Robert McIntyre (politician)

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Robert McIntyre
President of the Scottish National Party
In office
May 1958 – May 1980
Preceded byTom Gibson
Succeeded byWilliam Wolfe
Leader of the Scottish National Party
In office
May 1947 – May 1956
Preceded byBruce Watson
Succeeded byJames Halliday
Member of Parliament
for Motherwell
In office
12 April 1945 – 5 July 1945
Preceded byJames Walker
Succeeded byAlexander Anderson
Personal details
Born(1913-12-15)15 December 1913
Motherwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Died2 February 1998(1998-02-02) (aged 84)
Stirling, Scotland
Political partyScottish National Party (1940–1998)
Other political
Labour (1936–1940)
Letitia Macleod
(m. 1954)
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
University of Glasgow

Robert Douglas McIntyre (15 December 1913 – 2 February 1998) was a Scottish physician and a Scottish National Party politician and Member of Parliament.

McIntyre studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow, and worked as a GP and a consultant pulmonologist. He came to political prominence in 1945 when he won the Motherwell by-election, becoming the SNP's first ever Member of Parliament.[1]

McIntyre served as the Leader of the Scottish National Party from 1947 to 1956, and as President of the SNP from 1958 to 1980. He was the Provost of Stirling from 1967 to 1975. Known affectionately as "Doc Mac", he was often referred to as the "Father of the SNP".[2]

Early life and medical career[edit]

McIntyre was born in Motherwell, the son of John Ebenezer McIntyre, a minister of the United Free Church of Scotland. He was educated at Hamilton Academy and Daniel Stewart's College.[1] After a short period working at an accountants' office, McIntyre managed to acquire the necessary qualifications to attend the University of Edinburgh, where he initially studied Chemistry, before switching to study Medicine.[2]

At university, he was Chairman of the University Labour Party and an active member of Edinburgh University Socialist Society. He also served as the University Labour Party's delegate on the Edinburgh Trades and Labour Council in 1935.[1][2]

In December 1938, McIntyre graduated with an MB ChB, and joined a general practice in Warwick, England as an assistant. Following brief spells as a General practitioner in Musselburgh and Polmont, he served as a house surgeon at Stirling Royal Infirmary, and then as House Physician at Bangour Village Hospital.[2] In this period, he developed an interest in the area of public health and studied at the University of Glasgow to gain a Diploma in Public Health. After qualifying, McIntyre was appointed as Senior Resident at Hawkhead Hospital in Paisley; a hospital for infectious diseases.[1][2] The early-1940s witnessed a dramatic increase in the confirmed cases of diphtheria in Scotland. McIntyre was in charge of a major campaign of diphtheria immunisation directed at Paisley's schoolchildren, visiting every school in the area to persuade the children and their parents to get themselves vaccinated against the lethal disease.[1]

Robert McIntyre then took up a position under Glasgow Corporation's Department of Health as Port Boarding Medical Officer, based at Greenock.[1][2] This involved his being part of a team which had the responsibility of ensuring that ships were free of infections before they proceeded up the River Clyde to Glasgow, and also liaising with the vessels' medical staff.[2]

Following his defeat at the 1945 general election, he served for a short period as a locum GP on North Uist, before obtaining a position with Stirling County Council as a Tuberculosis Officer responsible to the Medical Officer for Health.[1][2] With the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, McIntyre was appointed as Consultant Chest Physician at Stirling Royal Infirmary. He would remain in the post until his retirement.[1]

Political career[edit]

McIntyre had joined the Labour Party in 1936, and was active in Labour politics at Edinburgh University.[3] However, he had become increasingly disillusioned with the Labour Party's commitment to Scottish home rule and had been disappointed when he and his fellow students at the Edinburgh University Labour Party had sent a resolution to the Scottish Council of the Labour Party, only to be informed that the council was not involved in the formation of Labour Party policy. Steeped in Scottish history and culture, he believed in the right of small nations to self-government.

In 1940, McIntyre joined the Scottish National Party and became the party's membership secretary when it was still headed by John MacCormick, but he resisted MacCormick's later attempts to change the SNP from supporting a policy of full Scottish independence to supporting a modicum of Home Rule. MacCormick would leave the SNP in 1942 from which point McIntyre became the party's leading figure, serving as National Secretary (1942-1945) and as vice-chairman (1945-1947), before being chosen as Chairman (leader) of the SNP in May 1947.

On 13 April 1945, shortly before the end of World War II, McIntyre won the Motherwell by-election, with a narrow majority of 617 votes over his Labour opponent.[4] He made history as the first SNP candidate to be elected as a Member of Parliament. Upon arriving at Parliament, he had difficulty finding the customary two sponsors to allow him to take his seat, as members did not want to break party loyalties. Two reluctant sponsors were found but McIntyre chose to present himself to the Speaker alone, later writing "I very clearly stated to the people of Motherwell and Wishaw that I would give no allegiance to the London-controlled parties". A vote to waive the rule was lost, and eventually he accepted the sponsorship of James Barr and Alexander Sloan "under protest".

He lost the seat only three months later at the 1945 general election, to the Labour Party. He then returned to his medical practice, working in Stirling Royal Infirmary to treat and prevent tuberculosis. However, he continued to stand at every subsequent general election, up to October 1974.

After McIntyre stood down as party leader in 1956, he was elected as President of the Scottish National Party, holding this office until 1980. In 1956, he was also elected as a member of Stirling Burgh Council, a position he held until 1975. He was Provost of Stirling from 1967 to 1975. McIntyre was first (and last) vice-president of the Celtic League (from 1961 to 1971). Gwynfor Evans was president at the time.

In 1962 he was nominated by the Scottish Nationalist Association as a candidate for Rector of the University of Glasgow,[5] where he finished second behind Albert Luthuli who was then the President of the African National Congress.[6]

Personal life[edit]

McIntyre married Letitia Macleod in 1954 and they had one son together.[7]

Robert McIntyre died on 2 February 1998, aged 84.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h [1] Richard J. Finlay, 'McIntyre, Robert Douglas (1913-1998)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h [2] Dick Douglas, 'At The Helm: The Life & Times of Dr. Robert D McIntyre', NPFI Publications
  3. ^ "Dr Robert McIntyre". The Glasgow Herald. 3 February 1998. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  4. ^ "Scots Nationalist Wins Motherwell By-Election". The Glasgow Herald. 14 April 1945. p. 2. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  5. ^ "Rectorial Election. Candidates with similar attractions. Dr McIntyre and Mr Lutuli". The Glasgow Herald. 8 October 1962. p. 7. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Mr Luthuli Elected – After a "Riot". 32 Students arrested at Gilmorehill". The Glasgow Herald. 23 October 1962. p. 1. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  7. ^ Winifred M. Ewing (4 February 1998). "Obituary: Dr Robert McIntyre". The Independent. Retrieved 8 January 2022.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Motherwell
April 1945July 1945
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by National Secretary of the Scottish National Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman (Leader) of the Scottish National Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Scottish National Party
Succeeded by