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Meet the Lochaber businessman hoping to topple ‘independence giant’ Ian Blackford

Angus Macdonald is a Liberal Democrat councillor for Fort William and Ardnamurchan
Angus MacDonald wants to contest the next general election. Image: Supplied.

Entrepreneur Angus MacDonald says his family can be traced back more than 1,000 years to Lochaber – but it’s the next few years he’s focusing on.

The 60-year-old is a man unafraid of a challenge and has his sites set on ousting Highland MP Ian Blackford from representing Ross, Skye and Lochaber at the next election.

The Liberal Democrat councillor and Lochaber businessman was recently selected to contest the seat.

He says toppling Mr Blackford as a “giant of the independence movement” would be a “fantastic thing for the union”.

But the father-of-four also hopes he can “rejuvenate” the Highlands – a region he believes has been ignored by successive SNP governments.

“I can’t think of anything that has been done in 15 years that has benefited the West Highlands”, he says.

Angus MacDonald outside the Belford Hospital in Fort William. Image: Supplied.

“I can’t think of a single thing.

“Our hospitals are not in good shape, we’ve had no infrastructure spend, our Calmac ferries are a catastrophic disaster and our education system Highland Council came 32 in 32 in academic attainment last year in Scotland.

“There is very little enterprise here and I am a guy with endless energy and a reputation for getting things done in business.

“We’ve got too many professional politicians who haven’t had a career outside politics. That’s one thing I certainly have had.”

Who is Angus MacDonald?

Mr MacDonald started his career in the Army, serving for three years as a lieutenant in the Queen’s Own Highlanders.

He went on to work as a pensions adviser and at 26 launched his own publishing company.

The 60-year-old millionaire has owned a number of businesses in recycling, online education, online recruitment and renewables.

He founded the Caledonian Challenge in 1997, a 54-mile walk within 24 hours down the West Highland Way, which raised £13 million for rural Scottish causes over the years.

The businessman also set up the Moidart Trust to help young businesses grow and thrive in the West Coast.

Highland Cinema. Image: Supplied.

He created the Highland Cinema and Highland Bookshop in Fort William, taking inspiration from a Vanity Fair article which said that a town centre bookshop and cinema were transformational.

Mr Macdonald is also an author with four published historic novels in the ‘Ardnish’series about the Lovat Scouts, the Highlands and Nova Scotia and he has  written a film script.

It was the Scottish independence referendum which really got him into political life, campaigning for Scotland to remain within the union.

He has been married to “Irish lass” Michie for 35 years, with four sons, and lives in Moidart.

Political career

After a long career in business, he “reluctantly” agreed to stand in local council elections, coming first in the Fort William and Ardnamurchan ward.

He admits the experience has been “frustrating”, describing councillors as “powerless” against being stripped of their funding.

But the 60-year-old appears energetic and motivated to take on the next challenge.

His campaign is already taking shape despite there not yet being a date for the next Westminster election, which is expected to take place next year.

SNP’s Ian Blackford (right) celebrates being re-elected into the seat for Ross, Skye and Lochaber at Inverness Sports Centre in December 2019. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

A Liberal Democrat office has been opened in Fort William and two campaign managers have been appointed.

The party has a long history in Lochaber with the late Charles Kennedy MP holding the Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat, and before it the Ross, Cromarty and Skye seat between 1983 until March 2015. He died in June 2015.

Mr MacDonald is keen to mobilise party activists once again and is planning a series of “gatherings” in Portree, Ullapool, Fort William and Inverness.

Boundary changes happen in September and it is likely the Highland capital will be added to the ward.

What are his priorities?

His two top priorities, if he is elected are to get infrastructure spend in the north of Scotland and to get “significant funding” for councils to deliver in their own patch.

The ongoing SNP leadership race has “exposed the problems” of the SNP to voters, Mr MacDonald says.

He adds: “I think Kate Forbes would be the first person to say there has been a lack of infrastructure spend in the Highlands.

“The A9 dualling has been a great source of embarrassment.

The dualling of the A9 has been delayed. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

“In my opinion, the SNP is a central belt party as that’s where the votes are and that’s where they’ve concentrated their resources.”

On the ferries crisis, he continues: “Islanders are beside themselves with frustration and often worry.

“They are carrying the can on this. If you had a business, a hotel on Harris or Arran, you can’t rely on your customers getting to you and the customers may not choose to book because they’re not sure they can get to you either.”

The Highlander opposes independence which he believes would be a “financial catastrophe”.

“It is pedalling a dream which would cause such financial pain to the people of Scotland. As I love the people in the Highlands, there is no way I’d let them go through this without being 100% aware of the downside”, he adds.

“People can shout freedom all they like but what happens to our currency and what happens to our pensions?”

The SNP was approach for comment.