Chronology of Scottish Politics

saltire shield'There's a joke in the Scottish Party about our 1918 manifesto. Then we promised Home Rule, proportional representation and the prohibition of alcohol. And in more than seventy years we have managed to secure none of them.'
Gordon Brown in the Daily Record, 8 th April 1993.
Lion Rampant

The Devolution years 1967 - 1979

Due to the 40 % rule, abstainers counted as No voters in the 1979 referendum.

18 th January 1968

Willie Hamilton MP (Labour, West Fife), Emrys Hughes MP (Labour, South Ayrshire) and Malcolm Macmillan MP (Labour, Western Isles) abstain from a vote on social service cuts.

31 st January 1968

The Labour whip is suspended from Willie Hamilton MP (Labour, West Fife), Emrys Hughes MP (Labour, South Ayrshire) and Malcolm MacmillanMP (Labour, Western Isles).

29 th February 1968

The Labour whip is returned to Willie Hamilton MP (Labour, West Fife), Emrys Hughes MP (Labour, South Ayrshire) and Malcolm Macmillan MP (Labour, Western Isles).

20 th April 1968

Enoch Powell, (Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West) refers to the Aeneid in a Conservative meeting at Birmingham: 'As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.' He is sacked as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence.

9 th May 1968

Declaration of Perth. Edward Heath, leader of the Conservative & Unionist party, proposes a directly elected Scottish Assembly.

15 th April 1969

Constitutional commission set up under the chair of Lord Crowther, who is succeeded by Lord Kilbrandon in 1970.

20 th June 1969

The discovery of oil in the North Sea is announced.

30 th October 1969

Glasgow Gorbals by-election following the death of Alice Cullen, Labour MP since September 1948. Frank McElhone holds the seat for Labour with a majority of 4,163 over the Scottish National Party's Tom Brady. Labour - 19.7 %, Scottish National Party (+ 25.0 %), Conservative - 4.2 %, Communist - 1.6 %, World Parliament Party (+ 0.5 %). Labour hold at the 1970 general election.


Labour's delegation to the Crowther/Kilbrandon Commission on the Constitution states - 'The Scottish Labour Party would actually prefer a Tory UK Government to a Labour controlled Scottish Parliament!.

19 th March 1970

South Ayrshire by-election following the death of Emrys Hughes, Labour MP since February 1946. Jim Sillars (later Scottish Labour MP for South Ayrshipe and Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow Govan 1988 - 1992) holds the seat for Labour with a majority of 10,886 over Conservative C. R. Graves. Labour - 13.2 %, Conservative - 7.2 %, Scottish National Party (+ 20.4 %). Labour hold at the 1970 general election.

18 th June 1970

General election. Conservative government under Edward Heath. MPs elected in Scotland: Labour 41, Conservative 23, Liberals 3, SNP 1. % of vote: Labour 41.8 %, Conservative 38.0 %, SNP 11.4 %, Liberals 5.5 %, others 0.6 %.
Labour regain Hamilton from the SNP
SNP win Western Isles from Labour.
Conservatives win Berwickshire & East Lothian from Labour.

20 th July 1970

Death of the Rt Hon Iain MacLeod (Conservative MP for Enfield, West), Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Gordon Campbell, later Lord Campbell of Croy (Conservative MP for Moray & Nairn), is appointed Secretary of State for Scotland.

19 th October 1970

British Petroleum (BP) discovers oil in block 21/10 of the Scottish sector of the North Sea, 110 miles east of Aberdeen.

15 th February 1971

Britain adopts decimal currency.

24 th May 1971

Death of Malcolm MacPherson (Labour MP for Stirling & Falkirk Burghs).

28 th July 1971

Resignation of Teddy Taylor (Conservative MP for Gasgow Cathcart) as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Scottish office in protest against plans to enter the EEC (European Economic Community).

2 nd August 1971

A work in begins at John Brown shipyard in Clydebank in protest at the announcement that the yard will close. The Royal Yacht Britania was built at the yard and launched in 1953.

16 th September 1971

Stirling & Falkirk Burghs by-election following the death of Malcolm MacPherson, Labour MP since October 1948. Harry Ewing, later Lord Ewing of Kirkford, holds the seat for Labour with a 4,488 majority over the SNP's Dr Robert D. McIntyre, previously MP for Motherwell & Wishaw. Labour - 4.2 %, SNP + 20.1 %, Conservative - 15.9 %. Labour hold at the February 1974 General election.

28 th October 1971

The House of Commons votes to join the EEC by 356 votes to 244.

11 th February 1972

The Island of Rockall in the Atlantic becomes part of Scottish territory.

11 th April 1972

The Rt Hon Roy Jenkins, later Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, resigns as deputy leader of the Labour party over plans for a referendum on EEC membership.

