17th May 1937

First Minister Donald Dewar is born

Glasgow-born Donald Dewar was the first First Minister of Scotland upon the reinstatement of the Scottish Parliament in 2004.

Educated at the University of Glasgow, he first stood for the Westminster Parliament at the General Election of 1964, in which he unsuccessfully contested the seat for Aberdeen South on behalf of the Labour Party. He stood in the same seat two years later, and won. Six years later, Conservative Iain Sproat unseated him and held the seat until 1983. Dewar was not returned to Parliament until 1978.

Supporter of devolution

He campaigned in favour of devolution in the following year’s referendum, in which his wishes were aligned with the majority of voters who took part. Unfortunately, due to the turn-out, this number was still less than 40% of the overall Scottish electorate, which had been a condition of the referendum. Devolution would have to wait.

When Labour won the General Election of 1997, Dewar was appointed Secretary of State for Scotland. In this position he was well placed to work on the party’s plans for the devolution for which he’d campaigned in the late 1970s. It was perhaps appropriate, then, that he should be appointed the devolved Parliament’s first First Minister – although it was by no means a certainty. Labour won the most seats in the first Scottish Parliamentary elections, but not an overall majority, making a coalition agreement with the Scottish Liberal Democrats a necessity.

Sadly for Donald Dewar, his tenure was short. He was appointed on 17 May 1999, but died, aged 63, on 11 October the following year, one day after suffering a brain haemorrhage.



Other events that occured in May

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