The 1918 Reform Act, redistribution and Scottish politics

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This essay examines the effect of the 1918 Representation of the People Act on Scottish politics. It notes the extensive addition to the electorate with the enfranchisement of adult males and most women over the age of 30 years. The main focus of the essay is on the effect of the provisions of the act in terms of the redistribution of seats in Scotland. Although the overall level of Scottish representation increased from 70 to 71 seats, there was a profound shift from the rural areas of the north and south to the industrial areas of west central Scotland and the city of Glasgow, which was awarded a further eight seats. In addition, the majority of the ‘Districts of Burghs’, a legacy of the Union of 1707, were abolished. It is argued that these changes created new political conditions in Scotland which favoured the Labour Party in the interwar period, and especially in the 1920s. The arguments – economic, historical, and political – deployed in defence of seats scheduled for abolition by the Boundary Commission are analysed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-115
JournalParliamentary History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2018


  • Borders
  • Districts of Burghs
  • electoral reform
  • Glasgow
  • Highlands
  • Labour Party
  • Liberal party
  • Scotland
  • Representation of the People Act 1918
  • redistribution


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