The Reform Party is a liberal-conservative political party in Scotland. The current party leader is the Prime Minister of Scotland Karen King.

The party was founded in 1912 by a group of Liberal and Conservative MPs who strongly supported political reform and the establishment of representative parliamentary democracy. 

The Reform Party was the second largest party in parliament from 1951 until 2015 when it overtook the Labour Party to become the largest party.

The Reform Party is considered to represent mainstream liberal conservatism in Scotland, and is considered to be to the left of the more socially conservative Conservative Party, and to the right of the more centrist/agrarian Centre Party, the radical centrist Liberal Party and the social democratic Labour Party.


Foundation 1912-1916

Minor Party 1916-1944

Campbell 1944-1964

John Campbell succeeded Edwards as leader in 1944. Campbell underwent a complete reorganisation of the party, setting up new branches and creating a constituency based party structure, as well as centralising internal party power

John Campbell, Prime Minister 1957-59, 1961-63

to the Leader. A party Central Office was set up in Edinburgh, ​Reform House (now Campbell House), including departments on campaign organisation, political research, a manifesto department and an advertising department. In 1945 the party's youth wing, Young Reform, was set up, and soon became a breeding ground for future MPs.

The 1946 election saw Reform gain nine seats, more than doubling their representation in parliament, although the Labour Party was comfortably returned to government in a landslide. This was seen as a vindication of Campbell's reforms to the party structure

The 1950 election was the greatest Reform victory until then, and saw them win 26 seats in parliament, overtaking the Liberal and Conservative parties to become the largest opposition party.

In 1957 the Reform Party entered government, and Campbell became Prime Minister.

McNair 1964-1976

Iain McNair was elected unopposed as Campbell's successor. He had served as Campbell's deputy since 1944, and had held prominent cabinet positions during the coalition government of 1957-63. He continued the policies of his predecessor.

The 1965 election was a major disappointment for Reform, who had hoped to return to government in coalition with the Centre and Conservative parties once again. Despite this McNair easily saw off a leadership challenge.

After ten years in opposition Reform returned to government following the 1973 election, in coalition with their usual Conservative and Centre Party allies, with the support of Independents.

Munro 1976-1986

Iain McNair retired as party leader in February 1976. Former Finance Minister Kenneth Munro was easily elected his successor. Munro took a much more aggressive stance in challenging Labour in government.

The 1985 election proved to be very disappointing for Reform, receiving a net gain of only one seat. Despite this, Munro insisted he would remain leader, and lead Reform into the next general election. In February 1986 he was challenged for the leadership by shadow foreign affairs spokesman Michael Jardine, who defeated Munro for the leadership, 24 votes to 18.

Jardine 1986-1999

Jardine moved the Reform Party in a more free market oriented direction, endorsing policies such as privatisation, voucher schools and a flatter tax system.

After the 1989 general election Jardine formed a minority centre-right coalition government with the support of independents. Jardine forcefully pushed for cuts in public expenditure, something controversial amongst his own government let alone the independent MPs he relied upon. When the government's budget was voted down Jardine went to see the King and a snap election was called. The election saw Reform increase its seat total to 64, however due to the left leaning nature of the elected Independent MPs, and Jardine's insistence on the need to re-introduce the government's unpopular budget, Labour Leader John Cunningham was elected Prime Minister.
Michael Jardine

Michael Jardine, Prime Minister; 1989-90, 1991-93, 1995-99

The 1991 election

After the 1995 general election Reform was able to form a coalition with its usual partners, as well as the populist Scottish Democrats, creating the first majority government since 1989. The coalition was finally able to press ahead with its programme of economic deregulation, tax cuts, the partial or full privatisation of some state owned industries, and controversially cuts to the welfare state. These reforms were deeply unpopular with some segments of scottish society, and the new Labour Leader Alex Wishart was able to mobilise public opinion against the government and gain a strong poll lead.

The coalition government was defeated at the 1999 general election in a landslide, with Reform losing 15 seats. Despite the defeat Jardine remained party leader, although now a deeply divisive figure even within his own party. Over the next 18 months three MPs left the party, one joining the Liberal Party and the others sitting as Independents, all citing Jardine's leadership as a reason. In April 2001 at a meeting of the parliamentary party Deputy Leader David Swann tabled a motion of no-confidence in Jardine's leadership, with was passed by 30 votes to 50, ejecting Jardine from office. Swann was subsequently elected Leader unopposed.

Swan 2001-2003

Joyce 2003-2010

The 2003 election was a disaster for Reform, and saw the party lose nearly half of its seats, falling to just 29 seats, their lowest number since 1950.

King 2010-present

Karen King was elected unopposed as Joyce's successor as party leader.

The Reform Party won the 2011 general election in a landslide, winning 65 seats.
Karen King 1

Karen King, Prime Minister 2011-present

In 2012 the party celebrated its centenary.

The 2015 general election saw a stunning victory for Reform, winning a record 76 seats and overtaking the Labour Party as the largest party in parliament for the first time.


The Reform Party was largely founded as a liberal party advocating political reform and the adoption of parliamentary democracy. However anti-socialism became a more prominent party plank from 1926 onward, driving the party toward the centre-right. The party has always participated in non-socialist governments.

Since the 1990s the party has also supported economic liberalism and deregulation, including the partial or full privatisation of many state owned industries. However, the party does still support the existence of the Scottish welfare state.

Reform has also tended to be more socially liberal than either the Centre or Conservative parties. A majority of Reform MPs (although not then-leader Iain McNair) supported the legalisation of abortion and decriminalisation of homosexuality during the 1960s.


Party Leaders

1912-1926 Thomas McDuff

1926-1935 James Keating

1935-1944 James Edwards

1944-1964 John Campbell

1964-1976 Iain McNair

1976-1986 Kenneth Munro

1986-2001 Michael Jardine

2003-2010 David Joyce

2010- Karen King

Election Results

Election Seats +/- % Government Leader
1935 11 17.2 Opposition James Keating
1939 14 +3 Opposition James Edwards
1942 8 -6 Opposition James Edwards
1946 17 +9 Opposition John Campbell
1950 26 +9 Opposition John Campbell
1951 33 +7 Opposition John Campbell
1953 37 +4 Opposition John Campbell
1957 41 +4 Coalition John Campbell
1961 48 +7 Coalition John Campbell
1963 46 -2 Opposition John Campbell
1965 50 +4 Opposition Iain McNair
1969 53 +3 Opposition Iain McNair
1973 56 +3 Coalition Iain McNair
1975 51 -5 Opposition Iain McNair
1978 57 +6 Coalition Kenneth Munro
1981 41 -16 Opposition Kenneth Munro
1985 42 +1 Opposition Kenneth Munro
1989 59 +17 Coalition Michael Jardine
1990 64 +5 Opposition Michael Jardine
1991 66 +2 Coalition Michael Jardine
1995 68 +2 Coalition Michael Jardine
1999 53 -15 Opposition
2003 29 -24 Opposition Tom Swann
2007 44 +15 Opposition David Joyce
2011 65 +21 Coalition Karen King
2015 76 +11 Coalition Karen King