The Scottish general election of 1957 was held on May 5th 1957 for all 199 seats of the Parliament of Scotland.

The general election of 1957 is considered a major turning point in Scottish political history, as it was the first time in 22 years Scotland had a non-socialist government.


Labour entered 1957 with its spirits held high, despite being in office for 22 years.

Labour's period in office 1953-57 had been a fairly conservative one, with most of the welfare state being constructed under Henry Nicholson and during Robert MacDonald's first term. By 1953 the party had simply run out of major reforms or any sense of major ideological direction, its main aim in office became to preserve the social changes made in government rather than embarking on further reform.

As a contrast to four years before the Reform Party, in general, was in a much more sober mood. The party had performed poorly in by-elections during the parliament, and party leader John Campbell told friends privately that he would retire as leader following the seemingly inevitable defeat.


Party Leader Seats +/-
Labour Party Robert MacDonald 91 -10
Reform Party John Campbell 41 +4
Centre Party Edward Sinclair 41 +10
Conservative Party TBD 14 +4
Liberal Party TBD 7 -8
Communist Party TBD 1 -2
Independents - 4 +2
Total 199

Formation of new government

The election left Labour as by far the largest party, but 9 seats short of a majority. At first, it appeared as though the Labour Party would be able to form another government, with the support of the Liberal Party and the Communist Party, this would mean if Labour could convince just one independent MP to support them then Robert MacDonald would be re-elected as Prime Minister.

It appeared unlikely that the opposition parties would be able to band together to form any kind of coherant government, let alone be able to appeal to all of the independents. It was expected that as in 1950 and 1951 negotiations between the non-socialist parties would break down, and personal rivalries allow Labour to return to government once more. However the desire for an end to Labour government was particularly strong, and the Reform Party, Centre Party, Conservative Party and Liberal Party agreed to form a coalition government.

Despite the broad agreement in favour of a centre-right government, there was a strong disagreement about who would serve as Prime Minister, as both the Reform Party and Centre Party held an equal number of seats, Reform leader John Campbell and Centre leader Edward Sinclair both wished to serve as Prime Minister. At the suggestion of Conservative leader John MacKenzie it was decided that the office of Prime Minister would "rotate", with both men serving as Prime Minister for two years. It was decided that John Campbell would serve as Prime Minister first by drawing lots.

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