|The Right Honourable
|1st First Minister of Scotland|
17 May 1999 – 11 October 2000
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||Office created|
|Succeeded by||Jim Wallace (acting)|
|Secretary of State for Scotland|
2 May 1997 – 17 May 1999
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||Michael Forsyth|
|Succeeded by||John Reid|
|Opposition Chief Whip|
19 October 1995 – 2 May 1997
|Preceded by||Derek Foster|
|Succeeded by||Alastair Goodlad|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Social Security|
18 July 1992 – 19 October 1995
|Preceded by||Michael Meacher|
|Succeeded by||Chris Smith|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland|
31 October 1983 – 18 July 1992
|Preceded by||Bruce Millan|
|Succeeded by||Tom Clarke|
|Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Glasgow Anniesland
6 May 1999 – 11 October 2000
|Preceded by||Constituency created|
|Succeeded by||Bill Butler|
|Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Anniesland
2 May 1997 – 11 October 2000
|Preceded by||Constituency created|
|Succeeded by||John Robertson|
|Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Garscadden
13 April 1978 – 2 May 1997
|Preceded by||William Small|
|Succeeded by||Constituency abolished|
|Member of Parliament
for Aberdeen South
31 March 1966 – 18 June 1970
|Preceded by||Priscilla Buchan|
|Succeeded by||Iain Sproat|
21 August 1937|
|Died||11 October 2000
|Political party||Scottish Labour|
|Alma mater||University of Glasgow|
Dewar joined politics after his election as a Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) in Scotland from 1966, when he entered the House of Commons in the general election of 1966 as the Labour MP for Aberdeen South. He lost this seat in 1970, but was re-elected in a 1978 by-election to the Glasgow Garscadden constituency, and retained the seat with ease in the subsequent five elections. He served in Tony Blair's cabinet as Secretary of State for Scotland from 1997 to 1999, in which role he campaigned in favour of the successful 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution. Dewar was then appointed as party leader of the Scottish Labour Party, which he led into the first ever Scottish parliamentary election. He was elected in 1999 as both an MSP for Glasgow Anniesland and as First Minister of Scotland at the head of a Labour–Liberal Democrat coalition.
Dewar was born in Glasgow and studied law at the University of Glasgow; after graduating, he worked as a solicitor in Glasgow before entering politics. In 1983, Dewar was promoted to the shadow frontbench as the Shadow Scottish Secretary, and in that position was a supporter of Scottish devolution. When elections were held for the newly created Scottish Parliament in 1999, as leader of the Scottish Labour Party and through a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, Dewar became the inaugural holder of the post of First Minister of Scotland.
Dewar was born in Glasgow on 21 August 1937 as the only child of Alisdair (1897–1973) and Mary (née Bennett). His father was a distinguished consultant dermatologist and former general practitioner. Both Dewar's parents had ill health during his childhood; his father contracted tuberculosis and his mother suffered from a benign brain tumour when Donald was young. He attended the Glasgow Academy, and was admitted to the University of Glasgow in 1957, where he gained a MA degree in History in 1961, a second-class LLB degree in 1964, and was an editor of the Glasgow University Guardian. Dewar met several future politicians at the university Dialectic Society, including 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). At university, he also served as chair of the Glasgow University Labour Club and president of the Glasgow University Union.
On 20 July 1964, Dewar married Alison Mary McNair, with whom he had two children: a daughter, Marion, and a son, Ian. In 1972, McNair separated from Dewar and took up a relationship with the Scottish lawyer Derry Irvine. Dewar and his wife divorced in 1973, and he never remarried.  Dewar and Irvine never reconciled after the cuckolding, even though they later served in the same Cabinet from May 1997 until 1999.
Member of Parliament
Although he worked as a solicitor in Glasgow after graduating from university, Dewar was also a member of the Labour Party, and he soon turned his sights towards being elected to parliament. In 1962, he was selected as the Labour candidate for the Aberdeen South constituency. In the 1964 general election, he unsuccessfully contested the marginal seat of Aberdeen South. However, he contested it again in the 1966 general election at the age of 28, at which time he won it—defeating Priscilla Tweedsmuir by 1799 votes.
In his maiden speech to the House of Commons that year, Dewar spoke against a proposed increase on potato tax. His speech became his first political success: the tax was repealed in 1967. Also in 1967, Dewar was made a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Education Secretary Anthony Crosland, with whom Dewar later confessed to having never establishing a rapport—saying Crosland was a "very odd man". Dewar remained in that position at the Department of Education until 1969, in which year Dewar opposed a visit to Aberdeen by the Springbok rugby team and staged a silent vigil near the team's ground. In April 1968, he was proposed for a Minister of State position by Roy Jenkins, but was not appointed. Dewar lost his parliamentary seat to Iain Sproat at the Conservative victory in the 1970 general election, by over 1000 votes.
Out of parliament
Dewar spent much of the 1970s looking for another parliamentary seat. He hosted a Friday evening talk show on Radio Clyde, and in June 1971 was beaten by Dennis Canavan when he applied for the seat of West Stirlingshire. He worked as a solicitor for much of that decade and became a reporter on children's panels and was involved with the Lanarkshire local authority. Dewar became a partner in Ross Harper Murphy, in 1975.
