Born in Edinburgh, he was educated at Heriot-Watt College. Imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War I, Woodburn worked in engineering and ironfounding administration, and was a lecturer and national secretary of the Scottish Labour College. He was Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party from 1932 to 1939, and President of the National Council of Labour Colleges from 1937 to 1965. He also served on the Edinburgh 'Hands off Russia' committee in the 1930s.
Woodburn was an unsuccessful candidate for Edinburgh South in 1929 and Edinburgh Leith in 1931; he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire from 1939 until 1970. In Parliament he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Tom Johnston in 1941, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Supply from 1945 to 1947. He was Secretary of State for Scotland from 1947 until 1950 in the government of Clement Attlee. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1947.
He had a strong interest in economics, education, European unity, international relations, modern languages and Scottish history. He was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland in 1961 and his papers are held by the Library.
- Knox, W. Scottish Labour Leaders 1918-39 p. 288
- email@example.com. "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". www1.hw.ac.uk. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
- Knox, W. Scottish Labour Leaders 1918-39 p.288
- Pentland, Gordon (ed.), The Autobiography of Arthur Woodburn (1890-1978): Living with History (Boydell & Brewer for the Scottish History Society, 2017) ISBN 978-0-9062-4542-2
- Torrance, David, The Scottish Secretaries (Birlinn 2006)
- Iain Dale, ed. (2003). The Times House of Commons 1929, 1931, 1935. Politico's (reprint). ISBN 1-84275-033-X.
- The Times House of Commons 1945. 1945.
- The Times House of Commons 1950. 1950.
- The Times House of Commons 1955. 1955.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Arthur Woodburn
- National Library of Scotland catalogue of papers
- National Library of Scotland additional papers
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Lauchlin MacNeill Weir
| Member of Parliament for Clackmannan and Eastern Stirlingshire
1939 – 1970
| Secretary of State for Scotland
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