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Dr Jack Brand

Political scientist

Political scientist

Born August 4, 1934; Died November 23, 2013.

Jack Brand, who has died aged 69, was a respected political scientist and one of the first academic chroniclers of the SNP. His 1978 book The National Movement in Scotland aimed to explain why the SNP had become such a prominent factor in British politics in the 1970s. Lucid, well researched and full of original insights, it remained a key text on Scottish Nationalism for the rest of Mr Brand's life.

Although the book was published just as support for the SNP appeared to have peaked, Mr Brand judged the party had broken through in electoral terms not as a result of North Sea oil or increasing support for devolution, but through "a gradual restructuring of the political consciousness of the Scottish electorate in such a way that they began to perceive themselves as Scots in terms of their political interests".

And given the SNP had long positioned itself as the party which stood for Scotland, it was the electoral beneficiary of that shift. "In doing so they did not necessarily agree with the policies of the party in detail or even know about them," wrote Mr Brand of Scottish voters. "More important than anything else was their identification of their own position in political terms."

Jack Brand was born on August 4, 1934, in Aberdeen. After gaining a first-class degree in philosophy from the city's university, he spent some time studying in Uppsala, developing a life-long interest in Scandinavian politics and society, before completing his PhD at the London School of Economics. In the mid-1960s Mr Brand joined Strathclyde's Department of Politics as a lecturer.

By 1970 Mr Brand had been promoted to senior lecturer and was also busy with local politics (he was a former chairman of the Glasgow City Labour Party), visiting academic posts (including the US and Scandinavia) and helping to establish the Glasgow Community Relations Board, a ground-breaking initiative designed to foster dialogue across community and religious divides. Although an atheist, Mr Brand was deeply respectful of others' spiritual beliefs.

Twice in the 1970s, Mr Brand was seconded as director of the Strathclyde Area Survey, an ESRC-backed study of the region's sociological and political features, as well as levels of satisfaction with local government. His research interests were wide, including local democracy (he devoted particular attention to community councils), urban politics, political behaviour and of course Scottish Nationalism. Personally, he gradually moved from supporting Labour to the SNP.

When the SNP lost nine MPs and sank to 17% of the vote at the general election of 1979 the party, as Mr Brand later observed, was left "in total, snarling, self-destructive disarray". At this point, he also became more directly involved in the National Movement about which he had written just a year earlier, becoming a founder member of a left-wing Nationalist faction called the 79 Group. At its launch Mr Brand argued its objective ought to be socialism, rejecting Stephen Maxwell's suggestion of "radical democracy" as too opaque.

Although the 79 Group mainly comprised young SNP activists such as Alex Salmond, Kenny MacAskill and Roseanna Cunningham (all future Scottish Government ministers), Mr Brand formed part of a second, smaller group of academics such as the historian Owen Dudley Edwards and the defence specialist Gavin Kennedy. As a result, Mr Brand enjoyed a ringside seat at one of his main research interests.

He charted the SNP's ideological and tactical shifts in various papers throughout the 1980s, arguing the development of British politics during this period made it almost inevitable that the SNP should move to the left. While the approach of Nationalists until the late 1960s had been relatively apolitical, refusing to take clear right or left stances, by the 1980s, as Mr Brand wrote, the "most striking change [was] that the SNP is now a party with left-wing policies, often more radical than those of the Labour Party".

Far from tribal in his own political activities, Mr Brand also became the first chairman of the cross-party Campaign for a Scottish Assembly (CSA), later telling colleagues his principal objective had been to ensure Labour did not abandon its commitment to devolution in the aftermath of the 1979 referendum. In the late 1980s, he moved to Strathclyde's Department of Government and, in the mid-1990s, became a Reader.

In 1992 Mr Brand published British Parliamentary Parties: Policy and Power in which he examined the rarely studied interplay between political parties and the British legislature. While many academics neglected the role of party activists, Mr Brand regarded them as unsung heroes, an essential part of the political process and therefore worthy of study. In 1997 Brand co-authored How Scotland Votes, an analysis of the 1992 general election.

It was to be Mr Brand's last published work before he retired from Strathclyde University in September 1999, just months after the Scottish Parliament for which he had long campaign ed came into existence. In retirement he completed a degree in Fine Art at Glasgow University and was also involved in an Episcopalian Church project to help former drug addicts.

Colleagues remember Brand as "witty and fun", very much - as one put it - "the cultured European". His encyclopedic knowledge also came in handy when one acquaintance phoned a friend on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Mr Brand got the question right. Alzheimer's marred his final years. He is survived by his ex-wife and daughter

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