18 th July 1972

The Rt Hon Reginald Maudling resigns as Home Secretary over his connection with John Poulson's company, which is under investigation for corruption.

29 th December 1972

The Rt. Hon. George Morgan Thomson, later Lord Thomson of Monifieth (Labour MP for Dundee, East) resigns his seat upon becoming an EEC commissioner.

1 st January 1973

Britain joins the EEC along with Ireland.

20 th February 1973

MPs vote for Fife to become an independent Regional Council area rather than be split between Lothian and Tayside.

1 st March 1973

Dundee, East by-election following the resignation of George Thomson, later Lord Thomson of Monifieth, to become an EEC Commissioner. George Machin is elected with a 1,141 majority over the SNP's Gordon Wilson. Labour - 15.6 %, SNP + 21.2 %, Conservative - 17.2 %. At the general election in February 1974, Gordon Wilson wins the seat for the SNP.

4 th October 1973

John Montagu-Douglas-Scott, Earl of Dalkeith (Conservative MP for Edinburgh North) resigns his seat upon becoming the 9 th Duke of Buccleuch & 11 th Duke Queensberry following the death of his father.

8th October 1973

Death of John Rankin (Labour MP for Glasgow Govan).

31st October 1973

Kilbrandon committee reports. The options of independence and federalism are rejected in favour of a directly elected Scottish Assembly.

25 th October 1973

Resignation of Mrs. Betty Harvie Anderson, later Baroness Skrimshire of Quarter (Conservative MP for Renfrewshire East) as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

8 th November 1973

Glasgow Govan by-election following the death of John Rankin, MP for Glasgow Tradestoun from 1945 - 1955 and for Glasgow Govan since 1955. Margo MacDonald wins the seat for the Scottish National Party with a 571 majority over Labour's Harry Selby. Scottish National Party +31.6 %, Labour 21.8 %, Conservative - 16.5 %. At the general election in February 1974, Harry Selby regains the seat for Labour.

Edinburgh North by-election following the succession of John Montagu-Douglas-Scott, Earl of Dalkeith, Conservative MP since May 1960, as 9 th Duke of Buccleuch & 11 th Duke Queensberry. Alex Fletcher holds the seat for the Conservatives with a 2,741 majority over Labour's R. Cairns. Conservative - 14.1 %, Labour - 13.1 %, SNP + 18.9 %, Liberal + 8.3 %. Conservative hold at the February 1974 general election

13 th November 1973

The Tory government calls a State of Emergency due to a strike by miners and workers in the power industry.

17 th November 1973

A three day working week is introduced due to energy shortages.

28 th February 1974

General election. Labour government under Harold Wilson, later Lord Wilson of Rievaulx. MPs elected in Scotland: Labour 40, Conservative 21, SNP 7, Liberals 3. % of vote: Labour 36.6 %, Conservative 32.9 %, SNP 21.9 %, Liberals 7.9 %, others 0.6 %.
Labour regains Govan from SNP.
Conservatives win Berwick & East Lothian and Dunbartonshire East from Labour.
SNP win Clackmannan & East Stirlingshire and Dundee East from Labour.
SNP win Aberdeenshire East, Argyll, Banff, Moray & Nairn from the Conservatives.

5 th March 1974

William Ross, later Lord Marnock (Labour MP for Kilmarnock), is appointed Secretary of State for Scotland.

10 th October 1974

General election. Labour government under Harold Wilson, later Lord Wilson of Rievaulx. MPs elected in Scotland: Labour 41, Conservative 16, SNP 11, Liberals 3. % of vote: Labour 36.3 %, SNP 30.4 %, Conservative 24.7 %, Liberals 8.3 %, others 0.3 %.
Labour win Berwick & East Lothian from the Conservatives.
SNP win Angus South, Dunbartonshire East, Galloway and Perth & East Perthshire from the Conservatives.

17 th October 1974

Resignation of Norman Buchan (Labour MP for West Renfrewshire) as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food over disaccord with agricultural policy.

11 th February 1975

The Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Hilda Thatcher, later Baroness Thatcher of Kesleven, becomes leader of the UK Conservative & Unionist party. She polls 130 votes compared to 119 for Edward Heath in the fist ballot on 4 th February. In the second she polls 146 votes compared to 79 for Willie Whitelaw, later the 1 st Viscount Whitelaw, 19 for Sir Geoffrey Howe, later Lord Howe, 19 for James Prior, later Lord Prior, and 11 for John Peyton.

May 1975

The SNP's conference agrees to participate fully in any directly elected assembly 'to make a constructive contribution in those limited areas of responsibility likely to be given to the assembly by the present Westminster government and to work vigorously to extend the assembly powers until it becomes a real Scottish parliament.'

