Margo MacDonald: ‘A sparkling jewel in Holyrood’

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Tributes have been paid from across the political spectrum and both sides of the Scottish independence divide to nationalist veteran Margo MacDonald.

Flags flew at half mast outside the Scottish Parliament that she helped to create and in which she served first as a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and then as an independent nationalist MSP.

Margo MacDonald in 1973.

Margo MacDonald in 1973.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, hailed her as “one of the great rallying figures of Scottish nationalism”.

“From her Govan by-election victory in 1973 she had a profound role in Scotland’s home rule journey,” he said.

“Very few politicians are recognised and known to the public by their first name - Margo was. Even fewer have the profile and talent to be elected comprehensively as an independent candidate - Margo had.”

Former Labour First Minister Lord Jack McConnell said: “Margo MacDonald was a very special individual. She inspired and advised me many times in my adult life and her contribution to Edinburgh and to Scotland will never be forgotten. She was the free-est of free spirits but a conviction politician right to the end.”

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “Scottish politics will be poorer, less colourful and less interesting without Margo MacDonald. She was a woman of remarkable personal strength and political conviction.”

Gordon Wilson, former SNP leader and colleague, said: “Today with her passing, much of the colour has gone from Scottish politics and the Scottish Parliament. It is a shame she did not live to enjoy casting a yes vote in the referendum or for that matter commenting on the outcome.”

Holyrood Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick, a former SNP MSP, said: “Margo MacDonald was brave, passionate and committed. To be known and recognised by a first name is reserved to very few. But everyone knew Margo. She was a sparkling jewel in the Scottish Parliament.”

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, said: “There will never be another Margo. She was held in great affection and respect by everyone who came in contact with her, regardless of their political views.

“She was a very distinguished parliamentarian but, much more than that, Margo will be remembered for her great humanity and concern for her fellow citizens.

“She was one of the best-loved champions of the national movement for independence, a cause for which she campaigned vigorously and very passionately for all of her adult and political life.”

Better Together leader Alistair Darling said: “Margo was one of the warmest and most compassionate women I ever met. She was also one of the most determined and formidable Scottish politicians of her generation.”

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “Margo’s passing sees a bright light, and one of the biggest personalities and characters of Scottish modern political life, go out.

“Her sense of humour, passion, integrity and unflinching desire to speak truth to power, meant she came as close to a political treasure in Scotland as I think it is possible to be.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “Forthright and determined, she was also humorous and warm - passionate about issues, about the parliament itself and about the better Scotland she wanted to help build.

“She sat as an independent, and independent she was - independent of thought, independent of mind and independent of spirit.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Margo was a force of nature in Scottish life. The affection for her transcends party politics and political parties. Her personal kindness and professional charm will be missed in the parliament, throughout the Lothians and far wider.”

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “Margo won’t now see the culmination of two debates she was deeply involved in; the referendum on Scotland’s independence, and the Assisted Suicide Bill which she introduced last year.

“But as both these debates continue, I am certain that campaigners on all sides will recognise Margo MacDonald’s contribution to Scottish public life, her vibrancy and her passion.”

Grahame Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) general secretary, said: “She was a passionate fighter for all she believed often taking on issues that others shied away from. You could disagree with her but never fall out with her and if she chided you it was always with the best intent and with a fair degree of humour.”

A spokesman for the Humanist Society Scotland said: “Throughout her political career she represented her constituents, and the many causes in which she believed, with passion and dignity.

“The HSS supported her first attempt to make assisted suicide legal, back in 2010, and we will continue to campaign in support of the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill in her memory, but our thoughts are now with her family and friends.”