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Law expert Sir Neil MacCormick dies

6 April 2009

A law expert and prominent Scottish Nationalist has died from cancer at the age of 67.

Professor Sir Neil MacCormick’s death was announced "with enormous sadness and regret" by Edinburgh University, where for 36 years he was Regius Professor of Public Law.

He died on Sunday at his home in Edinburgh and is survived by his wife Flora, three daughters and three stepchildren.

In addition to his university post, he was an SNP MEP from 1999 to 2004. First Minister Alex Salmond said he was "deeply saddened" by Sir Neil’s death.

First Minister's tribute

Mr Salmond said: “He was a man of immense warmth, intellect and breadth of knowledge, and Scotland's public life is greatly the poorer for his passing.”

He added: “Neil was a hugely distinguished academic, an outstanding ambassador for Scotland as a Euro MP, but above all a fine human being.”

Sir Neil came from one of Scotland's leading political families. His father John MacCormick, was one of the petitioners before the Court of Session in 1953 who unsuccessfully argued that for the Queen to adopt the title "Elizabeth II" would contravene the Act of Union. Sir Neil himself stood as a Westminster parliamentary candidate in five elections between 1979 and 1999, and served as an SNP Euro MP from 1999 to 2004.


He retired from Europe to return to academic work in 2004 and was appointed as a special adviser to Alex Salmond after the 2007 SNP election victory.

He was vice president of the SNP from 1999 until 2004 and last year marked the 80th anniversary of the National Party of Scotland, founded by his father.

Sir Neil was knighted in 2001 for his services to scholarship in law.

He was also one of the three academics who carried out an investigation which led to Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe being stripped of his Edinburgh University honorary degree.

Professor Douglas Brodie, head of Edinburgh University's school of law, said: “His death will bring great sadness to many in the world of education, law and politics and to his many students, colleagues, admirers and friends.

“He possessed a staggering intellect, great wit and a wonderful, dry sense of humour, but most of all a warmth and spirit that touched all who knew him.

“Perhaps no other contemporary scholar has influenced so many areas of legal thinking so deeply over such a long period.”