16 th May 1975

The Local Government (Scotland) Act comes into effect replacing 430 burgh and county councils with nine regional, 53 district and three island councils.

5 th June 1975

EEC referendum. The Scottish people vote to stay in the EEC. For 1,332,286 votes (58 %), against 948,039 votes (42 %). Shetland and the Western Isles votes No. Note that the turnout was 62 % therefore only 36 % of the electorate voted Yes. However, unlike the Devolution Referendum of 1979, no 40 % rule is imposed, and Scotland remains in the EEC.

9 th June 1975

The first live transmission from the House of Commons is broadcast by BBC radio.

10 th June 1975

Resignation of Dame Judith Hart (Labour MP for Lanark) as Minister for Overseas Development due to disaccord with the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.

11 th June 1975

The first oil is pumped from the Scottish sector of the North Sea to Sullom Voe in Shetland.

21 st July 1975

Resignation of Robert Hughes, later Lord Hughes of Woodside, (Labour MP for Aberdeen North) as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Scottish Office due to a disagreement over incomes policy.

3 rd November 1975

The Queen formally inaugurates BP's oil pipeline from Cruden Bay to Grangemouth.

16 th January 1976

The House of Commons debates devolution for four days.

16 th March 1976

The Rt Hon Harold Wilson, later Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, resigns as Prime Minister.

25 th March 1976

Labour leadership election, first ballot. Michael Foot 90, James Callaghan 84, Roy Jenkins 56, Tony Benn 37, Denis Healey 30, Anthony Crosland 17. A second ballot is held on the 30 th.

30 th March 1976

UK Labour leadership election, second ballot. James Callaghan 141, Michael Foot 133, Denis Healey 38. A third ballot is held on the 5 th April.

5 th April 1976

UK Labour leadership election, third ballot. Rt Hon James Callaghan, later Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs (Labour MP for Cardiff South & Penarth) wins 176 votes against 137 for Michael Foot, later Lord Foot. Callaghan succeeds the Rt Hon Harold Wilson, later Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, as Prime Minister.

8 th April 1976

Bruce Milan (Labour MP for Glasgow Craigton), is appointed Secretary of State for Scotland.

10 th May 1976

Jeremey Thorpe resigns as UK Liberal leader following the 'Vote Liberal or we'll shoot your dog' scandal. He had been offered a cabinet post by Edward Heath during failed coalition talks in February 1974.

25 th May 1976

Michael Foot MP, Leader of the House of Commons, announces that devolution bills fr Scotland and Wales will be introduced in the autumn.

May 1976

The SNP's National Assembly declares that the assembly is only a stepping stone to independence and that 'Nothing short of independence will meet the needs of the Scottish people in whom alone the sovereign power of Scotland resides.

7 th July 1976

David Steel MP (Liberal, Roxburgh, Selkirk & Peebles), later Lord Steel of Aikwood, becomes leader of the Liberal party after winning 12,541 votes (64.1 %) compared to 7,032 (35.9 %) for John Pardoe MP (Liberal, North Cornwall).

26 th July 1976

Jim Sillars MP (Labour, Ayrshire South) and John Robertson MP (Labour, Paisley) resign the Labour whip and form the Scottish Labour Party following Labour's failure to keep its election promises concerning a Scottish Assembly.

16 th December 1976

The Second Reading of the devolution for Scotland and Wales bill is approved by 292 votes to 247.

22 nd February 1977

Labour and Liberal backbench rebellion against Scottish devolution causes a crisis. 22 Labour MPs including Sir Tam Daylell (West Lothian), and the three Scots Liberal MPs (David Steel, later Lord Steel of Aikwood, Jo Grimond, later Lord Grimond, and Russel Johnston, later Lord Russell-Johnston) vote against a guillotine motion. The devolution bill for Scotland and Wales fails by 312 votes to 283. This is the only guillotine motion since 1945 not to be pased by the House of Commons.

5 th March 1977

All Party talks on devolution.

24 th March 1977

'Lib Lab pact'. The 13 Liberal MPs support the Labour government in a vote of no confidence.

16 th June 1977

The Labour government shelves the Scotland and Wales Bill. It is to be replaced by two separate devolution bills for Scotland and Wales.

15 th November 1977

The Scotland Bill passes its Second reading by 307 votes to 263.

22 nd November 1977

The first clause of the new Scottish Devolution Bill is rejected by 199 votes to 184

23 rd November 1977

Proportional Representation for elections to the proposed Scottish Assembly is rejected by 290 votes to 107.

