John MacDougall (British politician)

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John MacDougall
Member of Parliament
for Glenrothes
Central Fife (2001–2005)
In office
7 June 2001 – 13 August 2008
Preceded by Henry McLeish
Succeeded by Lindsay Roy
Majority 10,664 (28.5%)
Personal details
Born (1947-12-08)8 December 1947
Dunfermline, Fife
Died 13 August 2008(2008-08-13) (aged 60)
Kirkcaldy, Fife[1]
Nationality Scottish
Political party Labour

John William MacDougall (8 December 1947 – 13 August 2008) was a Scottish Labour politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Glenrothes from the 2005 general election until his death; he was first elected to the House of Commons for Central Fife in the 2001 general election.

He was a low-profile MP who was loyal to the Labour government. From 2007 he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and due to his illness, his participation in Parliament became fleeting, although he remained as an MP until his death in August the following year.

Early life[edit]

MacDougall was educated at Templehall Junior Secondary School in Kirkcaldy, Fife. He later obtained a diploma in industrial management and a certificate in naval architecture studies.[2] He began work as an apprentice caulker riveter at Rosyth Dockyard,[3] but his main working life was spent as a boilermaker from 1964 at the oil rig construction yard in Methil.[4] He became a shop steward for the GMB trade union, later full-time Shop Steward Convenor.[4][5]

Political career[edit]

Fife councillor[edit]

After joining the Labour Party in 1981, MacDougall was elected as a Labour Party member of Fife Regional Council for Burntisland[6] the following year. He became leader of the regional council in 1987, formally as Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, leaving work to be a full-time councillor,[4] and serving until the Regional Council was abolished in the reform of local government.

MacDougall was elected to the new Fife unitary council in 1995 and became Convenor of the council when it assumed its powers in April 1996. MacDougall's position as leader led him to accept several other appointments, including as Chair of the Rosyth Dockyard and Naval Base Coordinating Committee, a director of Fife Enterprise, and Chair and director of Community Business Fife Ltd.[2] In the mid-1990s he led the council's efforts to keep the Rosyth base open, including writing to every Conservative MP to ask them to support a defence review not led by the Treasury.[7] He was a member of the Scottish Constitutional Convention which established the framework for the Scottish Parliament.[4]


When Henry McLeish announced that he would stand down from his UK Parliament seat in Central Fife on moving to the Scottish Parliament, MacDougall was thought to be likely to be beaten to the selection as his successor by the former Labour Party general secretary Alex Rowley.[8] However MacDougall was announced as the winner of the ballot.[5] MacDougall was slightly embarrassed during the election campaign when his son Scott played a kilted Scottish National Party candidate in a party broadcast (the broadcast depicted the other party's candidates as wearing underwear under their kilts, said to be the sign of a fake Scotsman, while the presenter checks and confirms the SNP candidate is a true Scotsman).[9]

MacDougall won with a majority of 10,075.[2] Within months he was facing criticism for lack of activity, being named by a Daily Mail survey as the third least active Scottish backbench MP.[10]

Boundary changes[edit]

A boundary review cutting the number of United Kingdom Parliamentary seats in Scotland put MacDougall's seat in danger by enlarging it with parts taken from Kirkcaldy; it was rumoured that Kirkcaldy MP Lewis Moonie intended to challenge MacDougall.[11] MacDougall was said to be "absolutely distraught" and intended to defend himself.[12] He was mentioned as a potential candidate for the Central Fife constituency in the Scottish Parliament when Henry McLeish announced his retirement;[13] however the selection went to his successor as council leader, Christine May. MacDougall won the selection for the new Glenrothes constituency when Lewis Moonie opted to retire instead.[14]

Burns translation[edit]

To celebrate Burns Night in 2003, MacDougall had some of Robert Burns' most famous poems translated out of the Scots language into contemporary English to make them comprehensible for English guests.[15] When Labour MPs were reported to be plotting to get Tony Blair to resign the leadership in favour of Gordon Brown, MacDougall was quoted as a supporter of Brown in opposing the plotting as not in his interests.[16]

Illness and death[edit]

In May 2007 MacDougall revealed that he had serious health problems. He had had a lung removed after being diagnosed with asbestosis, which he blamed on his work in shipyards, but said that his doctor expected him to return to full health "in a couple of weeks".[17] In October it was said that he was likely to stand down in the event of a snap general election;[18] however no election was called.

MacDougall was not recorded as having participated in any Parliamentary votes from early December 2007, and by June 2008 it was clear that his health problems were serious and there was a rumour that he would have to resign.[19] However another rumour said that he was recovering and likely to return to work.[20] MacDougall attended the House of Commons on 11 June 2008 to support the government on a knife-edge vote on pre-charge detention periods, giving an interview in which he admitted to having had an operation for pleural mesothelioma; he declared his intention to stand for re-election.[21] However, MacDougall died of mesothelioma at 6 AM on 13 August 2008 at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.[6][22]


  1. ^ BBC News Edinburgh and Fife, John MacDougall's legacy(
  2. ^ a b c "Dod's Guide to the General Election, June 2001", Vacher Dod Publishing, 2001, p. 193.
  3. ^ Erlend Clouston, "MoD leak alleges 'deceit and betrayal' over Rosyth", The Guardian, 4 May 1994.
  4. ^ a b c d John MacDougall, Your MP Archived 7 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine. biography from personal website, accessed 14 June 2008.
  5. ^ a b James Landale, Tom Baldwin, "The working-class Labour male is back", The Times, 1 June 2000, p. 16.
  6. ^ a b John Knox, "Life after unknown Labour soldier", BBC News Online, retrieved 2 October 2008.
  7. ^ Erlend Clouston, "Fife shivers on base line", The Guardian, 21 June 1994.
  8. ^ Catherine MacLeod, "Labour's battle of the sexes", The Herald, 13 April 2000, p. 7.
  9. ^ Andy Murray, "Nat's advert star is serial telly hoaxer", The Sun, 19 May 2001, p. 7.
  10. ^ Isabel Oakeshott, "MPs who leave the House speechless", Daily Mail, 3 January 2002, p. 15.
  11. ^ Fraser Nelson, Alison Hardie, "Deal struck to save Brown in seats review", Scotsman, 7 February 2002, p. 9.
  12. ^ Charlie Methven, "MP edged out to keep Brown in the Commons", Daily Telegraph, 2 April 2002, p. 22.
  13. ^ Hamish Macdonell, "McLeish to quit parliament at next elections", Scotsman, 6 September 2002, p. 1
  14. ^ Hamish Macdonell, "Ochil veteran latest Labour MP to retire", Scotsman, 2 February 2004, p. 2.
  15. ^ Lindsay McGarvie, "To a Sassenach: John translates Burns poems for English MPs", Sunday Mail, 26 January 2003, p. 27.
  16. ^ James Kirkup, Gerri Peev, "PM caves in and will make public promise on resigning", Scotsman, 7 September 2006, p. 2.
  17. ^ Scott Hussey, "Disease fight for MP John", The Sun, 18 May 2007, p. 2.
  18. ^ "Drumlanrig", Scotland on Sunday, 7 October 2007, p. 19.
  19. ^ Vincent Moss, "By-election Fear for PM", Sunday Mirror, 8 June 2008, p. 8.
  20. ^ "Drumlanrig", Scotland on Sunday, 8 June 2008, p. 17.
  21. ^ "Cancer MP's vow", Daily Record, 11 June 2008, p. 2.
  22. ^ "MP MacDougall dies after illness". London: BBC News. 13 August 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry McLeish
Member of Parliament for Central Fife
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Glenrothes
Succeeded by
Lindsay Roy