The Decline of the Liberal Party
In 1914, the Liberal Party was dominant in Scottish politics. In 1928 only a handful of Liberal MPs were elected. How did this happen?
1. Liberal splits
Even before 1914, the Liberal Party was starting to split. The "New Liberals" wanted greater government interference in society. Traditional Liberals stuck to the old "laissez faire" ideas of non intervention. During the war, the Liberal Party fell apart when Asquith was forced to resign and his Liberal colleague Lloyd George took over as Prime Minister. Supporters of Asquith never forgave Lloyd George for this act of betrayal, as they saw it.
The split in the Liberal Party made it very difficult for the party to raise money to fight elections.
3. The 1918 "Coupon / Khaki Election"
Lloyd George fought the 1918 election as leader of a coalition government. Candidates who supported the government were given a written document or "coupon" of support from the Prime Minister, Lloyd George. There was no chance of any Asquith supporters getting such support and they were decimated in the election. Asquith himself cwas defeated.
4. The Rise of Labour
The Labour Party had been very weak in 1914 but it took advantage of changing conditions. It claimed to be the champion of the working class and local Labour and ILP politicians were important in organising the Glasgow Rent strikes for example.
After the war, the Labour Party benefited from the increase in the working class electorate due to the 1918 Reform Act. The party leader, Ramsay Macdonald, also appealed to better off voters by stressing the respectability and reasonable demands of the Labour Party. He also deliberately targeted constituencies in the cities where the Liberal party was divided and where the Labour Party could gain votes from this.
The Beginnings of Scottish Nationalism
Source : Watch this clip from the BBC "History of Scotland" series.
Make your own notes on the part played by Christopher Grieve (aka "Hugh McDiarmid) in encouraging the idea of independence for Scotland.
Strengthening the Union
The decline of the Liberals benefited the Conservative Party which remained the dominant party after 1918. In Scotland, the party was known as the Conservative and Unionist Party so it's voters knew that they were supporting a party which was committed to the union with England.
The strengthening of the union with England was partly because of the war: Scottish soldiers had fought and won victory as part of the British Army and Scots emigrants boarded ships bound for countries in the British Empire and Commonwealth such as Canada and Australia.
Many Protestant Scots (the majority) were worried at developments in Ireland where a civil war took place after 1918 between supporters of Irish Home Rule and Republicanism and British forces. Many Protestant Scots also sympathised with protestants in Northern Ireland who demanded that Northern Ireland remain part of the union with Scotland and England. This actually happended in 1922: Southern Ireland was given Home Rule but Northern Ireland remained British.
The UK government also set up government departments in Scotland such as the Scottish Home and Health department. A new headquarters for British government departments was built in Edinburgh in the 1930s. Scotland seemed to be benefiting from the Union.
St Andrew's House, built by the British government in Edinburgh. Opened in 1939.