Before 1997, it was the safest Conservative seat in Scotland, however in the 1997 Labour landslide, it was won by Jim Murphy who held the seat until 2015. Kirsten Oswald of the Scottish National Party then won the seat in the 2015 SNP landslide with a turnout of 81%. The seat then returned to Conservative control in the 2017 election, when it was won by Conservative candidate Paul Masterton.
The constituency was created by the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 for the 1885 general election. It was abolished for the 1983 general election, when it was partially replaced by the new Eastwood constituency.
The East Renfrewshire constituency was re-established for the 2005 general election, with the same boundaries as the previous Eastwood constituency. Despite the change of name, it is the only constituency in mainland Scotland whose boundaries were unchanged by the 2005 revision of Scottish constituencies.
As created in 1885 the constituency was one of four covering the area of the county of Renfrewshire (except the burgh of Renfrew and the burgh of Port Glasgow, which were components of Kilmarnock Burghs until 1918). The four constituencies were: East Renfrewshire, West Renfrewshire, Paisley and Greenock. Greenock was enlarged and renamed Greenock and Port Glasgow in 1974.