He lost his seat in the 2015 General Election to Richard Arkless of the Scottish National Party. In 1974 he began work as a plant operative at Imperial Chemical Industries and remained with the company until his election to Westminster. He was elected as a branch chairman within the Transport and General Workers Union 1979-1985.
In 1986 he was elected as a councillor to the Dumfries and Galloway Regional Council, and was the Labour Group Leader 1995-1997.
Between 1988 and 1996 he also served as a councillor on the Annandale and Eskdale District Council. He was selected to contest the seemingly safe Conservative and Unionist seat of Dumfries at the 1997 United Kingdom General Election.
The Member of Parliament of 33 years, Hector Monro retired and the Conservative and Unionist candidate was Struan Stevenson. The Conservative Party was completely wiped out in Scotland in 1997, and Russell Brown was elected as the Labour Member of Parliament for Dumfries with a majority of 9,643.
He made his maiden speech on 7 July 1997.
He was made a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the House of Lords, Gareth Wyn Williams of Mostyn in 2002. When Williams died in 2003 and he continued in the same position with his successor Valerie Amos. Brown resigned from the government in 2003 in protest at the proposed military intervention in Iraq, stepping down from his position as parliamentary aide to Lord Mostyn, leader of the House of Lords.
Brown subsequently "voted against saying that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established" and was absent for the vote to declare war.
In the major redistribution of Scottish seats, his constituency of Dumfries was abolished and the new seat of Dumfries and Galloway was created. At the 2005 General Election he faced the sitting Conservative Member of Parliament for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale Peter Duncan.
Brown was elected with a majority of 2,922. Following the election he became the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Darling and his successor Jim Murphy.
In the 2010 General Election Russell Brown was again challenged by Conservative Peter Duncan, who is now a councillor on Dumfries and Galloway Council.
Despite Labour losing the election nationally, Russell Brown"s local popularity meant he almost tripled his majority to 7,449. In October 2010 Russell Brown was appointed to Labour"s front bench as a Shadow Defence Minister. His brief is Shadow Minister for International Security Strategy.
Brown lost his seat in the 2015 General Election, polling third (13,982 votes) behind the Scottish Conservatives" Finlay Carson (16,926 votes) and the Scottish National Party"s Richard Arkless (23,440 votes).
52nd United Kingdom Parliament. 53rd United Kingdom Parliament. 54th United Kingdom Parliament.
55th United Kingdom Parliament]
He is former Member of Parliament for Dumfriesshire (1997-2005) and Dumfries and Galloway (2005-2015).
Russell Brown became a Member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in 1999, and left the committee after the 2001 General Election. He was also a member of the Public Bill Committee for the Defence Reform Acting.