Obituary: Dr Robert McIntyre

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The Independent Online
Robert Douglas McIntyre, physician and politician: born Dalziel, Lanarkshire 15 December 1913; married 1954 Letitia Macleod (one son); MP (Scottish Nationalist), Motherwell and Wishaw 1945; Chairman, Scottish National Party 1948-56, President 1958-80; died Stirling 2 February 1998.

Dr Robert McIntyre is regarded as the father of the SNP. He had the distinction of being the Scottish National Party's first MP and remained for the next 50 years the friend and mentor of its members and leadership.

Towards the end of the Second World War, in April 1945, he won Motherwell at a by- election and held it until the General Election that July; he packed many speeches into his three months at Westminster; those on education and Scotland ring as true today as then.

He took the straightforward view, shared nowadays by more and more voters, that it is absurd for Scotland to be ruled from England, and he welcomed Scotland's entry to the European Union as a full member like Belgium, Ireland, Finland, and other small countries.

The press at the time (never a friend of the SNP) accused him wrongly of refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown. In fact, he could not find the requisite two sponsors. So he walked down to the Speaker's chair alone. The Speaker refused to recognise him. This episode reflected badly on the House of Commons and two sponsors did emerge.

A son of the Manse, McIntyre qualifed as a doctor at Edinburgh University and specialised in chest complaints. He went on to be consultant chest physician for Stirlingshire and Clackmannan from 1951 to 1979. As so often happens, he died of his own speciality.

During the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s he built up the party throughout Scotland, standing as a parliamentary candidate in ery general election from 1945 to 1974 and in a by-election in 1971 - 13 times. He also encouraged activists to stand as candidates. I was one of them. My first political speech was given in his constituency in his presence, and this led to my name being put forward for the by-election at Hamilton in November 1967. He was always willing to give me advice on all political matters, particularly as to how to cope as a lone SNP MP with benchfuls of Labour MPs from Scotland whose behaviour I found despicable.

The SNP now contest every Westminster seat. But it was not always the case. I remember how movingly McIntyre spoke at a meeting in a room in Stirling packed with SNP candidates. "Once I had to use all the arts of persuasion to find one man or one woman to stand so that I would not be our only candidate. Now when I look around this room, for the first time I know in my heart we shall win Scotland free." Punch once carried a cartoon of him brandishing a sword with the caption, "McIntirely Alone".

McIntyre had an intense love of sailing. He was known to all in the Scottish National Party as "Doc Mac", and admired by us and by thousands of Scots for his dour struggle for our independence through all the wilderness years.

- Winifred M. Ewing