|Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party|
September 1991 – 25 September 1992
|Preceded by||Alasdair Morgan|
|Succeeded by||Allan Macartney|
|Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Govan
10 November 1988 – 9 April 1992
|Preceded by||Bruce Millan|
|Succeeded by||Ian Davidson|
|Member of Parliament
for South Ayrshire
19 March 1970 – 3 May 1979
|Preceded by||Emrys Hughes|
|Succeeded by||George Foulkes|
4 October 1937 |
Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland
|Political party||Scottish National Party (1980–present)
Scottish Left Project (2014-present)
|Labour Party (?-1976)
Scottish Labour Party (1976–1980)
|Spouse(s)||Margo MacDonald MSP (m. 1981–2014)|
James Sillars (born 4 October 1937) is a Scottish politician. He was married to Margo MacDonald until her death, in 2014. He is a leading figure in the campaign for Scottish independence. He founded and led the Scottish Labour Party in the 1970s, and was Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party.
Sillars was born in Ayrshire, Scotland. His early working life involved him following his father into working on the railways, then joining the Royal Navy, before becoming a fireman. It was as a fireman that he became more active politically, through the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and later with the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC).
Sillars was elected at a by-election in 1970 as Member of Parliament (MP) for South Ayrshire constituency, representing the Labour Party. He became well known as an articulate, intellectual left-winger, strongly in favour of the establishment of a devolved Scottish Assembly.
In 1976 he led a breakaway Scottish Labour Party (SLP). The formation of the SLP was inspired primarily by the failure of the then Labour Government to secure a Scottish Assembly. Sillars threw himself into establishing the SLP as a political force, but ultimately it collapsed following the 1979 General Election. At that election the SLP had nominated a mere three candidates (including Sillars who was attempting to hold on to his South Ayrshire seat). Only Sillars came remotely close to winning and it was this failure to secure a meaningful share of the vote that prompted the decision to disband.
Scottish National Party
In the early 1980s Sillars (along with many other former SLP members) joined the Scottish National Party (SNP). Being a left-winger he had fostered close links with the SNP internal 79 Group, who had encouraged him to join.
Sillars, along with the 79 Group and the former SLP members in the SNP, started to shape the SNP as a clearly defined, left-of-centre party. Policies adopted included the support of a non-payment scheme in relation to the poll tax introduced by the Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher, as well as the policy of independence within the European Union, of which Sillars was a leading exponent. Sillars also started talking in terms of direct action to bring prominence to the Scottish independence cause, stating that 'we must be prepared to hear the sound of cell doors slamming behind us if we are prepared to win independence'.
Having been beaten by Tam Dalyell at Linlithgow in the 1987 general election, in 1988 Sillars was chosen as the SNP candidate for the Glasgow Govan by-election. Govan was a Labour seat (although Sillars' wife Margo MacDonald had won it for the SNP in a by-election previously, in 1973), but Sillars won a dramatic victory.
Sillars became the SNP's deputy leader, with many surprised he did not stand for the party leadership when it became available in 1990. The 1992 General Election proved a disappointing one for Sillars personally as he lost his Govan seat. It was at this time that Sillars made his famous comment that the Scottish people were '90 minute patriots' (a reference to the amount of time a football match lasts).
This comment proved the beginning of a break with the SNP leadership. The then SNP leader Alex Salmond had been a Sillars ally, but his comments in the aftermath of the 1992 General Election (and it is also suspected the fact that Sillars supported Salmond's leadership contest opponent, Margaret Ewing) started this break.
In 2016, contrary to the SNP position, he announced he will campaign in favour of British withdrawal from the EU during the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. He has said: "I think (the EU) is a profoundly undemocratic organisation which has shown a callous disregard for people, in Portugal, Spain and Greece for example. They've been willing to make people destitute - beggar nations - in pursuit of a single policy to create a United States of Europe irrespective of whether the people want it."
Scottish Independence Referendum
Sillars played a major part in the September 2014 Scottish independence referendum and caused controversy when, just days before the poll, he warned of a "day of reckoning" for Scottish businesses who had spoken out against independence.
- "Jim Sillars to campaign for EU exit". 21 January 2016 – via www.bbc.com.
- Reporter, Record (21 January 2016). "Jim Sillars claims many SNP members want to leave EU".
- Jim Sillars calls for 'day of reckoning'
- Govan by-election online video Scotsman.com
- Sillars calls for Swinney's exit BBC.co.uk
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Jim Sillars
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for South Ayrshire
|Member of Parliament for Glasgow Govan
|Party political offices|
|Scottish National Party Vice Chairman (Policy)
|Senior Vice Convener (Depute Leader) of the Scottish National Party