Billy Wolfe has died. Like thousands of other members of the SNP I regarded Billy as a friend and a good companion on the road to independence. The tributes will pile up on the party's website. He was one of those grand old stagers of the party who was an ever-present at conferences and campaigns, gently eccentric and always ready with a smile and a bit of encouragement for all of us. One of the first pieces of mail received by newly elected SNP Parliamentarians would be a wee card from Billy with his congratulations and best wishes for the term ahead, his incredible generosity of spirit always lifted people who came into contact with him and he was always delighted to share a joke and a laugh.
He's credited with turning the SNP into the modern party it is today, reforming our organisation and our campaigning methods, underpinning our policy platform with a socially democratic ethos, driving our cause forward.
His activism and his energy seemed not to know any limits, as well as turning up at elections when he was well into his 80s, he was a determined campaigner for nuclear disarmament, part of the deep-seated opposition to nuclear weapons that is part of the lifeblood of the SNP and created SNPCND. Billy's CND membership led him into as many 'interesting' positions as his SNP membership, he was one of those who went to Cape Wrath to protest against the US Navy using it for shelling practice and there's a tale told about Billy and Ian Hamilton QC at Faslane sitting on the road side by side and complaining about the police refusing to manhandle them out of the way with the refrain of "what's an old man got to do to get arrested around here?" and complaints that they'd paid their taxes all their life and should have the right to get lifted. A formidable pairing, you might say.
He was an environmental campaigner as well, leading the charge to protect Scotland for future generations, and I believe he was a prime mover in setting up the Eilean Mor MacCormick Trust to look after the SNP's island which is at the mouth of Loch Sween and home to a 12th century Chapel dedicated to St Cormac. In the same spirit in which Billy did everything else, visitors are always welcome on the island:
Billy was a man who believed in peace, in love and in gentleness. He served in the Second World War and campaigned for peace thereafter. An excellent bloke, he'll be missed by a lot of us but we'll still be cheered by the memory of him. His family have lost a husband and father, we've lost a friend, and Scotland has lost a patriot but Billy was the kind of person who would rather you celebrated his life than mourned his death. There's a lot to celebrate.
So long Billy.