Lawyer, educator and nationalist politician. Born in Glasgow, the son of John MacCormick (1904-61), one of the founders of the Scottish National Party. MacCormick was academically gifted, becoming a dux of the High School of Glasgow in 1959. He went on to obtain a First in Philosophy and English Literature from the University of Glasgow (1963) and then another First in Law from Balliol College. While in Oxford, he was President of the the Union (1965).
He took up a lectureship in Jurisprudence at Queens College, Dundee, in 1965 returning to become a Fellow of Balliol College in 1967. In 1972, he accepted the Regius Chair of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the University of Edinburgh, at the remarkably young age of 31, becoming one of Scotland's best-known academic lawyers. He was called to the English bar in 1971 and was awarded the honorary rank of Queen's Counsel in England in 1999.
Having fought numerous elections for the Scottish National Party, he served as a member of the European Parliament (1999 - 2004). He was also a Vice-President of the SNP, a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the British Academy. MacCormick was awarded honorary doctorates from universities in Canada, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and from the University of Glasgow, Queen Margaret University (2003) and the University of Edinburgh (2008). He was knighted in 2001 and received the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Royal Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in 2004.
MacCormick made regular appearances on television and radio. An expert in the field of Jurisprudence (legal philosophy), he also concerned himself with human rights and constitutional affairs. He argued that Scotland would automatically remain a member of the European Union if it were to become independent.
A flamboyant yet modest character, he will best be remembered for his energy and outstanding contribution to academic life in Scotland and beyond. Politicians Alex Salmond and John Swinney spoke at his memorial service, while the University of Edinburgh established the MacCormick Lectures in his memory.