Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 12:53 UK

Prominent SNP figure dies aged 67

Professor Sir Neil MacCormick (Pic: Laurence Winram, Edinburgh University)
Professor Sir Neil MacCormick died at his home in Edinburgh

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

Professor Sir Neil MacCormick died on Sunday at his home in Edinburgh and is survived by his wife Flora, three daughters and three step-children.

He served as Regius Professor of public law and the law of nature and nations at Edinburgh University for 36 years and as an SNP MEP from 1999 to 2004.

First Minister Alex Salmond said he was "deeply saddened" by his death.

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."

Perhaps no other contemporary scholar has influenced so many areas of legal thinking so deeply over such a long period
Professor Douglas Brodie
Edinburgh University

He said Sir Neil came from one of Scotland's leading political families, and was passionately committed to his party and the cause of Scottish independence.

"Yet his approach was always inclusive, and he strongly believed in advancing Scotland's case by building alliances, and indeed friendships, beyond those of party," the first minister added.

"Neil was a hugely distinguished academic, an outstanding ambassador for Scotland as a Euro MP, but above all a fine human being."

He 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.

'Great wit'

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.

The law expert was knighted in 2001 for his services to scholarship in law.

He was a son of one of the SNP's founders, John MacCormick.

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."

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