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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day

Learning and Beliefs


By Iain Hutchison

John M. MacCormick The big electoral breakthrough for the Scottish National Party was Winnie Ewing's dramatic Hamilton by-election victory in November 1967. However the groundwork for this success had been undertaken earlier that year when George Leslie took the SNP to a close third against Labour and Conservative in a by-election in Pollok. These were heady days for the SNP in Glasgow and in 1968 thirteen nationalist councillors were elected to Glasgow's City Chambers.

Rectorial Election Poster However these successes were not sustained and the SNP polled poorly in other Glasgow parliamentary by-elections and at general elections. The notable exception was Glasgow Govan where Margo McDonald achieved a sensational by-election victory in 1973, repeated by Jim Sillars in 1988, but in neither case was the seat held by the SNP in the following general election. The first-past-the-post voting system has consistently worked against the SNP in Glasgow where Labour has hard core support. However the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, elected under proportional representation, has ensured that SNP MSPs have been among those elected to represent the city.

The SNP is not the only outlet for nationalist sentiment. A strand of the SNP's roots can be traced to Glasgow University Student Nationalist Association (GUSNA) of which John MacCormick (1904-1961) was its most charismatic member. In 1949 he launched the Covenant for a Scottish Parliament which gained over two million signatures. It was a group of Glasgow students who, in 1950, were responsible for liberating the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey and secreting it through Glasgow upon its return to Scotland, an audacious enterprise that captured the imagination of an enraptured population. In the 1950s the non-party Scottish National Congress founded by Roland E Muirhead (1868-1964) was most active in Glasgow.

In modern times the goal of national independence, never exclusively represented through support for the SNP, is also offered by the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). The SSP's success has been spearheaded by Glasgow MSP Tommy Sheridan. Indeed nationalism in Glasgow has been noted by Jack Brand as being more working class than in the east or the north. Some SNP members have been frustrated by their Party's failure to identify adequately with this and it was one of the reasons for an unprecedented, although unsuccessful, challenge to the SNP leadership in 2003 by a candidate nominated by Glasgow Maryhill SNP.

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