The Scottish National Party won its first electoral victory on the 12th of April, 1945.
In a local by-election, Dr. Robert D. MacIntyre won the Motherwell and Wishaw seat for the Scottish National Party (SNP), in a straight fight against the Labour Party, by a majority of 617 votes. He took 51.4% of the vote on that occasion, but lost the seat at the next general election. It was twenty-one years before the next SNP MP was elected.
The SNP has had its ‘bravehearts’ – those who toiled for Scotland in the wilderness years and sacrificed their energies for the cause. One of those was surely Dr. Robert D. McIntyre, known to the Party as ‘Doc Mac’ and regarded as the ‘father’ of the SNP. Not only did he have the distinction of being the Party’s first MP, McIntyre was its Chairman between 1948 and 1956 and President from 1958 until 1980. During the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, McIntyre built up the SNP throughout Scotland, standing as a parliamentary candidate in every General Election from 1945 to 1974 and in a by-election in 1971; a grand total of thirteen times. He later became Provost of Stirling.
McIntyre was instrumental in encouraging others, such as Winifred Ewing, to stand as candidates. Amongst several other notable SNP MPs, we can list Ian Hamilton, of Stone of Destiny fame, Donald Stewart, Margo MacDonald, and Alex Salmond, the current Party Leader and Scotland’s First Minister.
In 1953, Ian Hamilton, together with John MacCormick, was involved in a legal challenge to the right of the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth to style herself Elizabeth II, Queen of Scots. When she was, you see, merely the first Elizabeth to be Queen of Scots. The court case was lost, but the logical argument was won. This led to the SNP gaining a great deal of popular support. Hamilton and MacCormick also achieved an important moral victory when the Court of Session stated that, “the principle of limited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle, which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law.”
Winnie Ewing’s first political speech was given in McIntyre’s constituency and this led to her being put forward for the Hamilton by-election. That led to the SNP’s next electoral breakthrough, in November, 1967, when Winnie Ewing won a famous victory at that by-election. She had an electrifying effect on Scottish politics during her three years in the Westminster Parliament. Subsequently, she represented the Highlands and Islands constituency in the European Parliament, where she is known as ‘Madame Ecosse’. She was elected to the Scottish Parliament for the Highlands and Islands region, in 1999. When the new Parliament met for the first time, on the 12th of May, 1999, it was given to Winnie, as the oldest member present, to open the proceedings. She did so with the words, “The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on the 25th of March, 1707, is hereby reconvened.”
In the 1970 General Election, the SNP fielded a record sixty-five candidates, polling 11.4% of the overall vote. Although it lost Hamilton, the Party scored a significant victory when Donald James Stewart was elected MP for the Western Isles. He became the SNP’s first ever MP returned at a general election and as his was the last declared result in that election, his success gained tremendous media attention. Thereafter, Stewart served as an MP until 1982, when he became President of the SNP, until 1987. It was Stewart who famously described the SNP as a “radical party, with a revolutionary aim.”
Stewart’s success was followed, in 1973, by another sensational by-election victory when Margo MacDonald took Glasgow Govan, with a huge swing from Labour, to join her colleague at Westminster. MacDonald was a committed and vocal supporter of Scottish independence, but she was also a political left-winger and surely, that helped her to win over what had been a Labour stronghold. At the February 1974 general election, Stewart was joined by six other SNP MPs, and at the October 1974 general election, the number increased to eleven. However, MacDonald failed to retain her seat in the February 1974 election, but she did become Deputy Leader of the SNP that year; a post she held until 1979. In 1983, MacDonald left the SNP, but returned in 1999, when she was elected to the Scottish Parliament, representing the Lothians. Later, she fell out with the leadership and was expelled in January, 2003, only to stand for and win a seat as an independent MSP at the 2003 Scottish Parliament election. She won her seat again in 2007.
The SNP is a democratic, left-of-centre, political party committed to Scottish independence, which has been at the forefront of the campaign for Scottish self-determination for almost seventy years. Its origins can be traced back to several organisations advocating Home Rule in the 1920s and ‘30s. The Scots National League was formed, in 1921, and the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association was formed by John MacCormick, in 1927. In 1928, these two combined with the Scottish National Movement, to form the National Party of Scotland. In 1934, the National Party amalgamated with the Scottish Party, to form the Scottish National Party.
The SNP’s position in Scotland dramatically changed, in 2007, when it ended fifty years of Labour dominance and the eight-year Liberal-Labour coalition, by winning 47 (of 129) seats in the third election. It became the largest party, without an overwhelming majority, and consequently formed a minority administration. Apart from its commitment to an independent Scotland becoming a full member of the European Union, the SNP’s policies include commendable commitments to unilateral nuclear disarmament, progressive personal taxation, the eradication of poverty, and free state education.