Edward McGuire was born Glasgow, and studied composition with James Iliff at the Royal Academy of Music, London (1966-70) and then with the Swedish composer Ingvar Lidholm in Stockholm. His works have been regularly broadcast and commissions have come from the Glasgow University McEwen Bequest, the New Music Group of Scotland, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the St Magnus Festival, and the Edinburgh International Festival. In recent years he has produced several large-scale works to critical acclaim: the ballet score Peter Pan, A Glasgow Symphony, a chamber opera The Loving of Etain, and concerti for guitar, trombone, viola, violin and double bass. Cake Talk, McGuire's 1996 opera for RSNO Junior Chorus followed the success of The Loving of Etain (Paragon Opera); Peter Pan (Scottish Ballet) and Cullercoats Tommy (Northern Stage).

Works on CD include Calgacus (BBC Scottish SO, London Proms 1997); Songs of New Beginnings (Paragon); Fast Peace III (Alma Duo); Divertimento, Martyr (Durrant, Viola Pieces); Nocturnes (Mr McFall's Chamber); and Celtic Knotwork (Scottish Flute Trio and Chinook Clarinet Quartet, 2001). His double bass concerto was recorded by the BBC SSO with soloist Anthony Alcock in 2002. Ring of Strings was commissioned for the finale of the 2006 St Magnus Festival.

McGuire was the recipient of a British Composers Award in 2003 and a Creative Scotland Award in 2004. He plays flute with, and writes for, the Scottish folk group The Whistlebinkies, and plays with the Chinese group Harmony Ensemble.