Monday, April 06, 2009

Prof Neil MacCormick

Like all nationalists, I’m saddened to learn that Professor Sir Neil MacCormick lost his battle with cancer at the weekend.

Prof Neil was of that rarest breed – MEP, Emeritus Professor, renowned expert on constitutional law, member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, bagpiper – a successful academic politician with hinterland to compliment his outstanding intellectual achievements.

I will miss his warmth, wisdom and the incredible lightness with which he carried his learning. Particularly, I remember an evening in the Edinburgh SNP club where he spoke to us on the emerging EU constitution, which he had played a key role in helping to formulate.

We approached from slightly different standpoints - he passionately pro-EU, myself perhaps less so. His willingness to engage in a courteous philosophical meander with a truculent young pup on the pros and cons of the extent of the accountability which existed between Commission and Parliament, is something that will always stay with me.

It was that courtesy which was extended to political friend and ‘foe’ alike which I think will be missed most. His was an approach to politics which placed foremost a desire to engage with and convert those with whom he disagreed, rather than bludgeon them with partisan assertion. He was also an uproariously funny speaker, especially in private.

The lament at times like this is that the country is a poorer place for someone’s passing, or that we’ll never see their likes again. In mourning his death, we should also celebrate a life lived well and the outstanding contributions he made to law, politics and his country.

Scotland is a better place for the optimism, scholarship and devotion to sharing knowledge which marked his life. Those who knew him, even if like myself only slightly, can say that they are far the richer for having done so.


Mr Eugenides said...

Agreed, Richard. I "knew" him in his capacity as a jurisrpudential writer rather than, primarily, as a politician. I admired him greatly.

Lallands Peat Worrier said...

My own experiences and feelings echo your treatment Richard. Horrible to lose such a grand old man so young.

pat kane said...

I remember being asked to come to a seminar by Neil in the late eighties, topic unannounced - and it just happened to be a seminar with Jurgen Habermas, at that time (and in this) the foremost social philosopher in Europe, and possibly the world. Intellectually, the most exciting afternoon of my life - and so elegantly and intelligently enabled by this natural Scottish Nationalist. We honour his memory by continuing the deep seriousness of his (as Habermas would put it) "constitutional patriotism". Condolences.

Scott @ loveandgarbage said... has details of the memorial service Richard, as well as an on-line book of condolence.


Richard Thomson said...

Cheers, Scott. I'll take a look tomorrow.