Max Nicholson

Obituary on the website of the Policy Studies Institute
reproduced by permission of the Policy Studies Institute

PSI notes with sadness that the last surviving founder of Political & Economic Planning (PEP), Max Nicholson, has died PEP merged with the Centre for Studies in Social Policy to form the Policy Studies Institute in 1978. PEP was created in response to the depression in Great Britain in the 1930s. Max Nicholson, then assistant editor of the Week-End Review, wrote a supplement to the Review in February 1931 entitled: A National Plan for Great Britain. This plan aimed to improve the country's economic, political and social condition and contained many pioneering ideas which are familiar to us today.

A number of people, who were either involved in drafting the plan or who were impressed by it, came together with the belief that sensible planning could overcome Britain's decline. They came up with the idea of forming a permanent research body to enquire into the problems of the day and to use facts to formulate possible solutions to these problems. PEP examined many issues and problems over the years including employment, transport, race relations, the welfare state, the European integration and trade. Some of the work carried out was particularly influential. For example, in 1937, PEP recommended the establishment of a National Health Service, a proposal taken up later in the Beveridge Report. The 1967 PEP report of surveys carried out to measure the extent of racial discrimination in Britain convinced the government that the 1965 Race Relations Act needed to be extended by a second Act. Max Nicholson was active in many fields. Many years before ecology and the environment became hot topicshe talked passionately about conserving the planet. Action, he argued, must be taken on a worldwide scale to avert a catastrophe.

There was always a deep sincerity and sense of realism in everything he said. Nicholson's purpose was to make people aware that the gas-guzzling days had to end and that more consideration had to be given to conservation.

Max Nicholson advised countries, international companies and important individuals on conservation matters. He also helped found the World Wildlife Fund (now WWF) and was an ornithologist of international renown. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) remembers him with deep affection and as "a catalyst for conservation". '-Alasdair Steven's obituary in the New Scotsman. Director of PSI, Prof Jim Skea said: 'Given Max Nicholson's credentials as a conservationist, it is appropriate that PSI, the offspring of PEP which he founded, now has a thriving Environment Group.'