Donald Dewar

1937 - 2000

Donald Dewar MSP
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Donald Dewar MSP

Politician and the first Premier of the modern Scottish Parliament. Born in Glasgow, Donald Dewar was educated at the Glasgow Academy and then the University of Glasgow. He practised as a solicitor in the city before being elected as a Member of Parliament, initially for Aberdeen South (1966-70), then Glasgow Garscadden (since 1978). An active member of both the Scottish and National Labour Parties, Dewar was elected to the Shadow Cabinet in 1984, rising to hold the post of Shadow Social Security Spokesman. Following the 1997 Labour victory, he was appointed Secretary of State for Scotland by Prime Minister Tony Blair (b.1953). Determined to conclude John Smith's 'unfinished business', Dewar guided the devolution process through to the Scotland Act and the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament, adjourned almost 300 years before. Dewar was elected as the first First Minister of his Scottish Parliament in 1999 and regarded by many as father of a reborn Scottish nation.

In 2000, Dewar underwent major heart surgery in Glasgow Royal Infirmary, but recovered and quickly returned to his post. However, only months later, while leaving a cabinet meeting, he suffered a brain haemorrhage, a consequence of the drugs he was taking after his surgery. Tragically, Dewar died the following day in Edinburgh's Western General Hospital. His funeral service was held in Glasgow Cathedral.

Although often criticised for his unkempt appearance, he is remembered as an honest, caring and intelligent politician, who worked hard for his constituents and the people of Scotland. He is remembered by a statue in Buchanan Street in Glasgow and the 'Donald Dewar Room' in Queensberry House, part of the Scottish Parliament complex at Holyrood, which includes a substantial collection of his books.

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