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Sir Neil MacCormick

Legal Scholar and Politician
Born 27 May 1941.
Died 5 April 2009.

An internationally recognised legal philosopher and politician, his works were hugely important in our understanding of the role of law in shaping society.

Connection to the University of Glasgow: Alumnus, Honorary Graduate
GU Degrees: MA, 1963; LLD, 1999;

Discover more legal scholar; politician on the University of Glasgow Story website


The following achievement is associated with Sir Neil MacCormick:

Legal philosophy
Neil MacCormick was one of the world’s leading philosophers of law and was the constitutional authority behind the upsurge of Scottish nationalism in the late 20th century.


The following honours are associated with this person:


Sir (Donald) Neil MacCormick (1941-2009) was a graduate of the University who became a distinguished legal scholar and politician. He also served as a Scottish National Party member of the European Parliament (1999-2004) and Vice-President of the party (1999-2004).

Born in 1941, his father John MacCormick, was one of the founding fathers of the Scottish Nationalist movement. Neil attended the High School of Glasgow before matriculating at the University of Glasgow to study English and Philosophy. An outstanding student, he graduated with First Class Honours in 1963. A Snell exhibition took him to Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated BA in Jurisprudence. His academic career began at St Andrews (1965-67), followed by a period at Balliol before appointment to the Chair of Public Law at the University of Edinburgh in 1972 where he made a very significant contribution to legal philosophy.

He engaged in the major disputes of his time concerning legal reasoning between H L A Hart's concept of law and Ronald Dworkin's, emerging with his own highly regarded critique. He was appointed Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1999 and was knighted in 2001 for his services to scholarship. He was also the recipient of many public honours, including the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Gold Medal in 2004. He was a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His many honorary doctorates included one from the University of Glasgow in 1991.

As an MEP and member of the Convention on the future of Europe he was involved in drafting the proposed Constitutional Treaty. He was also voted Scottish Euro MP of the year in 2001, 2002 and 2003. He retired from the Parliament in 2004 to return to research and was able to complete the last of three volumes of his major work on legal theory. He retired from his post as Regius Professor of Public Law at Edinburgh University in 2008 and passed away in April 2009.