12th April 1945

The SNP wins its first parliamentary seat

The Scottish National Party won its first seat in the Westminster parliament at the Motherwell and Wishaw by-election of 1945. Its candidate, Robert McIntyre polled 51.4% of the vote against Labour’s Alexander Anderson, who was the only other candidate.

Controversial arrival

McIntyre’s entry to the House of Commons was controversial. He’d been elected to represent the interests of his Scottish constituents, and refused to be influenced by any London-centric party. However, tradition dictated that new entrants to the chamber should be introduced by sponsors and, as McIntyre was the only elected member of the SNP, there was no existing member of his party who could fulfil this role. He refused to be introduced by any other MP and, as reported in the Daily Mirror on 19 April, “as he was the first Scottish Nationalist in the House he was determined to act independently. To this, the House would not agree”.

The Speaker of the House explained that it had been custom since the late 1600s that all new members be sponsored in the usual manner, and that there had only been one exception made.

MPs take a vote

When McIntyre was asked to step back, a full debate on the matter ensued and, when a vote was taken, a selection of MPs from all parties backed making a change or exception so that McIntyre could be welcomed to the House without the necessary sponsors. Among those who voted in his favour were Arthur Greenwood, who was acting leader of the Labour Party, and Aneurin (Nye) Bevan who later led the founding of the NHS.

Churchill, who was still prime minister at the time but would go on to lose the general election three months later, spoke in favour of upholding the ancient traditions and customs of the house – and thus against McIntyre’s position. Churchill, it seems, was in step with the majority of MPs, who voted 273 to 74 in favour of retaining the sponsorship requirement.

Telegrams of support

The vote won McIntyre’s cause considerable publicity, and it attracted many telegrams of support from Scotland. At that point, believing his point to have been well made, he acquiesced and allowed the Labour representatives for Lanark and Ayr and Bute to sponsor his oath taking. He held the seat for just under three months, losing to Anderson in the general election on 5 July 1945. MacIntyre became SNP leader in 1947.



Other events that occured in April

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