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Secretary of State for Scotland

Jim Murphy, April 2009 cropped.jpg
Jim Murphy MP

Style: The Right Honourable
Appointed by: Gordon Brown
as Prime Minister
First : James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry
Formation: (3 February 1709)


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The Secretary of State for Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Rùnaire Stàite na h-Alba) is the principal minister of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with responsibilities for Scotland. He heads the Scotland Office (formerly the Scottish Office), a government department based in London and Edinburgh. The post was created soon after the Union of the Crowns,[citation needed] but was abolished in 1746, following the Jacobite rebellion. Scottish affairs thereafter were managed by the Lord Advocate until 1827, when responsibility passed to the Home Office.

In 1885 the post of Secretary for Scotland was re-created, with the incumbent usually (though not always) in the Cabinet. In 1926 this post was upgraded to a full Secretary of State appointment.

The 1999 Scottish devolution has meant the Scottish Office's powers were divided, with most transferred to the Scottish Executive or to other UK Government departments, leaving only a limited role for the Scotland Office. Consequently the role of Secretary of State for Scotland has been diminished. The previous Scottish Secretary, Des Browne held the post whilst simultaneously (and separately) being Secretary of State for Defence. On 3 October 2008, Des Browne resigned from both cabinet positions and was replaced as Secretary of State for Scotland by Jim Murphy.


Secretaries of State for Scotland 1707-1746

John Erskine, 22nd Earl of Mar had served as Secretary of State of an independent Scotland since 1705. Following the Acts of Union 1707, he remained in office.
Name Portrait Took office Left office
John Erskine
Earl of Mar
John Erskine.jpeg (since 1705)
1 May 1707
3 February 1709
James Douglas
Duke of Queensberry
2ndDukeOfQueensberryFull.jpg 3 February 1709 6 July 1711
John Erskine
Earl of Mar
John Erskine.jpeg 30 September 1713 24 September 1714
James Graham
Duke of Montrose
James Graham 1682-1742.jpg 24 September 1714 August 1715
John Ker
Duke of Roxburghe
John Ker, 1st Duke of Roxburghe.jpg 13 December 1716 August 1725
Office thereafter vacant.
One reference book claims that Charles Douglas, 2nd Earl of Selkirk
held this office from 1731, but there is no other authority for this claim.
John Hay
Marquess of Tweeddale
0-136.jpg 16 February 1742 3 January 1746

Office thereafter vacant.

Secretaries for Scotland 1885-1926

All Secretaries for Scotland also held the post of Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, ex officio.

Name Portrait Took office Left office Political Party
Charles Gordon-Lennox
Duke of Richmond and Gordon
Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, 6th Duke of Richmond, 6th Duke of Lennox, and 1st Duke of Gordon.jpg 17 August 1885 28 January 1886 Conservative
George Otto Trevelyan George Otto Trevelyan.jpg 8 February 1886 March, 1886
John Ramsay
Earl of Dalhousie
13thEarlOfDalhousie.jpg 5 April 1886 20 July 1886 Liberal
Arthur Balfour Arthur Balfour, photo portrait facing left.jpg 5 August 1886 11 March 1887 Conservative
Schomberg Kerr
Marquess of Lothian
9thMarquessOfLothian.jpg 11 March 1887 11 August 1892 Unionist
Sir George Otto Trevelyan, Bt George Otto Trevelyan.jpg 18 August 1892 21 June 1895 Liberal
Alexander Bruce
Lord Balfour of Burleigh
6thLordBalfourOfBurleigh.jpg 29 June 1895 9 October 1903
Andrew Murray 1stViscountDunedin.jpg 9 October 1903 2 February 1905 Conservative
John Hope
Marquess of Linlithgow
Hopetoun.jpg 2 February 1905 4 December 1905 Conservative
John Sinclair
(Baron Pentland from 1909)
1stLordPentland.jpg 10 December 1905 13 February 1912 Liberal
Thomas McKinnon Wood No image.svg 13 February 1912 9 July 1916 Liberal
Harold Tennant Harold Tennant.jpg 9 July 1916 5 December 1916 Liberal
Robert Munro No image.svg 10 December 1916 19 October 1922 Liberal
Robert Munro Ferguson
Viscount Novar
Ac.munroferguson.jpg 24 October 1922 22 January 1924 none
William Adamson WilliamAdamson.jpg 22 January 1924 3 November 1924 Labour
Sir John Gilmour SirJohnGilmour.jpg 6 November 1924 26 July 1926 Unionist

Secretaries of State for Scotland

The post of Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland was held ex officio by Secretaries of State for Scotland from 1926 to 1999. Secretaries of State for Scotland since Donald Dewar have not been Keepers of the Great Seal, that post now being held by the First Ministers of Scotland. In addition, the holder of the office of Secretary of State for Scotland from 13 June 2003 through to 3 October 2008 concurrently held another Cabinet post, leading to claims that the Scottish role was seen as a 'part-time' ministry.

Name Portrait Took office Left office Political Party
Sir John Gilmour SirJohnGilmour.jpg 15 July 1926 4 June 1929 Unionist
William Adamson WilliamAdamson.jpg 7 June 1929 24 August 1931 Labour
Sir Archibald Sinclair Archibaldsinclair.jpg 25 August 1931 28 September 1932
Sir Godfrey Collins 28 September 1932 29 October 1936 National Liberal
Walter Elliot 29 October 1936 16 May 1938 Unionist
John Colville 6 May 1938 10 May 1940 Unionist
Ernest Brown 14 May 1940 8 February 1941 National Liberal
Thomas Johnston 8 February 1941 23 May 1945 Labour
Harry Primrose
Earl of Rosebery
25 May 1945 26 July 1945 National Liberal
Joseph Westwood 3 August 1945 7 October 1947 Labour
Arthur Woodburn 7 October 1947 28 February 1950 Labour
Hector McNeil 28 February 1950 26 October 1951 Labour
James Stuart 30 October 1951 13 January 1957 Unionist
John Maclay 13 January 1957 13 July 1962 Unionist
Michael Noble 13 July 1962 16 October 1964 Unionist
William Ross 18 October 1964 19 June 1970 Labour
Gordon Campbell 20 June 1970 4 March 1974 Conservative and Unionist
William Ross 5 March 1974 8 April 1976 Labour
Bruce Millan 8 April 1976 4 May 1979 Labour
George Younger 5 May 1979 11 January 1986 Conservative and Unionist
Malcolm Rifkind Global zero malcom rifkind.jpg 11 January 1986 28 November 1990 Conservative and Unionist
Ian Lang 28 November 1990 5 July 1995 Conservative and Unionist
Michael Forsyth 5 July 1995 2 May 1997 Conservative and Unionist
Donald Dewar Wfm donald dewar statue.jpg 3 May 1997 17 May 1999
First Minister of Scotland)
John Reid JohnReidHeadshot.jpg 17 May 1999 25 January 2001 Labour
Helen Liddell 25 January 2001 13 June 2003 Labour
Alistair Darling
(also Secretary of State for Transport)
AlistairDarlingABr cropped.jpg 13 June 2003 5 May 2006 Labour
Douglas Alexander
(also Secretary of State for Transport)
Douglas Alexander at the India Economic Summit 2008.jpg 5 May 2006 27 June 2007 Labour
Des Browne
(also Secretary of State for Defence)
Des Browne MP.jpg 28 June 2007 3 October 2008 Labour
Jim Murphy Jim Murphy, April 2009 cropped.jpg 3 October 2008 incumbent Labour


Torrance, David, The Scottish Secretaries (Birlinn 2006)

See also

External links



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