Professor Tom Nairn was one of Scotland's greatest public intellectuals – Angus Robertson

No other modern thinker has had a bigger influence on Scotland’s public debate as the country moves towards independence. Professor Tom Nairn, who has just died at the age of 90, helped shape the understanding and desire for Scottish self-government.

Tom Nairn, pictured at home last year, has died at the age of 90
Tom Nairn, pictured at home last year, has died at the age of 90

His passing has been marked from across the political spectrum. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reacted to the news saying: “Very sorry to hear that Tom Nairn has died. He was one of the greatest thinkers, political theorists and intellectuals that Scotland has ever produced – and certainly one of the leading and most respected voices of civic nationalism.”

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that Tom Nairn was “a great writer, thinker, intellectual and good man. He disagreed with me on many things but his books and scholarship will long be remembered”.

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The modern classic that Tom Nairn is best known for is The Break-up of Britain, which was first published in 1977 and has gone through numerous updates, reprints and editions. As Gordon Guthrie wrote: “The Break-up of Britain will be remembered as the book that taught us to take nationalism seriously, to take constitutionalism seriously and to think institutionally.”

Nairn famously dubbed the United Kingdom as “UKania", a twist on the “Kakania” of Austria-Hungary by Robert Musil in A Man Without Qualities. His works on Scotland, Britain, Europe, the Left and much besides became classics in his own lifetime. With the sad news of his passing, hopefully new generations will be encouraged to learn more from one of our greatest-ever public intellectuals.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary