Professor MacRae was educated at Fortrose Academy, Ross-shire and the University of Edinburgh and is a visiting professor of business and economic development at the University of Abertay Dundee.  He is a past director of TSB Bank plc and is recently retired as, Chief Economist, Lloyds Banking Group Scotland.

Professor MacRae is a former board member of Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Homes.  He is an independent member of the Skills Committee of the Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland.  Professor MacRae is a member of the advisory board of Interface and a member of Court of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

He is a trustee of the David Hume Institute, a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the  Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland.  He was a member of the Committee of Inquiry into Crofting, the Rural Development Council and is currently an advisor to the Land Reform Review Group.  In 2011 he was awarded an OBE for services to enterprise and rural development.