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Donald Dewar

(1937—2000) first minister of Scotland


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(1937–2000). Born as the only child of middle-class parents in Glasgow, Donald Dewar had a sheltered but fairly lonely upbringing. He joined the Labour Party in 1956 and after quickly abandoning the idea of studying history in favour of law at Glasgow University, he showed himself as a talented debater by becoming president of the Union in 1961–2. He was already recognized as a prominent and talented member of a generation at the University which included his lifelong friend and future leader of the Labour Party, John Smith. He unsuccessfully contested the seat of Aberdeen South in 1964, at the age of 25, but became the first Labour MP ever to hold the seat in 1966. The concern for social deprivation which marked his career was sharpened during the 1970s, when he became a children's reporter in Lanark-shire after losing his seat in 1970. An early supporter of devolution, when it was deeply unfashionable in Labour Party circles, he himself identified J. P. Mackintosh as one of the formative influences on his thinking. He returned to Westminster in 1978 after winning a by-election at Garscadden, which he represented for the rest of his life, though it was later renamed Anniesland after boundary changes.

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From The Oxford Companion to Scottish History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: British History.


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