Margo MacDonald: Sean Connery’s election broadcast

Sean Connery and Alex Salmond at an SNP rally in the EICC.
Sean Connery and Alex Salmond at an SNP rally in the EICC.
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I made a bit of a boo-boo this past week. There’s a number of good documentary makers currently in various stages of making hour-long TV programmes about the history of the nationalist movement in Scotland.

Their programmes reach back into the origins of the SNP and, no, I wasn’t there at the beginning. I joined the party in 1965, about 30 years after its establishment. However, having been around since then, in one capacity or another, I know where quite a few bodies are buried.

Hence the interest in talking to me on the part of the programme producers. From their point of view I’m a ready reference as to understanding decisions taken, in some instances, by people long since passed over. It’s not as though I’ve written about many of my experiences when I was Billy Wolfe’s deputy, by and large I’ve kept a great deal to myself.

Maybe that was what caused me to spend the best part of a day being interviewed for a programme asking where did we come from, and where are we going?

For whatever reason, I liked and trusted the crew, having worked with the cameraman and the soundman when I was myself working as a TV reporter/presenter.

I didn’t deliberately withhold an anecdote involving Sean Connery, but it was only when they were all packed up and saying their goodbyes that I remembered the events surrounding Sean’s first shot at campaigning for independence.

I felt very guilty at my forgetfulness. I had been asked what contributed to the SNP’s improved result in 1992. We had the services of a very talented team of publicists in that year.

Basically, we campaigned for Sovereign independence. We were impatient with the SNP’s over-cautious strategy and generally tried campaigning for what we believed and it paid off. But the most important 
factor was the effect caused by Sean Connery’s election broadcast for the SNP.

Sean was in Edinburgh to receive the Freedom of the City from the council. At the prompting of the publicists working in the planning team, I phoned Sean and asked him if he would take part in the election 

After we had discussed it, and I’d described the words he’d speak, etc, he agreed and we agreed to speak again to fix the arrangements for recording and broadcasting.

Then came the bombshell. Would it be OK if he wasn’t recognisable as he’d signed a contract with a Japanese spirits company which precluded him from appearing on UK telly?

The resulting election broadcast was a triumph: arguably, it starred the world’s biggest film star at that time, without him appearing on screen. He was immediately recognisable by his voice and the minor matter of his contractual ban proved no obstacle to people believing that they had seen Sean Connery on TV urging them to support the SNP and Scottish 

There had been another wee difficulty in recording Sean – he was only on a flying visit. He was contracted to play in a pro-am golf tournament in St Andrews, and we’d have only a short rest time in his bedroom to record him. A brilliant soundman called Peter Brill was despatched to St Andrews with my husband as his assistant. I couldn’t get time off my own work.

Not many people knew that – until now.