HE was a politician who turned away from Labour to support Scottish independence and campaigned more than a century ago on issues still relevant today – including land reform, the abolition of the House of Lords, and free school meals.

Now an author is hoping the most comprehensive biography to date will result in fresh attention on the “overlooked” founding president of the SNP, who was also the first MP to declare themselves a socialist at ­Westminster.

Robert Cunninghame Graham is also known for co-founding the ­Scottish Labour Party alongside Keir Hardie, and during his adventurous life he earned the nickname “Don Roberto” after a spell working ­alongside gauchos in South America.

James Jauncey was able to not only use historical material on the life of the traveller, politician and writer, but to draw on stories from his own family which he heard when he was growing up. He said his mother used to talk “incessantly” about Cunninghame Graham – as he was his great, great uncle.

Jauncey said: “I don’t think he could exist today really – that is part of the problem of his legacy, no-one knows quite what to do with him ­because he was so gifted in so many different aspects of his life.

“Our interests seem to be much ­narrower today, it would be very ­difficult to live that kind of life in the 21st century I think – he is a hard ­person to pigeonhole.”

Cunninghame Graham was born in 1852 and as a teenager went to South America in a bid to restore his ­family’s fortunes, where he became a superb horseman and perfected speaking Spanish.

After returning home in his late 20s, he entered the world of politics and was elected as a Liberal Party MP for North West Lanarkshire in 1886.

Jauncey said: “He had a very ­tempestuous time [in Parliament]. He was suspended three times for ­unparliamentary behaviour.

“And in 1887, the year after he was elected, he was arrested for leading a riot in Trafalgar Square on what was known as Bloody Sunday.

“That was partly to do with ­freedom of speech and assembly, but it was to also show solidarity with the Irish movement that was the land league.”

He added: “His first campaign he was standing on a platform of land ­reform, abolition of the House of Lords, free school meals, eight hour working day – this was in 1886, it was astonishing.

“Everything he stood for then rings as loudly today as it did in his time.”

Cunninghame Graham grew ­disillusioned with the Liberals, who he felt were exploiting the workforce, and after getting to know Hardie in North Lanarkshire they founded the Scottish Labour Party in 1888.

When support for Home Rule was dropped by the Labour Party in the mid-1920s, he became a figurehead for the Scottish national movement despite being in his mid-70s.

“He chaired the formation of the National Party of Scotland in 1928,, which was one of the two forerunners of the SNP,” Jauncey said.

“Every year on Bannockburn Day he would go and he would speak and there are photographs of him ­standing there with his fist raised orating.

“The other thing he felt about ­Scottish nationalism, apart from the fact he believed it was necessary for the good of the Scottish people, he believed it was the first step to ­internationalism.

“He felt Scotland had a great deal to offer and until it was its own ­nation, it wouldn’t really be able to play its part in the great family of nations.

“He understood the first ­principles of good, civic nationalism and ­nothing has changed.”

The biography, Don Roberto: The Adventure Of Being Cunninghame Graham, will be published next month by Scotland Street Press.

Jauncey said the book had been around a decade in the making, after he was inspired to write about his famous relative ­during the independence referendum campaign.

He added: “In 2014 he would have been astonished there was 45% vote for independence – but also as ­disappointed as all the rest of us that we didn’t actually get there.”