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The Right Honourable
 Donald Dewar


In office
7 May 1999 – 11 October 2000
Deputy Jim Wallace
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Henry McLeish>

In office
2 May 1997 – 17 May 1999
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Michael Forsyth
Succeeded by John Reid

In office
6 May 1999 – 11 October 2000
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Bill Butler

Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Anniesland
In office
2 May 1997 – 11 October 2000
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by John Robertson

Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Garscadden
In office
13 April 1978 – 2 May 1997
Preceded by William Small
Succeeded by Constituency abolished

Member of Parliament
for Aberdeen South
In office
31 March 1966 – 18 June 1970
Preceded by Priscilla Buchan
Succeeded by Iain Sproat

Born 21 August 1937(1937-08-21)
Glasgow, United Kingdom
Died 11 October 2000 (aged 63)
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Religion None (Atheist)

Donald Campbell Dewar (21 August 1937 – 11 October 2000) was a Scottish Labour politician, and the first holder of the office of First Minister of Scotland, from the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 until his death. He was also a UK MP and Secretary of State for Scotland for several years.

Contents

Early life

Born at 194 Renfrew Street, Glasgow on 21 August 1937 to mature parents, Dewar was an only child. His father Alisdair was a distinguished consultant dermatologist but suffered from tuberculosis. His mother Mary (née Bennett) suffered a brain tumour when Donald was very young.

He attended the Glasgow Academy before studying at the University of Glasgow, in 1957, where he gained both MA degrees in History in 1961, and a second-class LLB degrees in 1964, as well as editing the Glasgow University Guardian. Here, he met his close friend, John Smith (who would later become leader of the Labour Party), Sir Menzies Campbell (who would later become leader of the Liberal Democrats) and Lord Irvine of Lairg (who would serve as Lord Chancellor in the same cabinet as Dewar) through the Dialectic Society. In his time at university he also served as Chair of the Glasgow University Labour Club and President of the Glasgow University Union.

Member of Parliament

A member of the Labour Party, Dewar worked as a solicitor in Glasgow, but soon tried to get elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. He contested the marginal seat of Aberdeen South in the 1964 general election, and won it in the Labour victory at the 1966 general election at the age of 28. In his maiden speech in the Commons Dewar railed against 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, with whom Dewar later confessed to never really establishing a rapport. 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. He lost his seat to Iain Sproat at the Conservative victory at the 1970 general election.

Shadow Cabinet

Donald Dewar returned to Westminster as the MP for Glasgow Garscadden at a by-election in 1978, an important victory which was seen as halting the rise of the Scottish National Party in the 1970s. He rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a member of the Shadow Cabinet in 1984. On 21 December 1988, Dewar was in Lockerbie after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103,[1] as 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,

In government

At the 1997 general election he became MP for Glasgow Anniesland (UK Parliament constituency), which was largely the same constituency with minor boundary changes. Labour won this election, and he was given the post of Secretary of State for Scotland. He was able to start the devolution process, and worked endlessly on creating the Scotland Act, popularly known as Smith's "unfinished business". When ratified, this was to give Scotland its first Parliament for nearly 300 years.

First Minister of Scotland

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, becoming both MP and MSP for this constituency. Although Scottish Labour won the most seats, they did not have a majority in Parliament to allow them to form an Executive without the help of a smaller party. A deal was agreed with the Scottish Liberal Democrats to form a coalition, with Dewar agreeing to their demand for the abolition of up-front tuition fees for university students.[2]

On 13 May, Dewar was nominated as First Minister, and was officially appointed by the Queen on 17 May at a ceremony in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. He later travelled to the Court of Session to be sworn in by the Lord President and receive the Great Seal of Scotland.[3]

On 16 June, Dewar set out the legislative programme for the Executive which included: an Education bill to improve standards in Scottish schools; land reform to give right of access to the countryside, a bill to abolish the feudal system of land tenure; and a bill to establish National Parks in Scotland.[4]

Death and funeral

In April 2000, Dewar was admitted to hospital for tests on his heart, following a previous test where a minor irregularity was discovered.[5]. In May 2000, he later had surgery to repair a leaking heart valve, and was forced to take a three month break from Parliament, with Deputy First Minister, Jim Wallace taking over as Acting First Minister.[6]. He returned to work on 14 August 2000[7].

Dewar dealt with the exams results fiasco and the lorry drivers strike, and attended the Labour party conference in Brighton in September, but at the end of September told the historian Tom Devine in Dublin that if there was no surge of the energy of old, he would have to reappraise the situation within a few months time[8].

On 10 October 2000 around lunchtime, Dewar sustained a fall. He seemed fine at first but later that day suffered a massive brain hemorrhage which was possibly triggered by the anticoagulant medication he was taking after the heart surgery. Donald Dewar died one day later, at 12.18pm, in Edinburgh's Western General Hospital. He was 63 years old.

Dewar's funeral service was held at Glasgow Cathedral, amid scenes of mourning unknown for a politician in Scotland's largest city. He was cremated on 18 October 2000, and his ashes were scattered at Lochgilphead in Argyll.

Although he has become something of a political legend, Donald would have abhorred any attempt to turn him into some kind of secular saint. He would have been horrified at a Diana-style out-pouring of synthetic grief at his untimely death. -- Iain MacWhirter, Sunday Herald, 15 October 2000.

