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Scottish Labour Party

From Academic Kids

This article is about the Scottish Labour Party founded in 1976. See also the Scottish Labour Party (1888-1893) and the mainstream UK Labour Party, which uses the name in Scotland.


The Scottish Labour Party (SLP) was formed on January 18th 1976 as a breakaway from the UK Labour Party, by Labour members disaffected with the then Labour Government's failure to secure a devolved Scottish Assembly, as well as with its social and economic agenda. The formation of the SLP was led by Jim Sillars, then Labour MP for South Ayrshire, John Robertson, then Labour MP for Paisley and Alex Neil, the UK Labour Party's senior Scottish researcher. By 1979 the Scottish Labour Party had lost its seats in the House of Commons, and in 1981 it was formally disbanded.

Almost immediately the SLP became the focus for entryism from the International Marxist Group (IMG), and at the party's first congress in October 1976 the IMG were expelled.

The SLP had little electoral success, winning only three council seats and polling only 583 votes in the Garscadden by-election in 1978. At the 1979 General Election the SLP fought three seats, including Sillars' attempt at being re-elected (Robertson chose to step down). Sillars came close to retaining his seat, but this was clearly a personal vote built up over the years he had already served as a MP, as the other two candidates polled very poorly indeed.

This failure prompted the SLP to disband; and members either fell out of active politics, re-joined the Labour Party, or chose to join the Scottish National Party (SNP), which both Sillars and Neil did, with both rising to high office in the SNP.

The SLP adventure is generally looked upon as an ambitious failure, but Sillars has himself put this down to a lack of planning before choosing to launch the party. Unlike the SLP, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) meticulously planned their breakaway from the Labour Party, and were much more successful. Sillars has claimed though that the SLP did at least provide a forerunner to the SNP's later dialogue with the left.

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