Obituary: Iain MacCormick, SNP Member at Westminster

Iain MacCormick: Politician steeped in the nationalist cause was an articulate and courteous MP
Iain MacCormick: Politician steeped in the nationalist cause was an articulate and courteous MP
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Born: 28 September, 1939 in Glasgow. Died: 19 September, 2014 in Oban, aged 74

IAIN MacCormick was a much respected politician who represented Argyll and Bute in the 1970s with much diligence and devotion. Throughout his life he was steeped in nationalist politics and had campaigned during the recent referendum for a Yes vote – often addressing meetings in Oban. Despite serious ill-health, MacCormick proudly cast his vote last Thursday.

Iain Somerled MacDonald MacCormick was born into a committed political family. His father, Professor John MacCormick, was one of the founders of the SNP, and as a boy MacCormick helped his father at elections when he fought for the SNP at Paisley in 1948 and in the Borders in 1959.

His Labour opponent at the latter election was Sir Tam Dalyell who recalled the election yesterday for The Scotsman. “In fact, Iain and I had diametrically opposing views on what was good for Scotland. But we remained great friends across the political divide and I had many exchanges with father and son during that election.

“Later I got to know him well in the Commons and he was an excellent Member. Iain gently but forcefully put the case for Argyll and Bute. He was much respected by the Labour councillors in the west of Scotland and, to his great credit, never indulged in ya-boo politics which was then so prevalent.”

MacCormick attended Glasgow High School then read English literature at Glasgow University. He served in the Queen’s Own Lowland Yeomanry and then taught at Oban High School where he is fondly remembered by many former pupils.

In 1967 MacCormick was adopted as the prospective SNP candidate for Argyll.

He embraced the local issues with a passion and toured the constituency speaking in halls and in market squares. He also published The Highland Nationalist which highlighted local problems such as housing and fishing. He fought, but was not successful, at the 1970 general election but in 1974 was returned with a good majority.

He was to remain in the Commons until 1979 and spoke mostly on Scottish matters. As a private members bill MacCormick introduced the Divorce Scotland Act 1976. It was a courageous thing to do as he was a Catholic. He argued in favour of updating the divorce law and simplified the procedure regarding the breakdown between husband and wife.

MacCormick was a highly articulate Member of the House who had exquisite manners and was courteous to all members.

He was defeated at the 1974 general election – the SNP was then at a low ebb – and MacCormick admitted that he “felt disillusioned by politics and the political process.” He considered the most effective way to improve devolution for Scotland was to join the breakaway SDP led by Roy Jenkins. He became a founder member of the party.

“I admit” MacCormick confessed, “that upset many friends and colleagues in the SNP.”

He returned to the SNP after such champions as John Smith and Donald Dewar had, in his opinion, reinvigorated the devolution cause. MacCormick was a keen rugby player in his youth and remained a follower of the game all his life. He was also a keen student of local history and a lover of France – where he had a home.

Another passion was sailing and Sir Tam recalls that passion with a special interest. “Iain was a great friend of the MP for Motherwell, Jeremy Bray, and they worked tirelessly to help the sailing community throughout the West of Scotland. Iain was a lovely man. I liked him enormously.”

• The education secretary, Michael Russell, will contribute an appreciation in tomorrow’s Scotsman.