Scotland and Westminster: The Unionism of Walter Elliot (1888–1958)

  • Paul Ward


Walter Elliot was the leader of Scottish Conservatism in the 1930s. He was a Lowland Scot, concerned with the affairs of state of the United Kingdom as an imperial power. Within Scotland, he was most concerned with Roxburghshire in the rural Borders where he lived, Lanark where he had business interests, and the Glasgow constituency of Kelvingrove, which he represented as a Member of Parliament for most of his political career. In the United Kingdom, his concerns resided at Westminster, where he was an MP from 1918 to 1957 (with only two brief interludes outside parliament in 1923 to 1924 and 1945 to 1946). He held a variety of government posts. He was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of Health for Scotland in 1923, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland between 1924 and 1929, and Financial Secretary to the Treasury between 1931 and 1932. In 1932 he was promoted to the cabinet as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Between 1936 and 1938, still in the cabinet, he returned to the Scottish Office, this time as Secretary of State. In 1938 he was appointed as Minister of Health, a post that he held until the fall of Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister in May 1940. While he was in Churchill’s shadow cabinet in the late 1940s he was not offered any government post commensurate with his seniority and instead he played the part of backbench elder statesman until his death in 1958.


Labour Party Government Post Political Career Irish Immigration Scottish Home 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Most of the biographical details given here come from Colin Coote, A Companion of Honour: The Story of Walter Elliot (London: Collins, 1965).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For Lowland Scottishness see Colin Kidd, ‘Race, Empire and the Limits of Nineteenth-Century Scottish Nationhood’, Historical Journal, 46 (2003), pp. 873–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 14.
    Christopher Harvie, ‘Scottish Politics’, in A. Dickson and J.H. Treble (eds), People and Society in Scotland Volume III1914–1990 (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1992), p. 247.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    George Pottinger, The Secretaries of State for Scotland1926–76 (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1979), p. 65.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    Duke of Atholl, Narrative of the Scottish National War Memorial Scheme (Edinburgh: privately published, 1923), p. 3. The London war museum became the Imperial War Museum, marking the imperial rather than English contribution to the war.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    See Elizabeth M.M. Taylor, The Politics of Walter Elliot 1929–1936, unpublished PhD, Edinburgh, 1979.Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    John Ramsden, The Age of Balfour and Baldwin 1902–1940: A History of the Conservative Party (London: Longman, 1978), pp. 208–15.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    Ross McKibbin, ‘Class and Conventional Wisdom: The Conservative Party and the “Public” in Inter-war Britain’, in his Ideologies of Class (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 259–93.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    Richard Finlay, ‘Scottish Conservatism and Unionism since 1918’, in Martin Francis and Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska (eds), The Conservatives and British Society (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1996), p. 116.Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    G. Ward-Smith, ‘Baldwin and Scotland: More than Englishness’, Contemporary British History, 15 (2001), pp. 61–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 23.
    Walter Elliot, Toryism and the Twentieth Century (London: Philip Allan, 1927), p. 4.Google Scholar
  12. 29.
    Graeme Morton, Unionist-Nationalism: Governing Urban Scotland, 1830–1860 (East Linton: Tuckwell 1999).Google Scholar
  13. 33.
    Hutchinson, I.G.C., Scottish Politics in the Twentieth Century (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 41–2.Google Scholar
  14. 34.
    See Philip Williamson, National Crisis and National Government: British Politics, the Economy and Empire, 1926–1932 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) for the way in which the United Kingdom’s governments considered the economic crisis in imperial terms.Google Scholar
  15. 37.
    Richard J. Finlay, ‘National Identity in Crisis: Politicians, Intellectuals and the “End of Scotland”, 1920–1939,’ History, 79 (1994), pp. 242–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 40.
    For arguments against the inevitabilist view of appeasement explained here see R.A.C. Parker, Chamberlain and Appeasement: British Policy and the Coming of the Second World War (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 47.
    Baffy: The Diaries of Blanche Dugdale 1936–1947, ed. N.A. Rose (Mitchell: London, 1973), p. 99.Google Scholar
  18. 49.
    See Christopher Hill, Cabinet Decisions on Foreign Policy: The British Experience October1938–June 1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. and A.R. Peters, Anthony Eden at the Foreign Office 1931–1938 (Aldershot: Gower, 1986).Google Scholar
  20. 53.
    Gordon F. Millar, ‘Elliot, Walter Elliot (1888–1958)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [accessed 20 October 2004: http://www.oxforddnb/view/article/33003].Google Scholar
  21. 54.
    Robert Rhodes James (ed.), Chips: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon (London: Weidenfeld, 1993), p. 248.Google Scholar
  22. 55.
    John Foster, ‘The Twentieth Century, 1914–1979’, in R.A. Houston and W.W.J. Knox (eds), The New Penguin History of Scotland From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (London: Penguin, 2002), p. 450.Google Scholar
  23. 57.
    The broadcasts are collected together in Walter Elliot, Long Distance (London: Constable, London, 1943).Google Scholar
  24. 63.
    John Ramsden, The Age of Churchill and Eden 1940–1957, A History of the Conservative Party (London: Longman, 1995), p. 242.Google Scholar
  25. 66.
    Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation (London: Pimlico, 1994), pp. 11–54; Fry, The Scottish Empire, p. 386.Google Scholar
  26. 67.
    Walter Elliot, ‘Scottish Politics,’ in the Duke of Atholl (ed.), A Scotsman’s Heritage (London: Alexander Maclehose, 1932), pp. 58–9.Google Scholar
  27. 68.
    John M. MacKenzie, ‘“The Second City of the Empire”: Glasgow — Imperial Municipality,’ in Felix Driver and David Gilbert (eds), Imperial Cities: Landscape, Display and Identity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), pp. 215–37.Google Scholar
  28. 72.
    See, for example, Norman Davies, The Isles: A History (Basingstoke: Papermac, 2000), p. 882.Google Scholar
  29. 73.
    Richard Finlay, ‘The Rise and Fall of Popular Imperialism in Scotland 1850–1950’, Scottish Geographical Magazine, 113 (1997), pp. 19, 21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 74.
    Stephen Constantine, ‘“Bringing the Empire Alive”: The Empire Marketing Board and Imperial Propaganda 1926–33’, in John M. MacKenzie (ed.), Imperialism and Popular Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986), p. 200.Google Scholar
  31. 81.
    Walter Elliot, ‘Speech to Federal Assembly, Salisbury’, 10 September 1954, Walter Elliot Papers, NLS, Acc. 6721/10/3.Google Scholar
  32. 82.
    For Livingstone in imperialist context see Richard J. Finlay, A Partnership for Good? Scottish Politics and the Union since 1880 (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1997), chapter 1.Google Scholar
  33. 83.
    Colin MacArthur, ‘The Dialectic of National Identity: The Glasgow Empire Exhibition of 1938,’ in Tony Bennet, Colin Mercer and Janet Woollacott (eds), Popular Culture and Social Relations (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1986), pp. 117–34. Quote from p. 130.Google Scholar
  34. 95.
    See John Darwin, Britain and Decolonization: The Retreat from Empire in the Post-War World (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988), pp. 183–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 98.
    Walter Elliot, ‘Speech to Federal Assembly, Salisbury’, 10 September 1954, Walter Elliot Papers, NLS, Acc. 6721/10/3.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Paul Ward 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Ward

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations