Glasgow Garscadden by-election, 1978


Glasgow Garscadden by-election, 1978

The Glasgow Garscadden by-election, 1978 was a parliamentary by-election held on 13 April 1978 for the British House of Commons constituency of Glasgow Garscadden, in the north west periphery of the City of Glasgow.

It was won by Donald Dewar of the Labour Party. It was important in that it was widely seen as halting the SNP tide in the 1970s.

Previous Member of Parliament

The by-election was caused by the death of William Watson Small (19 October 1909 – 18 January 1978) who was a Labour Party politician from Scotland .

Small was an engineer. He was an Ayrshire County Councillor from 1945 to 1951 and an active member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, serving on its national committee from 1955 to 1957 and as president of the union's West Ayrshire district.

At the 1959 general election, he was elected as Member of Parliament for Glasgow Scotstoun. He held the seat until it was abolished for the February 1974 election, when he moved to the new Glasgow Garscadden constituency. He held that seat until his death in 1978.

Small never held ministerial office, but served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Power from 1964.

Candidates

Six candidates were nominated for the by-election. The list below is set out in descending order of the number of votes received at the by-election.

1. The Labour candidate was Donald Campbell Dewar (21 August 1937 – 11 October 2000) who was the first First Minister of Scotland from 1999 until his death in 2000. He was the first person to hold the position of First Minister following the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Dewar worked as a solicitor in Glasgow before being elected at the age of 28 in the 1966 general election to the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster to represent the marginal constituency of Aberdeen South. In his maiden speech in the Commons Dewar railed against a proposed increase on potato tax. This was his first notable success - the tax was repealed in 1967. That year he was made Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Education Secretary Anthony Crosland, who Dewar later confessed to never really establishing a rapport with. He held that position until 1969. In April 1968 he was proposed for a Minister of State position by Roy Jenkins but nothing came of it.

After a political hiatus during the 1970s, Donald Dewar was returned to Westminster at this by-election. He rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a member of the Shadow Cabinet in 1984. On 21 December, 1988, Dewar was the member of the Shadow Cabinet in charge of Scottish affairs. In 1992 John Smith made him Shadow Social Security Secretary. In 1995, Dewar was made a Chief Whip for the Labour Party by Tony Blair, and when the Labour Party was declared the majority party in the 1997 election, he was given the post of Secretary of State for Scotland.

In the 1997 general election, following boundary changes in which the Garscadden constituency was abolished, Dewar was re-elected for the new Westminster Parliament seat of Glasgow Anniesland.

The first elections to the Scottish Parliament were held on 6 May 1999, with Dewar leading the Scottish Labour Party against their main opponents, the SNP under Alex Salmond. He was elected as the MSP for Glasgow Anniesland. However Dewar also retained his Westminster seat until his death.

2. Representing the Scottish National Party (SNP) was K.S. Bovey. He had previously contested the neighbouring seat of Glasgow Hillhead in February 1974 and Garscadden in the October 1974 general election. In that contest the SNP replaced the Conservative Party as the runners up to Labour in Glasgow Garscadden.

Subsequent to the by-election Bovey contested Glasgow Hillhead in 1983, as well as Monklands West in the 1987 and 1992 general elections.

3. The Conservative nominee was Iain M. Lawson. He contested Dumbarton for the Tories in 1983. Later he was the SNP candidate for Stirling in 1987 and for Paisley South in the Paisley South by-election, 1990 and the 1992 general election.

4. Mrs S. Farrell represented a Scottish Labour Party, which was a short lived breakaway party from the Labour Party. She did not contest any other parliamentary election.

5. S.A. Barr was the Communist candidate. He contested Glasgow Garscadden in February 1974 and 1979, as well as at this by-election.

6. The Socialist Workers Party stood P. Porteous, who did not contest any other parliamentary election.

Votes

Election box begin
title=General Election October 1974: Glasgow Garscadden
Election box candidate with party link
party = Labour Party (UK)
candidate = William Small
votes = 19,737
percentage = 50.9
change = -1.4
Election box candidate with party link
party = Scottish National Party
candidate = K.S. Bovey
votes = 12,100
percentage = 31.2
change = +9.4
Election box candidate with party link
party = Conservative Party (UK)
candidate = J. Corbett
votes = 5,004
percentage = 12.9
change = -9.4
Election box candidate with party link
party = Liberal Party (UK)
candidate = M.R. Kibby
votes = 1,915
percentage = 5.0
change = "N/A"
Election box majority
votes = 7,637
percentage = 19.7
change = -8.3
Election box turnout
votes = 38,756
percentage = 70.8
change = -3.3
Election box hold with party link
winner = Labour Party (UK)
swing = "N/A"
Election box Registered electors
reg. electors = 54,700

* "Death of William Small 18 January 1978"

Election box begin
title=By-Election 13 April 1978: Glasgow Garscadden
Election box candidate with party link
party = Labour Party (UK)
candidate = Donald Dewar
votes = 16,507
percentage = 45.4
change = -5.5
Election box candidate with party link
party = Scottish National Party
candidate = K.S. Bovey
votes = 11,955
percentage = 32.9
change = +1.7
Election box candidate with party link
party = Conservative Party (UK)
candidate = I.M. Lawson
votes = 6,746
percentage = 18.5
change = +5.6
Election box candidate with party link
party = Scottish Labour Party (1976)
candidate = Mrs S. Farrell
votes = 583
percentage = 1.6
change = "N/A"
Election box candidate with party link
party = Communist Party of Great Britain
candidate = S.A. Barr
votes = 407
percentage = 1.1
change = "N/A"
Election box candidate with party link
party = Socialist Workers Party (Britain)
candidate = P. Porteous
votes = 166
percentage = 0.5
change = "N/A"
Election box majority
votes = 4,552
percentage = 12.5
change = -7.2
Election box turnout
votes = 36,364
percentage = 69.1
change = -1.7
Election box hold with party link
winner = Labour Party (UK)
swing =
Election box Registered electors
reg. electors = 57,603

Political context

The by-election was important as it was the first Westminster by-election in Scotland to take place since the October 1974 general election, a lengthy gap. The SNP was widely seen as being on a rise, doing well at the 1977 district council elections.

Although the by-election saw a significant swing from Labour to SNP, because the SNP failed to take the seat it was seen as a defeat for them. Labour did even better, and the SNP worse, shortly after this, in the 1978 regional elections, and Westminster by-elections in Hamilton and Berwick and East Lothian.

ee also

*Glasgow Garscadden constituency
*List of United Kingdom by-elections (1950-1979)

Reference

* "British Parliamentary Election Results 1974-1983", compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Parliamentary Research Services 1984)


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