The Best-Hated Man (book)

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The Best-Hated Man: George Malcolm Thomson, Intellectuals and the Condition Of Scotland Between The Wars is a book By journalist George McKechnie, originally written as a PhD and published by Argyll Publishing in August 2013. It contains extensive references to the BBC's Scottish regional director from 1926–33, David Cleghorn Thomson (no relation).


Examines George Malcolm Thomson's contribution and impact across specific themes: the condition of Scotland's economy between the wars, society, politics, culture and identity, his influence on nationalism and the home rule movement; and the significance of other writers and thinkers. Thomson played a pivotal role in private discussions which led to the formation of the Scottish National Party. His work is overshadowed by his sectarian attacks against Scotland's Irish Catholic population.


  1. The State of Scotland
  2. Formative Years, 1899–1920s
  3. The Condition of Scotland
  4. Irish Catholics, Immigration and Population
  5. Facing his Critics
  6. Response to the Condition of Scotland: the intellectuals
  7. Response: A Right-Wing Nationalist Party
  8. The Establishment Strikes Back
  9. Malcolm Thomson, Gibb and Nationalism before World War II
  10. Lewis Grassic Gibbon
  11. Thomson, 1940–1996
  12. Endnote — an assessment

References to the BBC's David Cleghorn Thomson

In an article for the Scottish Review of Books, McKechnie wrote:

The story of Thomson and his fate holds a mirror to the response of the Scottish and British establishments to the surge of interest and enthusiasm for Scottish nationalism in the early 1930s, but particularly its apparently increasing attraction to the unionist middle class. Thomson was an intellectual and cultural connoisseur of the time; to all intents and purposes he was an establishment figure. Yet his passion for all things Scottish and his closeness to many leading commentators, some nationalists like Compton Mackenzie, William Power, George Blake and George Malcolm Thomson, caused concerns in some circles in Edinburgh and, fatefully, also at BBC executive and boardroom level in London.[1]


Brian Morton in the Herald called the book "powerfully relevant". He noted that it "isn't quite strictly a biography, as the long subtitle, with its whiff of the academic thesis, implies" and bemoaned the fact that "McKechnie doesn't offer more than glimpses of Thomson's personality", concluding:

The Best-Hated Man works better as a background study to the rise of right-wing nationalism in Scotland. There are problems with the text. "Christopher Michael Grieve" is an unfortunate slip, on the same page as "rennaissance". But it's important work, this, on a still uncertainly understood period, and with 2014 looming, the centenary of Thomson's "red line" through Scottish history, it's powerfully relevant.[2]

George Kerevan in the Scotsman wrote that "McKecknie deserves credit for rescuing George Malcolm Thomson from undeserved obscurity", but took issue with the author's history of nationalism:

Where Thomson’s meticulous biographer, George McKechnie (a former editor of the Herald) gets it wrong is to treat the rise of the Unionist version of Scottish Home Rule purely as a cynical plot to undermine the infant nationalist movement. He depicts Thomson as a sort of eminence grise who uses the SP to capture the NPS, in a conscious attempt to drive out radicals like MacDiarmid.[3]


  1. George McKechnie, 'Nationalism and the BBC', Scottish Review of Books, Volume 9 Issue 3, 27 March 2013.
  2. 'Review: George McKechnie: The Best-Hated Man', Herald, 28 September 2013.
  3. 'Book reviews: George Malcolm Thomson| Hugh MacDiarmid', 17 August 2013.