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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 16:22 GMT
Pete Wishart: SNP

By BBC News Online's Graeme Esson

Musician Pete Wishart is hoping that his rock connections will help him strike a chord with the electorate.

His name may not be instantly recognisable to voters in North Tayside, but they are likely to know the name of the band he has been a member of since 1986 - Runrig.

Mr Wishart has been selected by the Scottish National Party to defend the seat vacated by party leader John Swinney.

Runrig's brand of Gaelic rock has proved extremely popular and has helped make the group one of Scotland's most successful over the last decade and a half.

I think people appreciate what we have achieved over the years

Pete Wishart
The keyboard player admitted that his involvement with the band was not doing him any harm in his campaigning.

"If people don't know me as a candidate, they definitely recognise Runrig and that's good.

"It is a good calling card. I think people appreciate what we have achieved over the years," he said.

However, Mr Wishart is wary of overplaying his musical background, and was keen to highlight his political activities with the SNP.

The 39-year-old was born in Dunfermline and lived most of his life in West Fife, until moving to Kirriemuir - within the North Tayside constituency - last year.

International success

He studied at Moray House in Edinburgh and is trained as a community education worker.

He had his first attempt at musical stardom when he took a year out of his studies to join the first line-up of Big Country.

That version of the group lasted a year before ending in what he described as "all sorts of differences of opinion and rancour".

It was when he returned to college to complete his qualifications that he got his first introduction to politics after being elected student union president.

Labour past

At that point he was a member of the Labour Party, and he remained so until 1988.

However, he said that when he began to notice a shift towards the right and "the chill wind blowing from London" he decided that it was no longer the party for him.

He has been a member of the SNP's national council since joining the party in 1997, and has held a number of different posts.

He fronted the Youth for Independence campaign that year, urging young people to vote SNP.

Until 1999 he was the party's deputy spokesman on justice, and was also drugs spokesman for two years.

He is currently the party's vice convenor, with responsibility for fund-raising, and has recently been appointed as assistant education spokesman.

His political activities have not diminished his involvement with Runrig, whose new album is slated for release in May.

There will also be a single and a tour of the UK and Europe, although Mr Wishart's involvement may depend on his success as an election candidate.

Turned down

He admitted that becoming an MP would make it "almost impossible" for him to join up with the tour, although his long-term future within the band should he win the seat has not been discussed.

Politics has already intruded into the band's line-up, with lead singer Donnie Munro quitting to stand for Labour at the Scottish Parliament elections.

Mr Wishart had also been approached by a number of constituencies who wanted him to stand in 1999, but turned them all down to concentrate on the band.

"Runrig were just going through a period of intense change with Donnie's departure, and I wanted to give it one last chance - one last album and one last tour," he said.

Mr Wishart is married with a nine-year-old son.



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