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Let the People Decide
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Publication Date
02 August 2010
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Let the People Decide

The Autobiography of Dennis Canavan
by Dennis Canavan - Find out more about the author

'Dennis Canavan is a conviction politician. He is also a human being who has suffered grief such as most of us are not called upon to endure. His autobiography is much more than the all-too-common self-justifying political memoir … Canavan’s memoir deserves to be read by those who are far from being political anoraks' – Sir Tam Dayell, The Oldie

Born in Cowdenbeath in 1942, Dennis Canavan was educated at St. Bride’s and St. Columba’s Schools in Cowdenbeath, and at the University of Edinburgh. He worked as a schoolteacher from 1968 until 1974 and was Assistant Head of Holyrood High School, Edinburgh, at the time of his first election to Parliament.

Throughout his 33-year political career as a councillor, MP and MSP Dennis Canavan has been recognised as one of the most colourful politicians to grace the halls of Holyrood.

In 1975, his attempt to introduce a bill to abolish corporal punishment in schools went on to play a major part in the European Commission of Human Rights which put an end to the practice. He then became Chair of the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Group from 1980-1981. A keen supporter of devolution, he also gained recognition for voting against the Blair Government’s proposals to cut benefits for single-parent children, abolish student grants and introduce tuition fees, as well as successfully amending parliament’s landmark right-to-roam legislation to extend access to the Queen’s estates, and introducing a bill to make St Andrew’s Day a national holiday.

When he announced his retirement before the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, he received an ovation in the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament.

An enthusiastic sportsman and a popular constituency MSP, the father-of-five has also endured immense personal heartache, losing his first son, Paul, to skin cancer in 1989, and his 35-year-old son Dennis to a brain tumour in 2006. His eldest son, Mark, died in Australia at the age of 41 in March 2007, after a three-year battle with motor neurone disease.

Courting praise and controversy in equal measure throughout his career, Canavan’s contribution to public life was honoured when Falkirk Council decided to set up a new educational scholarship in his name. This autobiography chronicles an extraordinary and fascinating life of devoted service to Scottish and UK politics.