1967 - Hamilton by-election won by Scottish National Party

The Hamilton By-Election

On 2 November 1967, at the Hamilton by-election, Winifred Ewing became only the second Scottish Nationalist MP to be elected to Westminster. The result was a shock for the other Scottish parties and especially for Labour which had taken 71.2 per cent of the vote at the previous general election. The Nationalists, who had been written off as a spent force, suddenly seemed to be staging a dramatic recovery. The first party to react to this challenge was the Conservatives. The following year their leader Ted Heath made a commitment to advancing Scottish home rule at the party's Perth conference - the so-called 'Declaration of Perth.' The Nats' poor showing in the 1970 general election, where they lost Hamilton and took only one other seat, the Western Isles, led to the shelving of Heath's plans. Later electoral successes for the SNP led the other parties to re-examine their attitude to Scottish autonomy. This is how the Daily Record (which had already hired Ewing as one of their columnists) reported her arrival at the Commons and her swearing-in.


Scotland's first Nationalist MP for 20 years yesterday took her seat in the House of Commons. It was Winnie Ewing's day - and a proud day it was. As she passed smiling broadly and giving the thumbs up sign to a cheering avenue of nearly 600 supporters, the fragile-looking heroine of Hamilton said: 'This is a wonderful feeling. I don't think any woman in Scotland could ask for more. I'm proud to be here for Scotland.'

On her new role in the corridors of power, she declared, 'Of course I expect to make an impact . . . not today and perhaps not tomorrow . . . but certainly before my time at Westminster is up.'

After the hard slog of the Hamilton by-election, this was the hard-earned icing on the cake. Earlier a railway special emblazoned with the SNP crest emptied 250 supporters onto the platform at King's cross. In the pre-dawn darkness banners waved and a lone piper played 'Scotland the Brave.' The glare of television arc lights recorded the tartan triumph.

Winnie was joined on the overnight express from Glasgow by party members and kindred spirits in Hamilton and Edinburgh.

And for 400 miles the whisky flowed fast and song flowed faster. But in spite of yesterday's pomp and cermony, it was also a family day.

Winnie was accompanied by her husband Stewart and the children - Fergus 10, Terry 3 and Anabelle 7.

At King's Cross they were met by cars to match the mood. Three all-Scottish [Hillman] imps whisked the Ewings to their Kensington hotel whilst special buses took supporters to a victory breakfast.

Meanwhile party members held a summit meeting with Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalists at London's Caxton Hall. The hall was festooned with banners and placards, including one on the Boston Tea Party theme, 'taxation without representation is tyranny'.

Back at the hotel, Winnie was searching for a lost sock. As she helped the children dress, parliament was still three hours and three miles away.

Then Dad arrived on the scene to take the family sight-seeing while Winnie left for a trial run through of the afternoon's ceremony.

She was greeted at the gate of the House by Manus Boyle, a Scots bobby.

'Welcome to London, madam,' he said. Then he turned 'She's rather sweet isn't she? She's bound to cause quite a stir.'

Then at 2.35, the climax, Winnie in purple costume - with a sprig of lucky heather - walked with her family through the crowds and into the commons. The Hope of Hamilton had become the Wonder of Westminster.

Daily Record, 17 November 1967. Reproduced by permission of Mirror Syndication International.

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