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1979 United Kingdom general election

← Oct. 1974 3 May 1979 1983 →

All 71 Scottish seats to the House of Commons
Turnout76.84%, Increase2.03%
  First party Second party Third party
Leader James Callaghan Margaret Thatcher David Steel
Party Labour Conservative Liberal
Leader since 5 April 1976 11 February 1975 7 July 1976
Last election 41 seats, 36.3% 16 seats, 31.4% 3 seats, 8.3%
Seats won 44 22 3
Seat change Increase3 Increase6 Steady
Popular vote 1,211,455 916,155 262,224
Percentage 41.5% 31.4% 9.0%
Swing Increase5.2% Increase6.7% Increase0.7%

  Fourth party
Leader William Wolfe
Party SNP
Leader since 1 June 1969
Last election 11 seats, 30.4%
Seats won 2
Seat change Decrease9
Popular vote 504,259
Percentage 17.3%
Swing Decrease13.1%

Results of the 1979 election in Scotland

These are the results of the 1979 United Kingdom general election in Scotland. The election was held on Thursday 3 May 1979 and all 71 seats in Scotland were contested.[1]


The 1979 Scottish devolution referendum, held on 1 March, had resulted a majority of those voting casting their votes in favour of the creation of a Scottish Assembly, but the rules of the referendum required at least 40% of the total electorate supporting the proposal, a total which was not reached. The minority Labour government, knowing that many of its own MPs would rebel if they pressed on with the legislation to create the Assembly, refused demands from the SNP and Plaid Cymru to do so. On 28 March, the SNP joined the Conservatives, Liberals and others in supporting a motion of no confidence in the Government which passed by one vote, forcing a general election.[2] After the election, Anthony Finlay wrote in The Glasgow Hearld that the SNP's support for the motion of no confidence "seemed an odd move at the time", but was based on the notion that Scottish electors would be so outraged at devolution not being enacted, despite winning the support of 52% who voted, that they would turn to the SNP in protest. As Finlay noted, the SNP's stance was to prove a "fundamental error of judgement".[3] At an election rally in Glasgow at the start of the campaign, Callaghan attacked the SNP's role in joining with the Conservatives to bring his Government down. He described them as "turkeys voting for Christmas" and urged his Scottish supporters to "carve them up in the polling booths."[4]

At the end of April, an Opinion Research Centre opinion poll for The Scotsman predicted Labour would win 42% of the votes in Scotland with the Conservatives winning 34%, the SNP 15% and the Liberal Party 8%.[5]


List of MPs for constituencies in Scotland (1979–1983)


Party Seats Seats
Votes % %
Labour 44 Increase 3 1,211,455 41.5 Increase 5.2
Conservative 22 Increase 6 916,155 31.4 Increase 6.7
SNP 2 Decrease 9 504,259 17.3 Decrease 13.1
Liberal 3 Steady 262,224 9.0 Increase 0.7
Other 0 Steady 16,618 0.6 Decrease 0.2
Turnout: 2,916,637 76.84

Votes summary

Popular vote
Parliament seats

Incumbents defeated

Party Name Constituency Office held whilst in Parliament Year elected Defeated by Party
SNP Douglas Henderson East Aberdeenshire SNP Spokesman for Employment and Industry 1974 Albert McQuarrie Conservative
Andrew Welsh South Angus SNP Spokesperson for Housing 1974 Peter Fraser Conservative
Iain MacCormick Argyllshire 1974 John Mackay Conservative
Hamish Watt Banffshire 1974 David Myles Conservative
Margaret Ewing East Dunbartonshire 1974 Norman Hogg Labour
George Thompson Galloway 1974 Ian Lang Conservative
Winnie Ewing Moray and Nairn SNP Spokesperson for External Affairs and EEC 1974 Alex Pollock Conservative
Douglas Crawford Perth and East Perthshire 1974 Bill Walker Conservative
George Reid Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire 1974 Martin O'Neill Labour
Conservative Teddy Taylor Glasgow Cathcart Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland (1976-1979) 1964 John Maxton Labour
SLP Jim Sillars[6] South Ayrshire Leader of the Scottish Labour Party (1976–1979) 1970 George Foulkes Labour


Of the 11 SNP MPs elected at the previous election, seven were defeated by Conservatives and two by Labour candidates. The two survivoring SNP MPs were Gordon Wilson in Dundee East and Donald Stewart in the Western Isles.[7] Wilson's survival was attributed by Anthony Finlay as being due to Labour's choice of Jimmy Reid as their candidate to oppose him.[3] Labour also gained Glasgow Cathcart from the Conservative's Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Teddy Taylor. Jim Sillars, a former Labour MP who had led the breakaway Scottish Labour Party lost his South Ayrshire seat to Labour's George Foulkes.[8]


  1. ^ "Commons results report" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 April 2021.
  2. ^ George Clark (1979). "The nation's choice a Conservative woman Prime Minister". The Times Guide to the House of Commons 1979. London: Times Books Ltd. p. 26. ISBN 0 7230 0225 8.
  3. ^ a b Finlay, Anthony (5 May 1979). "Tale of brave soldiers who brought down their own castle". The Glasgow Herald. p. 4. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  4. ^ George Clark (1979). "The nation's choice a Conservative woman Prime Minister". The Times Guide to the House of Commons 1979. London: Times Books Ltd. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0 7230 0225 8.
  5. ^ Russell, William (30 April 1979). "Ex-Labour MP defects to Tories". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  6. ^ Elected as a Labour MP
  7. ^ The Times Guide to the House of Commons 1979. London: Times Books Ltd. 1979. pp. 272–273. ISBN 0 7230 0225 8.
  8. ^ The Times Guide to the House of Commons 1979. London: Times Books Ltd. 1979. pp. 39 & 273. ISBN 0 7230 0225 8.