Neil MacCormick

Neil MacCormick
Professor Sir
Neil MacCormick
Member of the European Parliament
for Scotland
In office
Personal details
Born 27th May 1941
Died 5th April 2009 (aged 67)
Political party Scottish National Party
Spouse(s) Caroline Rona Barr, Flora Margaret Britain (née Milne)
Relations John MacCormick (father)
Iain MacCormick (brother)
Children Three daughters
Residence Edinburgh
Alma mater Glasgow; Balliol College, Oxford

Sir (Donald) Neil MacCormick, QC, FBA, FRSE (27 May 1941 – 5 April 2009),[1] or just Neil MacCormick, was a legal philosopher and Scottish politician. He was Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the University of Edinburgh from 1972 until 2008. He was a sometime Member of the European Parliament, member of the Convention on the Future of Europe, and officer of the Scottish National Party (SNP).



Born 27 May 1941, he was the son of one of the SNP's founders, John MacCormick. He read for an M.A. in Philosophy and English Literature at the University of Glasgow, before benefiting from a Snell Exhibition and taking the B.A. in Jurisprudence at Balliol College, Oxford. At Oxford, MacCormick came under the influence of Professor H. L. A. Hart, and developed an interest in legal philosophy. In 1982 he was awarded the research degree of LL.D. by Edinburgh. He was a member of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland, of the Economic and Social Research Council, of the Research Council of the European University Institute, and of the European Science Foundation, as well as of various government departmental committees inquiring into matters of public concern. In 1999, MacCormick was appointed Queen's Counsel 'honoris causa', and was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2001 in recognition of services to scholarship in Law. In 2004 he was a recipient of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Royal Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement. He was the recipient of honorary degrees from Queen’s University (Canada), Uppsala University (Sweden), University of Macerata (Italy) and Saarland University (Germany), as well as from Glasgow University, Queen Margaret University and Edinburgh University. He was president of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy.[2] Just after retiring from his chair at Edinburgh University in 2008, MacCormick was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.[3]

Professor MacCormick died on the 5th April 2009.


MacCormick was a Lecturer in Jurisprudence at the University of St Andrews (Queen's College, Dundee) from 1965-67. Following this, he was a Fellow and Tutor in Jurisprudence, Balliol College, Oxford 1968-1972, and thereafter held the Regius Chair of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at Edinburgh University. He was also Leverhulme Research Professor at Edinburgh from 1997–1999, and from 2004-2008. In addition, he held the position of Dean of Law Faculty between 1973–76 and was sometime Provost of the Faculty Group of Law and Social Science, and Vice-Principal for International Affairs.

Professor MacCormick retired from the Regius Chair on 1 February 2008 after completing 36 years as Professor (and later Senior Professor) at Edinburgh University. He was accorded with the honour of a series of lectures in his name by the University's School of Law, and delivered the School of Law's opening Tercentenary Lecture, introduced by former Lord President Lord Cullen, on 18 January 2007. He gave his final lecture as Regius Professor, entitled 'Just Law', on Monday 28 January 2008. He continued thereafter in his role as President of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy.

His successor to the Regius Chair is Professor Neil Walker.

Political career

He was a Scottish Member of the European Parliament, for the SNP, elected in 1999, taking a leave of absence from the University of Edinburgh. Professor MacCormick was a member of the Convention on the Future of Europe from 2002–3, drafting the proposed Constitutional Treaty for the European Union. He was voted Scottish Euro MP of the Year in 2001, 2002 and 2003 at the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards, and retired from elected office in 2004 to complete his Leverhulme Research Professorship at Edinburgh.

In 2007 MacCormick was appointed as a special advisor on Europe to the newly elected SNP-led Scottish Government.[4]

Academic works

MacCormick wrote numerous journal articles and books, concentrating both on Law in a European context and the philosophy of law. Works such as Legal Right and Social Democracy: Essays in Legal and Political Philosophy (1984), Legal Reasoning and Legal Theory (1978), Rhetoric and The Rule of Law (2005) and Institutions of Law (2007) all convey his particular brand of legal philosophy. Legal Reasoning and Legal Theory answers many of the Dworkinian critiques of the Hartian conception of law, and it is seen by some as showing a middle ground between the two.


External links

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