A Potted History of Scottish Political Parties
The Rise of the Left
After 1918, Scottish politics took a decidedly leftist, nationalist tone - the rise of the Red Clydesiders and the General Strike of 1926, the Independent Labour Party once chaired by Keir Hardie, the 1919 riots in Glasgow's George Square. The Labour Party finally formed a UK Government in 1924 under Ramsay MacDonald, a teacher and clerk born in Morayshire. Later the UK government shifted from Labour to a Conservative/Liberal alliance, but Labour's support in Scotland remained strong.
The Nationalist movement had its roots in the Scottish Home Rule Association of the 1880s, which had advocated a devolved Scottish government. A Home Rule bill was presented to parliament in 1913, but was interrupted by the First World War. Although the Nationalist movement grew during the 1920s they remained on the fringes of Scottish politics. The Scottish National Party was formed in 1934 following the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party. The SNP's first parliamentary success came in 1945, but election winner Dr Robert McIntyre refused to sit in Westminster and lost his seat three months later. The first SNP MSP to actually sit in parliament was Winnie Ewing, elected for Hamilton in 1967.
- Stop the World: The Autobiography of Winnie Ewing
Conservative and Unionist Growth
During this post-war period, Scottish politics was split between Labour and the Unionist parties, with the Unionists achieving their first Scottish majority in 1955. But during the 1960s support for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, as it was now called, began to decline; Labour began to dominate again after a large swing to the party in 1964. In 1969 the Representation of the People Act finally gave universal suffrage to adults - male and female - over the age of 18.
The Nationalists returned seven MPs in the first 1974 General Election, and three more in the second election that year - to date, their greatest ever vote. In Scotland Act of 1978 proposed a devolved Scottish assembly, but this Act failed following the controversial "40%" rule in the 1979 referendum. The SNP withdrew its support for the government, which led to collapse of the Callaghan government and the rise of the Tories - in England - under Margaret Thatcher.
Labour's Landslide and The Scotland Act 1998
In 1992 the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (the 'Tories') lost all their Scottish seats at Westminster. Labour's landside general election victory in 1997 paved the way for a devolution referendum - 74% of the electorate voted in favour of a Scottish Parliament, and 60% voted that it should have tax-varying powers. The Scottish Parliament was formed following elections in 1999, but no political party had a clear majority under the mixed first-past-the-post and additional member system voting system. Labour and the Liberal Democrats joined to form a coalition government, with the SNP as the Official Opposition. The 2003 Scottish Parliament election made no overall change to the Scottish government. There was however a rise in the number of parties gaining seats at the fringes of the political spectrum, from The Scottish Socialist Party, to the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party.
- Getting It Together: The History of the Campaign for a Scottish Parliament/Assembly, 1980-1999
- Between Two Unions: Europeanisation and the Scottish Devolution
- Scotland Decides
A Nationalist Scotland?
In 2007, the Scottish National Party won enough seats to become the largest party in Scotland, but fell short of the majority required to form a majority government. Rather than form a strict coalition, they ruled as a minority government, calling in the support of the smaller parties, independents and the Conservatives to pass legislation. This all changed in the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections, when the SNP swept the board and won an outright majority - something which was not supposed to happen under the proportional voting system in Scotland. The Liberal Democrats suffered hugely, in part because of their own coalition with the Conservatives in the Westminster Parliament.
The Scottish Political Parties
- Donald Dewar: Scotland's First First Minister
- Gordon Brown
- Power Without Principles: New Labour's Sickness and Other Essays
The Scottish National Party
The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party
- An Important Matter of Principle: The Decline of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
- Paying the Piper
The Scottish Liberal Democrats
The Scottish Socialist Party and Solidarity
- Between Two Unions: Europeanisation And The Scottish Devolution - - Hardback
Using a comparative approach in order to explore Scottish devolution, this text also discusses to what extent European integration leads to the fragmentation of its constituent states.
- Charles Kennedy: A Tragic Flaw - - Hardback
Charles Kennedy has always prided himself on being 'a fully paid-up member of the human race', known for his down-to-earth image and his easy 'Chatshow Charlie' manner. Unfortunately, Kennedy has a fatal flaw - an addiction to alcohol. This is an inside account of the rise and fall of Charles Kennedy.
- Donald Dewar: Scotland's First First Minister - Paperback
Collectively, these spirited, passionate essays paint a vivid portrait of the life, career and politics of Donald Dewar. He was one of the most respected politicians to have served Scotland, and the first First Minister of the new Scottish Parliament.
- Imagine: A Socialist Vision For The 21st Century - - Paperback
The authors have justifiably concluded that the free market is not a panacea for the world's most basic problems of hunger, poverty, homelessness and war. In Imagine they show how to challenge global capitalism and offer hope for the future.
- An Important Matter Of Principle: The Decline Of The Scottish Conservative And Unionist Party - - Hardback
Until this volume very little had been known about the reasons for the dramatic decline in Scottish Conservatism. The author reveals reasons that challenge accepted wisdom and orthodox interpretations of this startling phenomenon.
- Jo Grimond: Towards The Sound Of Gunfire - - Hardback
In the late 1940s and 50s, the Liberal Party seemed doomed to irrelevance. Its few MPs held their seats as a result of pacts to which Churchill turned a blind eye. This is a biography of Jo Grimond, who turned the fortunes of the Liberal Party around.
- Menzies Campbell: My Autobiography - - Hardback
Menzies Campbell became leader of the Liberal Democrats in February 2006. He's led a fascinating life - Olympic athlete, lawyer, politician - and fought a successful battle with cancer. Here, for the first time, he tells his extraordinary story in his own words.
- Paying The Piper - - Paperback
During Brian Monteith's eight years as a member of the Scottish Parliament, including periods as Convener of the Parliament's powerful Audit Committee and Conservative Finance spokesman, the Scottish Executive's ever-burgeoning kitty rose from £16 billion to £30 billion.
- Scotland Decides: The Devolution Issue And The 1997 Referendum - Paperback
The authors trace the origins and history of the demand for home rule in Scotland, focusing particularly on developments following the failure of the first referendum on the issue in 1979
- SNP: The History Of The Scottish National Party - - Paperback
This is a history of the Scottish National Party. At a time when the Scottish Parliament becomes a reality, this book takes a fresh look at the party behind constitutional change in Scotland.
Other Scottish Politics Titles
- The Scottish Secretaries - - Hardback
Charting the trials and tribulations of the 38 men and one woman who have held the post of Scottish Secretary since the position was resurrected by Salisbury in 1885, this book describes those figures who controlled Scotland's political agenda from both Dover House and the Art Deco surroundings of St Andrew's House.
More on BooksfromScotland.com
- The Scots Language Centre has prepared an overview of the cultural and language policy commitments of the Scottish political parties in both English and Scots