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Donald Stewart (Scottish politician)

Donald James Stewart (17 October 1920 – 23 August 1992) was Scottish National Party (SNP) Member of Parliament (MP) from 1970 to 1987 for the Western Isles. He also served as President of the Scottish National Party (SNP) from 1982 to 1987. He was a councillor in Stornoway for many years and twice served as the town's provost.

Donald Stewart
President of the Scottish National Party
In office
Preceded byWilliam Wolfe
Succeeded byWinnie Ewing
Member of Parliament
for Western Isles
In office
18 June 1970 – 11 June 1987
Preceded byMalcolm Macmillan
Succeeded byCalum MacDonald
Personal details
Born(1920-10-17)17 October 1920
Stornoway, Western Isles, Scotland
Died23 August 1992(1992-08-23) (aged 71)
Stornoway, Western Isles, Scotland
NationalityBritish, Scottish
Political partyScottish National Party
Other political
Labour Party (1937–1939)
Christina Macaulay
(m. 1955; his death 1992)


Early lifeEdit

Stewart was born on 17 October 1920 in Stornoway, Western Isles, Scotland. He was educated at the Nicolson Institute.[1] Stewart left school at 16 to work as a junior clerk in a local solicitor's office, before going on to work in the office of Kenneth Mackenzie Ltd, a Stornoway Harris Tweed firm.[2]:436 He saw active service during the Second World War with the Royal Navy, serving on HMS Celandine for the duration of the war. Following the war, he returned to Kenneth Mackenzie Ltd, eventually becoming a director. He remained with the firm until his election to Parliament in 1970.[2]:436[3]

Political careerEdit

A lifelong socialist, Stewart became convinced of the case for Scottish independence at the 1935 United Kingdom general election, and joined the Scottish National Party the following year.[2]:437 He also joined the Labour Party in 1937, but became disillusioned with the party and left it in 1939. He first elected to Stornoway Town Council in 1951, and remained a councillor until his election to Parliament in 1970.[2]:437 He stood in the 1952 Dundee East by-election. Stewart was the provost of Stornoway from 1959 to 1965, and again from 1968 to 1970.[2]:437 At the 1970 general election he was the SNP's first ever MP returned at a general election, and the last declared result in 1970, which caused great attention in the media.[4]

Stewart was the SNP's sole Westminster representative from 1970 until he was joined by Margo MacDonald who won Glasgow Govan in the by-election of 1973. At the February 1974 General Election he was joined by six other SNP MPs,[5] and at the October General Election of that year this number increased to eleven. Stewart became the SNP parliamentary group leader, with William Wolfe as the SNP leader overall.[6] In 1977, Donald Stewart was appointed as a Privy Counsellor.[2]:437[3]

In 1981 Stewart attempted to introduce some provisions for Gaelic through a private members bill,[7] but it was met with hostility from the Conservatives[8] and talked out by Bill Walker.[1] It was only with the introduction of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 by the devolved Scottish Parliament, that the language was afforded some official recognition.

In March 1985 Stewart announced he would retire from front-line politics at the next election,[9] although continued to represent the Western Isles until 1987. At the General Election of that year his seat was gained by the Labour Party from the SNP and was consequently held until the 2005 general election when it was regained by the SNP's Angus Brendan MacNeil.

Upon his retirement from Parliament, Stewart was offered a Life Peerage, but refused it.[2]:437 Stewart was working on an autobiography when he died in 1992.[3] It was edited and completed by his sister, and published in 1994 as A Scot in Westminster.

It was Stewart who famously described the SNP as a "radical party, with a revolutionary aim".

Personal lifeEdit

He married Christina MacAulay.[1]

In August 1992 he suffered a heart attack. He died a week later, aged 71, at Lewis hospital, Stornoway.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "Common man who breathed life into SNP then dug its grave". The Herald. 24 August 1992. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Mitchell, James; Hassan, Gerry (2016). Scottish National Party Leaders. Biteback Publishing.
  3. ^ a b c Welsh, Andrew (25 August 1992). "Obituary: Donald Stewart". The Independent. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Donald takes Winnie's place". The Glasgow Herald. 20 June 1970. p. 1. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  5. ^ Clark, William (20 June 1970). "SNP now vital minority group". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  6. ^ Clark, William (15 October 1974). "SNP to press Labour on assembly pledge". The Glasgow Herald. p. 14. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  7. ^ MacDonald, Martin (5 February 1981). "More power to the Gaelic voice". The Glasgow Herald. p. 7. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  8. ^ Trotter, Stuart (14 February 1981). "Gaelic Bill fails in the Commons". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Donald Stewart plans to retire". The Glasgow Herald. 5 March 1985. p. 7. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  10. ^ "Scots lose a veteran nationalist". The Independent. 24 August 1992. Retrieved 28 March 2019.

External linksEdit