7 th December 1977

A proposition that the Scottish Secretary should be able to intervene in the proposed Scottish Assembly over pay policy is rejected by 161 votes to 160

25 th January 1978

Cunningham amendment to Scotland Bill. Labour backbench rebellion allows a wrecking amendment to be passed by 298 votes to 243. 40 % of electorate must vote Yes - this includes those who have died or who are on the register but cannot yet vote, double registered students etc. George Cunningham later goes down in history as the first backbench MP since Cromwell to bring down his own govenment. This event ushers in 18 years of Tory rule.

22 nd February 1978

The Scotland Bill passes its Third Reading by 297 votes to 257.

23 rd March 1978

Death of Alexander Wilson (Labour MP for Hamilton).

13 th April 1978

Glasgow, Garscadden by-election. Donald Dewar, later First Minister of Scotland, holds the seat for Labour with a majority of 4,552 over the SNP's Keith Bovey. Labour - 5.5 %, SNP + 1.7 %, Conservative + 5.6 %.

31 st May 1978

Hamilton by-election. George Islay Macneill Robertson, later Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, holds the seat for Labour with a 6,492 majority over the SNP's Margo MacDonald. Labour + 3.5 %, SNP - 5.6 %, Conservative + 3.5 %, Liberal - 1.4 %.

26 th July 1978

The government loses a vote in House of Lords concerning Scottish MPs voting in non-Scottish legislation by 276 votes to 275.

30 th July 1978

Death of Professor John Pitcairn Mackintosh (Labour MP for Berwickshire & East Lothian 1966 - Feb 1974 and Feb 1974 - 1978).

31 st July 1978

The Scotland Bill receives Royal Assent.

26 th October 1978

Berwickshire & East Lothian by-election. John David Home Robertson holds the seat for Labour with a majority of 3,112 over the Conservatives. Labour + 4.1 %, Conservatives + 2.6 %, SNP - 4.4 %, Liberals - 2.3 %.

14 th February 1979

The former Tory Prime Minister, Lord Home of the Hirsel, makes a notorious appeal to Scots to vote No in the referendum, claiming that Mrs Thatcher and the Conservatives will produce a better devolution package. The claim proves to be false.

February 1979

The Secretary of the Labour Party in Scotland, Helen Liddell, refuses to campaign for a Yes vote alongside other parties, declaring 'We will not be soiling our hands by joining any umberella 'Yes' group!'

1 st March 1979

Devolution referendum. The Scottish people voted in a referendum to set up a Scottish Assembly. For a Scottish Assembly 1,230,937 votes (51.6 %), against 1,153,502 votes (48.4 %). However, London Labour, later SDP, MP George Cunningham had proposed that 40 % of the electorate must vote Yes, thus effectively counting abstainers as No voters. 32.9% of the electorate had voted Yes. Had the same conditions been imposed on the 1975 EEC referendum, Scotland would have left the EEC.

Knutsford by election. Jock Bruce-Gardyne, later Lord Bruce-Gardyne, who was defeated by the SNP in Angus South in October 1974, returns to parliament as Conservative MP for Knutsford in Cheshire.

March 1979

The Scotland Act is repealed. Despite Scottish MPs voting 43 to 19 against repeal, the vote is carried by the vast majority of non-Scottish MPs who vote 282 to 163 for repeal. Devolution disappears from the statute books until 1997.

28 th March 1979

The Labour government under Callaghan is defeated in a Motion of No Confidence. For the Labour government: Labour 303, Plaid Cymru 3, Ulster Unionists 2, Total 310. Against the government: Conservatives 279, Liberals 13, SNP 11, Ulster Unionists 5, Independent Ulster Unionists 3, Total 311. Labour MP Sir Alfred Broughton was too ill to vote while Gerry Fitt and Frank Maguire abstained. The Speaker and three deputies do not vote.

29 th March 1979

Callaghan visits the Queen to ask for a dissolution of parliament which is granted.

30 th March 1979

Airey Neave MP, the Tory spokesman on Northern Ireland, is killed by an IRA bomb as his car leaves the House of Commons car park.

26 th April 1979

ORC opinion poll for the Scotsman reveals that only 26 % of voters believe the plans for a Scottish Assembly should be scrapped.

3 rd May 1979

General election. Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher. MPs elected in Scotland: Labour 44, Conservative 22, Liberals 3, SNP 2. % of vote: Labour 41.5 %, Conservative 31.4 %, SNP 17.3 %, Liberals 9.0 %, others 0.8 %.
Labour gains Glasgow Cathcart from Conservatives.
Labour regains Ayrshire South and Paisley from Scottish Labour Party.
Labour wins Clackmannan & East Stirlingshire and Dumbartonshire East from SNP.
Conservatives win Aberdeenshire East, Angus South, Argyll, Banff, Galloway, Moray & Nairn and Perth & East Perthshire from SNP.

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