Hamilton by-election, 1967

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Hamilton by-election
Scotland
1966 ←
2 November 1967 → 1970

 
Candidate Winnie Ewing Alexander Wilson Ian Dyer
Party SNP Labour Conservative
Popular vote 18,397 16,598 4,986
Percentage 46.0% 41.5% 12.5%

MP before election

Tom Fraser
Labour

Subsequent MP

Winnie Ewing
SNP

The Hamilton by-election in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland, was held on 2 November 1967. It saw a surprise victory for the Scottish National Party candidate Winnie Ewing. The SNP took 46% of the vote in a constituency which they had not even contested in the 1966 general election, gaining the seat from Labour with a swing of nearly 38%. Ewing did not retain the seat at the following general election, but the SNP have been continuously represented in the House of Commons ever since.

A by-election was called after the former Labour MP, Tom Fraser, resigned in order to take up the position as head of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.[1] The constituency had been a safe seat for Labour, who had taken over two-thirds of the vote there in every election from 1945 to 1966, when only the Conservatives had stood against them.

In that time, the SNP had been a peripheral movement in Scottish politics. They had taken only 5% of the vote across Scotland in 1966, having stood candidates in 23 out of 71 seats. In the 1950s they had never stood more than 5 candidates or taken more than 1% of the Scottish vote in general elections. However, Hamilton was not the first Westminster seat to be won by the SNP; the party had won a short-lived victory in the 1945 Motherwell by-election. In the years before Ewing's win, there had been other breakthroughs by nationalist parties in Britain - including Gwynfor Evans' similarly groundbreaking victory for Plaid Cymru at the Carmarthen by-election, 1966, a big advance for the SNP at the Pollok by-election, and SNP gains in local elections, including becoming the largest party in local government in Stirling.[2]

The SNP's leadership merely told Ewing to "try to come a good second in order to encourage the members".[3] "As ever," Ewing later wrote, "I overdid it, and as a result my life changed for ever."[4] After her victory was declared, Ewing famously said to the crowd outside "Stop the World, Scotland wants to get on."[5]

Historian Tom Devine describes the Hamilton by-election as "the most sensational by-election result in Scotland since 1945"[6] and Isobel Lindsay called a "watershed" moment in Scottish political history.[7] Gerry Hassan similarly describes it as being a pivotal moment in Scottish politics.[8]

Hamilton by-election, 1967[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
SNP Winifred Ewing 18,397 46.01 +46.01
Labour Alexander Wilson 16,598 41.51 -29.66
Conservative Ian Dyer 4,986 12.47 -16.36
Majority 1,779 4.45 N/A
Turnout 39,981
SNP gain from Labour Swing 37.9

References[edit]

  1. ^ Winnie Ewing, Stop the World, edited by Michael Russell, Birlinn: Edinburgh, 2004, p. 10
  2. ^ Christopher Harvie and Peter Jones, The road to home rule: images of Scotland's cause, p.84
  3. ^ Winnie Ewing, Stop the World, edited by Michael Russell, Birlinn: Edinburgh, 2004, p. 15
  4. ^ Winnie Ewing, Stop the World, edited by Michael Russell, Birlinn: Edinburgh, 2004, p. 15
  5. ^ Winnie Ewing, Stop the World, edited by Michael Russell, Birlinn: Edinburgh, 2004, p. 11
  6. ^ Devine, T. M. (2006). The Scottish nation, 1700-2007 (Reissued with new material. ed.). London: Penguin. p. 574. ISBN 978-0-141-02769-2. 
  7. ^ Isobel Lindsay, "The SNP and Westminster", pp. 93 - 104, in The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, edited by Gerry Hassan, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, p. 94
  8. ^ Gerry Hassan, "The Making of the Modern SNP: From Protest to Power", pp. 1 - 18, in The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, edited by Gerry Hassan, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, p. 1
  9. ^ "1967 By Election Results". Archived from the original on 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2015-08-21. 

See also[edit]