In September 2009, Dennis Canavan said Dewar reacted callously when his son was diagnosed with skin cancer in 1989. The disease eventually killed him. Canavan said Dewar remarked, "Oh no! That's all we need. He was mad enough before but I shudder to think what he'll be like now."
Return to Westminster
Donald Dewar was selected for the seat Glasgow Garscadden by a majority of three, after Dewar's friend the veteran Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers MP Willie Small died unexpectedly. He was returned at a by-election on 13 April 1978, an important victory which was seen as halting the rise of the Scottish National Party. In Scotland's first referendum on devolution, held in March 1979, he campaigned for a "Yes" vote alongside the Conservative Alick Buchanan-Smith and the Liberal Russell Johnston. Though they won a narrow majority, it fell short of the 40 per cent required, accelerating the fall of the Labour Government, in May 1979.
Dewar gained a parliamentary platform as chairman of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. After a year honing his inquisitorial skills, he joined the front bench in November 1980 as a Scottish affairs spokesman when Michael Foot became party leader. In 1981, as the Labour Party tore itself apart in a civil war, Dewar was almost deselected in his constituency by hard-left activists, but he fought off the move. He rose quickly through the ranks, becoming Shadow Scottish Secretary in November 1983. On 21 December 1988, Dewar was in Lockerbie after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, as the member of the Shadow Cabinet in charge of Scottish affairs. In 1992 John Smith made him Shadow Social Security Secretary and three years later Dewar was made a Chief Whip for the Labour Party by Tony Blair.
At the 1997 general election he became MP for Glasgow Anniesland, 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 Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Glasgow Anniesland, becoming both MP and MSP for this constituency. Although Scottish Labour won more seats than any other party, 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.
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.
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.
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. In May 2000, he 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. He returned to work on 14 August 2000.
Dewar dealt with the exam 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.
On 10 October 2000 around lunchtime, Dewar sustained a fall. He seemed fine at first but later that day suffered a massive brain haemorrhage which was possibly triggered by the anticoagulant medication he was taking after the heart surgery. Donald Dewar died one day later in Edinburgh's Western General Hospital, never having regained consciousness. 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.
One of the first scandals to hit the new Scottish 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. 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.
Dewar also threatened to sack any minister or aide who briefed the media against another member of the Scottish Executive, following public rows between Jack McConnell and the Minister of Health and Community Care, Susan Deacon over the budget allocated to health .
Dewar, a left of centre politician representing one of Glasgow's peripheral housing estates with high levels of deprivation, amassed a personal fortune well in excess of £2,000,000 including public utility shares, antiques and artwork worth over £400,000.
In May 2002, then-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 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 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 expensive.
The First ScotRail Class 334 train 334001 was named Donald Dewar in his memory.
- Chambers Biographical Dictionary, 2007
- Allan 2000, para. 5
- "Ministers turn their backs on marriage.". The Daily Mail. 15 January 2001. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
- The Herald 2009
- The Scottish Government, 1998
- Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations
- The Guardian, 1999
- BBC News, 1999a
- BBC News, 1999b
- BBC News 2002
- BBC News 2000a
- BBC News 2000b
- BBC News 2000c
- "Donald Dewar", Electronic Scotland, October 2000
- "Probe launched into lobbying allegations", BBC News
- "Scotland Standards watchdog clears McConnell" BBC News
- Public Finance- 14 July 2000
- "'Father of nation' dies". BBC News. 11 October 2000. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
- Grice, Andrew (12 October 2000). "The Father of the Nation, who made good on the unfinished business of devolution". The Independent (London). Retrieved 29 March 2010.
- Hutcheon, Paul (3 August 2009). "Dewar savaged as 'hypocritical and petty' in Canavan book". The Herald (Glasgow).
- Torrance, David (2006), The Scottish Secretaries, Birlinn
- "Lockerbie Bombing: 10th Anniversary". scotland.gov.uk. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government. 22 December 1998.
- MacAskill, Ewen; Seenan, Gerard (14 May 1999). "PR deal will end councils stranglehold". The Guardian.
- "UK Politics – Dewar appointed as first minister". BBC News. 17 May 1999. a.
- "Dewar's statement to Parliament". BBC News. 16 June 1999. b.
- "Blair unveils Dewar memorial". BBC News. 7 May 2002.
- "Dewar undergoes heart test". BBC News. 25 April 2000. a.
- "Dewar takes post-op steps". BBC News. 11 May 2000. b.
- "First Minister returns to the fray". BBC News. 14 August 2000. c.
- Allan, Charlie (12 October 2000). "A man apart, yet a man of the people". The Herald.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Donald Dewar
- Works by or about Donald Dewar in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Aberdeen South
|Member of Parliament for Glasgow Garscadden
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Glasgow Anniesland
|Secretary of State for Scotland
|New office||First Minister of Scotland
|Party political offices|
|New office||Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
|New constituency||Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow Anniesland