The Labour Party is a social-democratic political party in Scotland. The current party leader is Kevin Elton.

Founded in 1893, the Labour Party became the main rival to the Conservative Party in the 1920s, and briefly formed a minority government under Ramsay MacDonald in 1925-26. In 1935 Michael James Stewart led Labour to a landslide election victory, and Labour would continue to hold an absolute majority in parliament until 1950. Labour remained in office until 1957.

In 1963 Labour returned to office under the leadership of James Bell, at first in two short minority governments, and then as a majority from 1969 onwards. Gordon Reid suceeded Bell as Prime Minister in 1970, and led two governments from 1970-1973 and 1975-1978.

In 1981 Andrew Fraser led Labour to another majority government (to date the last majority government in Scottish history). Labour remained in government after the 1985 election, but was forced into coalition with the Liberals. John Cunningham suceeded Fraser as leader but the 1989 election saw Labour lose power. Labour returned as a minority government in 1990, but was forced out of office a year later. In October 1993 the centre-right coalition government fell, and Labour returned to office without an election, only to be defeated at the polls in May 1995.

Labour returned to power in 1999 under Alex Wishart, and were re-elected in 2003 and 2007. Labour suffered a heavy defeat at the 2011 general election. The 2015 election was the worst for Labour since 1927, winning only 60 seats and for the first time since 1927 it was not the largest party in parliament.



The Labour Party was formally founded on March 27, 1893 with the merger of the Scottish Labour Association, the Federation of Trade Unionists, the Independent Socialist League and various other Liberal/Labour movements. Keir Hardie was elected as the new party's first chairman.


James Ramsay MacDonald, first Labour Prime Minister 1925-26

Ramsay MacDonald 1923-31

MacDonald succeded Adamson as leader in 1923.

Stewart 1931-42

​Following the defeat of the 1931 election MacDonald resigned as party Leader, being replaced by Deputy Leader Michael James Stewart.

Thorvald Stauning

Michael James Stewart, Prime Minister 1935-42

Nicholson 1942-47

Henry Nicholson became party Leader and Prime Minister following the death of Michael James Stewart.

Robert MacDonald 1947-58

Following Nicholson's death Robert MacDonald became Prime Minister.

MacDonald led Labour to another majority government in the snap 1953 election.

Following the 1957 election Labour lost power to the Reform-Centre-Conservative coalition, although MacDonald remained party leader until his resignation in March 1958.

Bell 1958-70

Bell was a strong advocate of economic planning, and this became one of the key definitive factors of the 1963-70 Labour government.

Reid 1970-79

Bell chose to retire in 1970. Education Minister Gordon Reid was elected his successor. Reid hailed from the left wing of the party, the first leader to come from the left since Michael James Stewart. Reid advocated sweeping social reforms, including the legalisation of abortion,
Olof Palme 1974 (cropped)

Gordon Reid, Prime Minister 1970-73, 1975-78

homosexuality and the complete end to government censorship.

The Labour Party lost the 1973 general election, and Reid became leader of the opposition. The 1974 Labour conference passed the famous '74 Manifesto, advocating greater nationalisation of industry, the adoption of a wealth tax, the adoption of a land value tax and increased spending on the Health Service.

Labour was able to return to power after the 1975 general election, although without a majority.

Fraser 1979-89

Following the 1978 defeat Reid announced his intention to stand down as party leader before the next election. 

Fraser was the youngest leader in Labour Party history aged only __. Fraser hailed from the moderate right of the party.

John Smith 7

Andrew Fraser, Prime Minister 1981-1989

Cunningham 1989-97

In March 1989 Fraser finally resigned as Prime Minister. Cunningham was elected unopposed as his successor. Although Labour's position in the opinion polls improved it was not enough to keep the government in power, and the 1989 election saw Michael Jardine form a centre-right minority government.

Wishart 1997-2010

Alex Wishart was elected Leader of the Labour Party on February 12, 1997, defeating ______ and ______.

Labour won a strong victory at the 1999 general election, although falling just short of a majority Labour was able to return to government with a confidence and supply deal with the Green Party.

In government Labour largely pursued Third Way economic policies, favouring public-private partnerships, and maintaining the free market reforms of the previous Reform and Labour governments.

The 2003 election saw Labour re-elected, although with fewer seats and a lower share of the popular vote. After a week of negotiations Wishart entered a coalition with the Liberal Party.
Alex Wishart

Alex Wishart, Prime Minister 1999-2010


The Labour Party is a self described democratic socialist political party, although in recent years has adhered more to principles of social democracy.

The party has a record of being pro-european, and it was under Labour Prime Ministers James Bell and Gordon Reid that Scottish entry to the European Community was negotiated and secured. 

Support Base

Labour traditionally has had strong support in Scotland's "central belt", the heavily populated area of central Scotland including Glasgow and Edinburgh. Labour's support in Glasgow has tended to be particularly strong, with the party winning upwards of 60% support in the city at every election between 1935 and 2011.


Party Leaders

1893-1910 Keir Hardie

1910-1923 William Adamson

1923-1931 James Ramsay MacDonald

1932-1942 Michael James Stewart

1942-1947 Henry Nicholson

1947-1958 Robert MacDonald

1958-1970 James Bell

1970-1979 Gordon Reid

1979-1989 Andrew Fraser

1989-1997 John Cunningham

1997-2010 Alex Wishart



2015- Kevin Elton

Election Results

Election Seats +/- % Government Leader
1935 89 51.7 Majority Michael James Stewart
1939 86 -3 49.8 Majority Michael James Stewart
1942 91 +5 52.0 Majority Michael James Stewart
1946 106 +15 53.0 Majority Henry Nicholson
1950 95 -11 Minority Robert MacDonald
1951 92 -3 Minority Robert MacDonald
1953 101 +9 Majority Robert MacDonald
1957 91 -10 Opposition Robert MacDonald
1961 87 -4 Opposition James Bell
1963 90 +3 Minority James Bell
1965 95 +5 Minority James Bell
1969 103 +8 49.9 Majority James Bell
1973 88 -15 Opposition Gordon Reid
1975 91 +3 Minority Gordon Reid
1978 84 -7 Opposition Gordon Reid
1981 101 +17 Majority Andrew Fraser
1985 90 -11 Coalition Andrew Fraser
1989 81 -9 Opposition John Cunningham
1990 83 +2 Minority John Cunningham
1991 75 -8 Opposition John Cunningham
1995 73 -2 Opposition John Cunningham
1999 96 +23 Minority Alex Wishart
2003 94 -2 Coalition Alex Wishart
2007 83 -11 Coalition Alex Wishart
2011 68 -15 Opposition
2015 60 -8 Opposition