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Iain McNair (1900-1975) was a Scottish politician who served as Prime Minister of Scotland from 1973 to 1975, as well as Leader of the Reform Party from 1964 to 1976.
First elected in 1927 as a Conservative, McNair crossed the floor to join the Reform Party in 1938. He was one of only 8 Reform Party MPs to hold their seats at the 1942 election, and as such was appointed Deputy Leader of the Reform Party by John Campbell in 1944, a position he would hold for the next 20 years.
When the Reform Party entered government in 1957 McNair served as Industry Minister, becoming a strong enthusiast for economic planning and english style economic corporatism. After the 1961 election he was appointed Finance Minister. A short but severe recession in 1962-3 forced McNair to propose a harsh and unpopular budget in 1963 that proposed tax rises and an end to free medical prescriptions. Independent MPs voted against the budget, bringing the government down and forcing a change of government.
In February 1964 John Campbell stood down as Leader of the Reform Party after nearly 20 years. McNair, having served as Campbell's deputy and being widely respected within Reform was elected leader unopposed.
Reform continued to make gains at the 1965 and 1969 elections, with McNair representing moderate, consensual conservatism, and largely agreeing with the Labour Party on most financial issues. He was a supporter of James Bell's programme of economic planning and economic development.
The centre-right coalition was able to form a minority government after the 1973 election, and McNair became Prime Minister. His period in office was overshadowed by economic difficulties, and the pressures of running a government reliant on the support of so many different groups.
His government was brought down over its January 1975 budget, forcing a snap election that the coalition lost. McNair initially sought to remain leader of the opposition, but a severe heart attack in December 1975 left him physically weak, and forced him to resign.
McNair stood down from parliament at the 1978 election. Despite being in politics for over 50 years he had spent only 9 in government. He died in 1979.
Early Political Career
McNair was elected leader unopposed. He had the strong support of the Reform old guard, as well as of ambitious younger MPs who thought his age would make another leadership election likely in the near future.
The 1969 election saw Reform make further gains in terms of seats, despite Labour winning an overall majority. However some within the party thought it was time for a change of leadership, and William Yorke, a young backbencher, challenged McNair for the leadership. McNair won easily by 45 votes to 8, and in a bid for party unity appointed Yorke local government spokesman.
In 1970 Gordon Reid suceeded Bell as Labour leader and Prime Minister. McNair, who had had a decent and mutualy respectful relationship with Bell had a much more confrontational attitude to Reid. He strongly opposed Reid's socially liberal reforms.
As the economy entered recession in 1972 Reform's standing in the polls increased, and McNair privately became confident of winning an overall majority for the centre-right parties, without the need of negotiating with independents.
The 1973 election resulted in the centre-right coalition winning 98 seats, to the centre-left and communists 96. McNair was forced into doing a deal with the independent MPs, but even then it was uncertain if his government would have any prospect of lasting longer than a few months. It was only when the communists ruled out supporting any government that a centre-right government became inevitable. McNair was elected Prime Minister on June 5th, with the votes of the coalition parties, plus three independents.
Prime Minister 1973-1975
At the age of 73 McNair was the oldest Prime Minister in scottish history.