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Bill Wilson MSP

Incumbent
Assumed office 
3 May 2007

Born 1963 (age 46–47)
Paisley
Political party Scottish National Party

Dr William Laurence Wilson (more commonly known as Bill Wilson) is a Scottish National Party politician.

Born in Paisley in 1963 his initial involvement in politics was with the Labour Party whilst working in conservation at Oxford (jointly with the university and the BBONT, the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (UK)). However, upon returning to his native Scotland he became convinced of the case for Scottish independence and that the Labour Party's commitment to social justice was waning. In 1989 he joined the Scottish National Party (SNP).

He stood unsuccessfully as an SNP candidate for the House of Commons in the Glasgow Anniesland constituency in the 1997 General Election before standing in the Glasgow Maryhill constituency in both the 1999 and 2003 Scottish Parliamentary elections. Wilson was also elected chair of the SNP's Glasgow Regional Association in 2001.

In the aftermath of the 2003 election performance of the SNP he became convinced that a change of direction was needed by the SNP leadership. After discussing this with various SNP members he was persuaded to contest the leadership himself and launched a challenge against the SNP leader, John Swinney. His campaign focused on the issue of centralising the control of the party away from the branches and activists, and what he argued was the trend of placing the SNP ideologically in the centre ground of politics, away from the party's traditional position on the left-of-centre.

In the leadership contest that ensued at the SNP's 2003 Conference Swinney received 577 votes from those delegates voting to Wilson's 111 to remain leader. There were 17 "positive abstentions" (delegates present who voted in other ballots that day) and 60 non-voters. However, the following year Swinney resigned after sustained media speculation that he was unsuitable for the role. The immediate catalyst for Swinney's resignation was the SNP's poor performance in the elections to the European Parliament, although many spectators commented that Wilson's challenge also contributed to his resignation.

Shortly after the leadership contest he stood down as convenor of the SNP Glasgow Regional Association and was replaced in that position by his leadership campaign manager. Wilson stood as the SNP candidate for the Paisley and Renfrewshire North constituency for the May 2005 general election. He finished in second place behind James Sheridan, the Labour candidate.

At the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, Wilson was the SNP candidate for the Renfrewshire West constituency, and was also on the party's list of candidates for the West of Scotland region. He was elected on the latter and duly sworn in as a Member of the Scottish Parliament.

On Tuesday 5 June 2007 he was the subject of a puzzling article in the Scotsman newspaper, "The sharing out of wealth, workers' co-ops and a uniform wage for all - a controversial Nationalist vision for Scotland", written by Peter MacMahon, that paper's Scottish Government Editor. Although the article suggested that Wilson's leftist "intervention" would not be welcomed by the SNP's leadership, keen to portray themselves as "pro-business", the "intervention" referred to a chapter Wilson had first drafted nearly two years previously for a book edited by Gregor Gall, Is there a Scottish road to socialism?, and published in February 2007, well before the election. Furthermore, Wilson's suggestions, as outlined in the chapter, were hardly extreme or, for that matter, unknown to anyone who knew him. Sources close to Wilson reported that he did not think the Scotsman article had done him or the SNP any harm, whatever the intentions behind printing it might have been.

Wilson's maiden parliamentary speech, delivered on 6 June 2007, underlined his belief in the links between crime and deprivation and his commitment to social justice.

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