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John P. Mackintosh (1929 - 1978)

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of his death, we look at the life of John P. Mackintosh - politician, professor, writer, and proponent of Scottish devolution.

John P. Mackintosh

John Pitcairn Mackintosh (24 August 1929 – 30 July 1978) was a Labour Party politician known for his defence of devolution and the concept of dual nationality; that Scots could be both Scottish and British.

Born In Simla, India, and brought up in Edinburgh, he was educated at Melville College, the University of Edinburgh, Balliol College, the University of Oxford, and Princeton University.


Mackintosh contested Edinburgh Pentlands in 1959 and Berwick and East Lothian in 1964, eventually being elected the Member of Parliament for the latter in 1966. In the February 1974 election, however, he lost his seat to the Conservative Party, albeit for only a few months, regaining it in October of the same year.

Mackintosh was a fierce proponent of devolution in Scotland, and famously said in the House of Commons in 1976 : "People in Scotland want a degree of government for themselves. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise the institutions to meet these demands." This quote is engraved on the threshold of the Donald Dewar Room in the Scottish Parliament. 


Mackintosh was Senior Lecturer in Government at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria from 1961-63, and then became Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde.

Later in his life, he became Chair and Professor of Politics at the University of Edinburgh, where he managed to balance his duties in the House of Commons with teaching students, a role he greatly enjoyed. He was a strong supporter of formal lectures and would deliver his remarks written out all in longhand. This style of presentation was popular with students: during his last year of life he taught an introductory undergraduate course on political philosophy in 20 lectures, and at the end of this series the students gave him a standing ovation.


Mackintosh wrote for the academic press and newspapers, as well as books, including "The Devolution of Power." Perhaps his most famous book was "The British Cabinet" - a detailed study of the governmental institution - published in 1968. Other works include: "The Government and Politics of Britain" (1970), "Nigerian Government and Politics" (1968); and "British Prime Ministers in the Twentieth Century" (1977). 

Mackintosh also had a regular column in both The Times and The Scotsman newspapers, and appeared on television and at public lectures. He was also the editor of The Political Quarterly, and chairman of the Hansard Society.

John P. Mackintosh died in office in 1978, aged 48. He is buried in the churchyard in Gifford, East Lothian.

Memorial Lecture

To mark the 40th Anniversary of the death of John P. Mackintosh, this year's Memorial Debate on 6 September - held jointly by the University of Edinburgh, the John P. Mackintosh Lecture Committee and the Scottish Parliament - will comprise of a panel debate entitled 'Where now for democracy?', chaired by the Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh MSP:

John P. Mackintosh Memorial Debate

Related links

John P. Mackintosh