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Donald Dewar

From Academic Kids

The Rt. Hon. Donald Campbell Dewar (Saturday, August 21, 1937 –Wednesday October 11, 2000) was a Scottish politician and the first First Minister of Scotland after devolution in 1999.

Born in Glasgow, he attended Glasgow Academy before studying at the University of Glasgow, where he gained both LLB and MA degrees. Here, he met his close friend John Smith—who would later become leader of the British Labour Party—through the debating society. In his time at university he also served as President of the Glasgow University Union.

A member of the Labour Party at both Scottish and UK levels, Donald Dewar worked as a solicitor in Glasgow before being elected at the age of 26 to the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster to represent the constituency of Aberdeen South.

After a political hiatus during the 1970s, Donald Dewar was returned to Westminster as the Member of Parliament for Glasgow Garscadden in 1978. He rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a member of the Shadow Cabinet in 1984. By 1995, Dewar was a Chief Whip for the Labour Party, and when the Labour Party was declared the majority party in the 1997 election, he was given the post of Secretary of State for Scotland.

By this stage, Dewar was in a position which the late John Smith would never have thought possible. He was able to start the devolution process, and worked endlessly on creating the Scotland Act, popularly known as Smith's "unfinished business". When ratified, this was to give Scotland its first Parliament for nearly 300 years.

When the first elections for the new Scottish parliament were held in 1999, Dewar was returned as the Member for Glasgow Anniesland, and subsequently elected First Minister for the governing Scottish Labour Party/Liberal Democrat coalition.

A man with endless enthusiasm, the strain of establishing the new Parlimament would begin to take its toll, and Dewar underwent major open heart surgery in 2000. He returned to his post as First Minister very quickly. Later that year, he suffered a serious brain hemorrhage which was triggered by the anticoagulant medication he was taking after the surgery. He died a day later, in Edinburgh's Western General Hospital. His funeral service was held at Glasgow Cathedral, amid scenes of mourning in Scotland's largest city unbeknown for a politician.

Although he has become something of a political legend, Donald would have abhorred any attempt to turn him into some kind of secular saint. He would have been horrified at a Diana-style out-pouring of synthetic grief at his untimely death. -- Iain MacWhirter, Sunday Herald October 15, 2000.

Donald Dewar's work for the Scottish Parliament has led him to be called the "Father of the Nation". He certainly cared deeply for his consitituents, while his slightly unkempt appearance endeared him to many a British citizen.

In May 2002, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair unveiled a statue of Dewar at the top of Glasgow's Buchanan Street - and in keeping with his famous unkempt appearance, it shows Dewar wearing a slightly crushed jacket. On the base of the statue is inscribed the opening words of the Scotland Act: There Shall Be A Scottish Parliament, a phrase to which Dewar himself famously said I Like That! .


Preceded by:
Michael Forsyth
Secretary of State for Scotland
1997–1999
Succeeded by:
Dr John Reid
Preceded by:
First Minister of Scotland
1999–2000
Succeeded by:
Henry McLeish

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