Honour my Margo with kindness says Sillars as portrait unveiled

Jim Sillars unveils the new portrait of his wife Margo MacDonald. Pic: Jon Savage

Jim Sillars unveils the new portrait of his wife Margo MacDonald. Pic: Jon Savage

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Jim Sillars has called for more of Margo MacDonald’s kind of politics as a portrait of the late Independent Lothian MSP was unveiled at the Scottish Parliament.

The painting by popular Scottish artist Gerard Burns has been gifted to the parliament by Mr Sillars, who was married to Margo for 33 years.

It shows her with the Holyrood chamber behind her and will hang in the former bar – now renamed the members’ room – where she used to meet colleagues from across the political spectrum.

Mr Sillars said the portrait captured perfectly Margo’s personality.

He said. “In many ways Margo was a unique person and politician, and an inspiration to those who sought to advance the cause of Scotland.”

And he said he hoped people would learn from Margo’s approach to politics.

“She held very firmly to her views and never wavered from her principles, but Margo never saw opponents of her ideology or the national question as enemies, she saw them as opponents. People were due respect and as entitled to their point of view as her or anyone else. And she was able with that non-sectarian manner to appreciate the qualities of people who did not always agree with her.

“I would hope that today’s generation of political activists would take a lesson from Margo because the abuse that is now widespread in the twitterspehere and the rest of the social media is actually damaging to democracy.

“Margo and I would talk about this, because she was a target on frequent occasions, especially in relation to her weekly column in the Edinburgh Evening News.

“The conclusion we reached was that you cannot have unfettered hatred in a democracy because hatred poisons that democracy. Democracy is based upon the ability of people to engage in self-restraint, to disagree fundamentally with someone else but acknowledge their right to hold their views and express them the same as everyone else. I hope Margo’s non-sectarian approach will be part of her legacy.”

The painting was unveiled by Deputy Presiding Officer, Christine Grahame, a long-time friend of Margo’s, at a special ceremony attended by around 60 guests.

Ms Grahame described Margo as “an extraordinary politician ploughing her own furrow”. “She brought joy, she brought compassion, she was very generous to her friends and others – and if you get the applause of the Edinburgh taxi drivers you really are somebody. Her sheer passion for politics and for the causes she championed will always be remembered, as will her dynamic, colourful and compassionate nature.

“I count myself lucky to have known someone like Margo and to have worked so closely with her. This portrait is a way of showing future members and visitors to the parliament just what she meant to us all.”

Mr Burns, who took no payment for the picture, said he had never met Margo – who died in April 2014 – but it had been “an absolute honour” to paint her portrait.