Personal life

Despite his political successes, his personal life was less happy. He married Alison Mary McNair on 20 July 1964. They had two children together: a daughter, Marion, and a son, Ian. But in 1970 she left him for the Scottish lawyer Derry Irvine.[9] The two men remained unreconciled, even though they later served in the same Cabinet from May 1997 until 1999, when Dewar left to become First Minister. 1970 was a black year for Dewar. As well as his wife leaving him, he lost his parliamentary seat in the 1970 general election and was laid up with back trouble. He and his wife divorced in 1973 and Dewar never remarried.

Controversies

One of the first scandals to hit the new Parliament occurred when allegations that the lobbying arm of public relations company Beattie Media had privileged access to ministers were published, prompting Dewar to ask the standards committee to investigate the reports.[10] The Minister for Finance, Jack McConnell, was called to appear before the standards committee during the investigation although he was later cleared of any wrongdoing and the committee declared there was no evidence he had been influenced from lobbying by Beattie Media.[11]

Dewar also threatened to sack any Minister or aide who briefed the media against another member of the Executive, following public rows between Jack McConnell and the Minister of Health and Community Care, Susan Deacon over the budget allocated to health .[12]

Legacy

Dewar's work for the Scottish Parliament has led him to be called by some the "Father of the Nation". [13][14]

In May 2002, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair unveiled a statue of Dewar at the top of Glasgow's Buchanan Street — and in keeping with his famous unkempt appearance, it showed Dewar wearing a slightly crushed jacket. The statue was taken down in October 2005 to be cleaned and was re-erected on 6-foot (1.8 m) high plinth in December of the same year in an effort to protect it. On the base of the statue were inscribed the opening words of the Scotland Act: "There Shall Be A Scottish Parliament", a phrase to which Dewar himself famously said, "I Like That!" .

Dewar notoriously called the Royal High School on Calton Hill in Edinburgh a "nationalist shibboleth", mainly because it had been the proposed site of the Scottish Assembly in the 1979 referendum. Dewar's opposition to the Calton Hill site partly contributed to the selection of the Holyrood site, which proved massively expensive.

The First ScotRail Class 334 train 334001 was named Donald Dewar in his memory.

References

  • Torrance, David, The Scottish Secretaries (Birlinn 2006)

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Priscilla Buchan
Member of Parliament for Aberdeen South
19661970
Succeeded by
Iain Sproat
Preceded by
William Small
Member of Parliament for Glasgow Garscadden
19781997
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Glasgow Anniesland
19972000
Succeeded by
John Robertson
Scottish Parliament
New constituency Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow Anniesland
19992000
Succeeded by
Bill Butler
Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Forsyth
Secretary of State for Scotland
1997–1999
Succeeded by
John Reid
New office First Minister of Scotland
1999–2000
Succeeded by
Jim Wallace
Acting
Party political offices
New office Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
1999–2000
Succeeded by
Henry McLeish

Simple English

's first First Minister located in Glasgow]]

Donald Campbell Dewar (21 August 193711 October 2000) 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.

Contents

In Government

After the 1997 General Election, Dewar was in a position which the late John Smith (leader of the Labour Party and a good friend of Dewar) would never have thought possible. He was able to start the process to split Scotland from the United Kingdom, and worked endlessly on creating the Scotland Act, popularly known as Smith's "unfinished business". When ratified, this was to give Scotland its first Parliament for nearly 300 years.

First Minister of Scotland

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. Although Scottish Labour won the most seats, they did not have a majority in Parliament to allow them to form an Executive without the help of a smaller party. A deal was agreed with the Scottish Liberal Democrats to work together, with Dewar agreeing to their demand for the abolition of up-front tuition fees for university students.[1]

On 13 May, Dewar was nominated as First Minister, and was officially appointed by the Queen on 17 May at a ceremony in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. He later travelled to the Court of Session to be sworn in by the Lord President and receive the Great Seal of Scotland.[2]

On 16 June, Dewar set out the legislative programme for the Executive which included: an Education bill to improve standards in Scottish schools; land reform to give right of access to the countryside, a bill to abolish the feudal system of land tenure; and a bill to establish National Parks in Scotland.[3]

Death and funeral

In April 2000, Dewar was admitted to hospital for tests on his heart, following a previous test where a minor irregularity was discovered.[4]. In May 2000, he later had surgery to repair a leaking heart valve, and was forced to take a three month break from Parliament, with Deputy First Minister, Jim Wallace taking over as Acting First Minister.[5]. He returned to work on 14 August 2000[6].

Dewar dealt with the exams results fiasco and the lorry drivers strike, and attended the Labour party conference in Brighton in September, but at the end of September told the historian Tom Devine in Dublin that if there was no surge of the energy of old, he would have to reappraise the situation within a few months time[7].

On 10 October 2000 around lunchtime, Dewar sustained a fall. He seemed fine at first but later that day suffered a massive brain hemorrhage which was possibly triggered by the medication he was taking after the heart surgery. Donald Dewar died one day later, at 12.18pm, in Edinburgh's Western General Hospital. He was 63 years old.

Dewar's funeral service was held at Glasgow Cathedral, amid scenes of mourning unknown for a politician in Scotland's largest city. He was cremated on 18 October 2000, and his ashes were scattered at Lochgilphead.

Although he has become something of a political legend, Donald would have abhorred any attempt to turn him into some kind of secular saint. He would have been horrified at a Diana-style out-pouring of synthetic grief at his untimely death. -- Iain MacWhirter, Sunday Herald, October 15 2000.

References








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