IT was with great sadness that we learned last week of the death of legendary independence campaigner Jim Lynch, who was a much-valued contributor to our letters pages. Jim wrote to us regularly until his health began to fail, engaging in conversations with fellow readers and treating us to tales from his days as an SNP candidate and editor of the Scots Independent magazine.

Jim had an apposite Burns quote or a gem of an independence anecdote for almost every occasion – indeed he often had both. Here are just a selection of his contributions from the past year:

On campaigning during the pandemic (January 2021):

At present we are facing the biggest pandemic, Covid-19, any of us have ever seen in our lives – well, at the age of 86 I have never seen anything like it. This pandemic shifts around and develops all the time, but Her Majesty’s loyal opposition plays with numbers, making the SNP look bad.

When I worked with John Menzies, one of my colleagues used to say “If you’re marching you’re no’ fighting”. I see this today.

Circumstances have put a stop to Yes marches, but demands about plans are ongoing. It is my firm belief that morale is very high sparked by Yes marches.  However Yes marchers will not be able to knock doors.

We win elections by establishing where our vote is, recording this and making sure they cast their vote.

Organising this is vital. Votes do not come out of the blue, and opinion polls do not vote. Canvassing can be long and weary, but a rich award.

READ MORE: Tributes paid as former Scots Independent editor Jim Lynch dies

On earlier splits within the SNP (February 2021):

Labour had a referendum on Scottish independence in 1979. The Yes side had a majority, but a clause had been inserted by George Cunningham, a Scot but representing Islington, that there had to be a 40% Yes vote – a qualification never seen in any referendum before or after or elsewhere in the world.  This meant that dead people still on the voters’ roll counted as No. It was rumoured that this was planned by Robin Cook, a member of Callaghan’s government.

The majority voted Yes, but Callaghan persisted in sticking to the terms; there was a vote of no confidence which he lost. In the subsequent General Election, Labour lost and Margaret Thatcher stepped in. The SNP entered that election with 11 seats, and came out with two. The SNP fought all 73 seats and only saved 19 deposits; 11 of these had been MPs – I was in the other eight!

After this the 79 Group was formed in the SNP to take the party to the far left; this was a nasty time and I hated it.

It grew, and at the SNP conference in Ayr in 1982 there was a Fringe Meeting for the Campaign for Independence – with speakers including Dr Robert MacIntyre, the president Winnie Ewing and Jimmy Halliday, a former SNP chairman.

The SNP chairman Gordon Wilson MP launched a resolution to ban all groups within the party. This was supported by a vast majority, and led to a walkout by the 79 Group members.

After this vote one journalist, Chris Baur of The Scotsman, said to me: “That’s the last kick of the dying horse”; I do not know where Chris is now, as I stopped buying The Scotsman after I retired in 1996 – not due to economy, but irritation.

All the expelled members appealed their expulsions unsuccessfully – Alex Salmond brought his lawyer to the committee.

In 1983 a General Election was looming, and Professor Neil MacCormick put a resolution to National Council to let the expelled members back before this; his resolution to National Council was passed – so we could have unity.

In 1983 the Social Democratic Party was formed by the Unionists, and in Dundee West they pushed me into fourth place by eight votes. Their campaign consisted of a loudspeaker car going about playing Chariots of Fire!

In that election I won £500 for the best election address in Scotland; this was produced by myself and Percy Holton, a retired commercial artist in Corstorphine SNP Branch.

Ah well, it helped to defray our election expenses.

The award was from the Sunday Standard, and on the night I went through they had decided to close the paper, and their offices were in disarray, with bottles of gin, whisky brandy all over the place. Not a happy event – I picked up the cheque and caught the train back to Edinburgh.

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Reminding us how far the SNP have come (September 2020):

In my time I have been a branch and constituency chairman, in Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh, an elected member of National Council, and fought four Westminster seats as a parliamentary candidate. I never lost a deposit. In those days standing for the SNP was not conducive to helping one's working career, but I survived.

The above is not a boast but a factual statement as to where I am coming from.

Opinion polls do not vote, Yes marches help morale but do not necessarily create new votes; we win by identifying voters and by ensuring they vote. I recall when knocking up for Pete Wishart at one election, a lady told me she was too busy but “I’ll go the morn!”

The Unionists are panicky – Nicola’s public statements on the pandemic have forced the BBC to take her off air. I see we are on a winning streak, and Nicola is the best leader of the SNP I have seen in my 54 years of membership.

On mapping out Winnie Ewing’s campaign trail (February 2021):

During the General Election of 1997 I worked in HQ for nine weeks. In the election campaign I was given the charge of allocating and arranging the party’s ad trailer – everybody wanted it. I was also given Winnie Ewing’s  tour of constituencies; I think I arranged about 30 constituencies, from Orkney & Shetland down to Stranraer! She accused me, jokingly of trying to kill her😊. I did not point out that she stated where she wanted to go.

READ MORE: Michael Russell: Proof Boris Johnson wants to scrap Holyrood is in his actions

On the theft of Scotland’s waters (July 2020):

I was pleased to see the issue of the 6000 square miles of Scotland’s water coming up in The National of July 3, and that independence will see them returned to Scotland.

Back in the early years of this century I was the editor of the Scots Independent newspaper. I kept getting demands to write about this issue but did not know how to go about it. I asked Professor Chris Harvie, a list MSP for Fife, for guidance. He opened up his PC and gave me a list of co-ordinates, which meant nothing to laymen.

I took them to one of my friends, Alastair Kidd, a retired Merchant Navy Captain, and he went to the Royal Forth Yacht Club and bought the chart for the North Sea, which included all the oil and gas installations.

When he plotted the co-ordinates we discovered that six oilfields were in the section – Fulmar, Auk, Clyde, Janice, Angus and Fife. The pipeline ran to St Fergus in Aberdeenshire.

The late Ian Goldie published  this in his SI column in a Special Edition of Summer  2010. The article was also published in The Case for Independence, a book  of Ian Goldie’s SI Columns, with a coloured map of the theft.

On his service with the Black Watch (February 2021):

I did my National Service with the Black Watch in Kenya; the battalion had been in Korea but were transferred to Kenya with the emergence of the Mau Mau. The vast majority of the battalion had been in Korea, but nobody spoke a lot about it. There was one song we all sang with gusto: “The US Marines coming up at a run, Picking up the medals that the Black Watch won but we’re moving on, we’re getting too clost to the listening post, so we’re moving on.” There were other ribald verses.

It was rumoured that when the Black Watch troop ship arrived there were crowds on the quayside to see the Famous Black Watch, who were somewhat miffed to find they were white!

On Sean Connery (November 2020):

Sad to see Sean Connery has died, but 90 is a good age.

During the Hamilton by-election in 1967, he supplied voiceovers for Winnie Ewing. I was in Peterhead SNP branch, and we wrote asking him to become honorary president of the branch. He declined, although we had not expected him to come to a’ the meetings😊.

I met him briefly when he visited Holyrood, and also when he attended a reception in SNP HQ when Winnie was presented with a bronze bust.

He was very easy to talk to and quite animated when I mentioned his signing for Bonnyrigg Rose – that was the first time he had received any money for playing football and they paid him £30.

And finally, a poignant plea for patience from October 2020:

While independence is my dream, it is being blocked by an intransigent English Prime Minister. I am reconciled to it coming after my death, and not being lost by Johnny or Jenny Come Latelys – nor am I in a rush to go.