I have now been together for over 10 years. She’s kept me grounded through all this madness.

It’s her that helps me get through the day-to-day realities of this job.