Like all countries, Scotland underwent many changes in the course of the twentieth century. Some of the biggest changes were to occur in the fields of politics and industry.

Political change

The twentieth century in Scotland was characterised politically by demands for independence from England, or at the very least devolved government. The century also saw the formation of many political parties, of which the most successful has been the Labour Party, founded by Keir Hardie in 1906.

1915 saw the rise of "Red Clydeside", inspired by John Maclean, and featuring industrial unrest and rent strikes. A strike for a 40-hour week in 1919 led to demonstrations in Glasgow's George Square, broken up by heavy-handed police.

The first Labour government was elected in 1923, with Ramsay MacDonald as prime minister. By 1934, demands for Scottish independence from England led to the formation of the Scottish National Party, and the Saltire Society was formed two years later.

The momentum towards independence was maintained when John MacCormick formed a Scottish Convention in 1942, and the SNP won a by-election in Motherwell in 1945. By 1949, the Scottish Covenant had attracted 2.5 million signatures in favour of Home Rule for Scotland.

In 1950, the Stone of Destiny was removed from Westminster Abbey by nationalists. As oil exploration in the North Sea began in 1967, the SNP again won a by-election victory, this time in Hamilton. 1968 saw the Kilbrandon Commission explore the issue of the British constitution - it would report its findings in 1973, as the SNP won victory in the Govan by-election. They went on to win eleven seats in the 1974 general election.

The first Devolution Bill was introduced in 1976, but failed the following year. In 1978 a Scotland and Wales Act was passed, but the referendum on it in 1979 could most charitably be described as "inconclusive".A Campaign for a Scottish Assembly was formed in the same year.

During the 1980s Conservative support north of the border dwindled. In 1988 a Claim of Right for Scotland was introduced, and a Scottish Constitutional Convention formed. The Tories first tried out the Poll Tax on Scotland in 1988, and it proved very controversial until its demise in 1992.

The 1992 election saw only 12 Tory MPs in Scotland, and a pro-devolution vigil began outside the Royal High School in Edinburgh. The Stone of Destiny was brought back to Scotland in 1996, and a Labour government was restored the following year. Scotland had no Conservative MPs, and a referendum on devolution brought a large "yes" vote. The Scottish parliament was finally opened in 1999, with Labour the largest party, although it was forced into coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Donald Dewar, a fierce campaigner for devolution, became the First Minister, but was to die in 2000.

Changes in Scottish industry

While Scotland's political views were changing in the manner oulined above, the country's industrial sector was also evolving. By 1913, the River Clyde was renowned as a shipbuilding centre, and in 1934 it launched the Cunard liner Queen Mary. This would be followed in later years by the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Elizabeth II, or QE2, as it is more commonly known. A post-war slump in demand for new ships has led to the decline of Scottish shipyards, although oil rigs and defence contracts have helped keep some yards alive.

Scotland's shipbuilding and light engineering industries depended heavily on its production of coal and steel, and these industries were also in decline by the 1980s. Lanarkshire steel plants like the massive Ravenscraig were closed, as were many Scottish coal mines.

Scotland's economy was to benefit from growth in the financial and service sectors, however, fuelled by North Sea oil revenues and business and financial consultancies. The growth of high-tech electronics in the so-called "Silicon Glen" has also helped but multinational firms have shown questionable loyalty to Scottish workers in the past, and Scotland will still need to rely on its home-grown entrepreneurs and talent.

A 20th-century Scottish timeline

The timeline below lists some of the major events in Scotland during the century:

    1918: Education (Scotland) Act
    1922: The BBC makes its first transmission from Glasgow
    1959: General election - Conservative victory, but large anti-government vote in Scotland
    1974: Two general elections - narrow Labour victory, but SNP win 11 seats
    1983: General election: Tories gain 21 Scottish seats
    1987: Election: Tories have 10 seats
    1992: Election: Tories have 12 seats
    1997: Election: No Scottish Tory MPs; Devolution referendum leads to a major "Yes" vote
    2000: Dewar dies

A Companion to Scottish History, Donnachie and Hewitt, 1989, BT Batsford Ltd
The Oxford Companion to Scottish History, Oxford University Press, 2001

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