NEIL Davidson devoted his life to fighting a system responsible for inequality and oppression. On Sunday, May 3, Scotland lost a great thinker and fighter for a more just and humane world.

I knew Neil for more than 33 years. He was a great friend and comrade who was kind and generous with his time.

Neil was born in 1957 in Aberdeen to Dougie and Margaret. His younger sister, Shona, followed. After attending Aberdeen Grammar School, Neil started work as a clerical officer with Grampian Health Board. He became a policy adviser for the Scottish Government in 2008.

Neil was a socialist and a highly innovative Marxist historian. He was the author of many books and essays. In The Origins of Scottish Nationhood, Neil demolished the idea of a timeless Scottish national consciousness stretching back to the Declaration of Arbroath. He pointed out that Scottish national feeling emerged alongside British national consciousness. Discovering The Scottish Revolution was awarded both the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher memorial prize and the Saltire Society’s Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun award.

Neil was awarded an Open University degree in 1992. He and his friend and comrade Alex Law refused to wear the “archaic” graduation gown. Neil became an OU lecturer in sociology, encouraging many working-class students to undertake a degree. His writing allowed him to embark on a second career as an academic in 2008 at Strathclyde University and from 2013 at Glasgow University.

He challenged the Scottish intellectual giants Tom Nairn and Alasdair Macintyre. Along with numerous journal articles, he published four collections of essays. Discovering The Scottish Revolution led to his magisterial How Revolutionary Were The Bourgeois Revolutions? Neil’s reputation began to reach an international audience and his work was translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. His academic work was always linked to his political commitment. He was an active trade unionist throughout his working life.

In 1999, Neil was a founding member of the Edinburgh Campaign Against War in Europe (ECAWE). The group mobilised for demonstrations, one of which was addressed by the newly elected Nicola Sturgeon MSP. It helped lay the basis for the hugely successful Stop the War Coalition in the city.

While Neil supported Scottish independence, he did so from an internationalist perspective. He had no truck with sentimental Scottish civic nationalism that posited Scotland as inherently more progressive. He challenged this in the books Neoliberal Scotland and No Problem Here.

Neil was one of the key intellectual influences in the development of the Radical Independence Campaign. He went on to become a founding member of Conter – a left-wing group based in Scotland – and RS21 based in England.

Neil maintained a devoted partnership with his beloved Cathy. They loved to have guests stay over to enjoy their food and company. Neil would often entertain with his dry Doric wit.

He was passionate about music, theatre, film, literature and the arts. He could hold his own in conversation about 1970s disco, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Debbie Harry or 1980s hip-hop. His cultural breadth was immense.

Neil was one of the foremost public intellectuals in recent decades and has been taken from us too soon. We mourn his loss but will also want to celebrate his life. The best way to do this will be to employ and develop the arguments he helped create and the movement to which he devoted his life.